by Phyllis Rude
Being an immigrant trying to survive in America is a challenge. I knew this just from common sense, but being a friend to a Sudanese newcomer to our congregation has opened my eyes to the obstacles.
An immigrant needs to find a routine job that is easy to learn with limited English, a job with a patient supervisor to carefully explain expectations. Though he’s physically strong and motivated, my friend is not acquainted with many tools we use in construction, lawn care, painting, etc. Someone must demonstrate each new tool. Filling out a job application or being interviewed challenge his English skills.
Learning to ride a bike
Anchorage is designed for automobiles. Being car-less requires walking, asking for a ride or taking a bus. Bus service often requires riding downtown to the transfer station and then a second bus ride, easily a two-hour commute on our infrequent buses. Never having ridden a bike, Gatluak is planning to learn to ride one using our church parking lot as a training ground.
Watching Gatluak’s struggles is opening our congregation’s eyes to the struggles of many newcomers to our community.
As he waits for steady employment, members of the congregation ask his assistance around their homes. Some of the chores I have asked him to do, like weeding a garden, are new to him. I demonstrated removing dandelions growing in my large golden raspberry patch. He took the initiative to really clean the patch by also getting rid of the new raspberry shoots–next year’s crop, coming up between canes that will produce this year. Oops! Any employer must be observant and patient while he learns the routines.
In the meantime, he misses his family, tries to make friends, anticipates citizenship. Anchorage is a diverse community with more than 90 primary languages spoken by our public school students. Watching Gatluak’s struggles is opening our congregation’s eyes to the struggles of many newcomers to our community.
Hebrews 13:12 instructs us this way: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Knowing how to show that hospitality is a challenge. Do you have friends in the immigrant community, perhaps refugees from other nations? What have you found helpful in making them feel welcome? How have you helped them become more employable and find employment? Is this a ministry that your congregation could adopt?