Ema Chester is a member of one of our Good Neighbor Teams. These teams partner with World Relief to provide logistical support and friendship for local Refugee families during the first few months of their transition to the United States. Ema shares her experience below.
I joined the Good Neighbor Team in 2016 after hearing about it from staff member Chris Easley. I wanted to join the team to do something tangible to help refugees given the global crisis. Also, coming from an immigrant family, I understand, in part, what it feels like to navigate a culture that isn’t your own, and how helpful it is to have friends who can help. The members of the family my team befriended are Christians from Burundi. It’s a gift to get to know people whose lives have been so different, and often, also filled with tremendous struggle. It reminds me of my own privilege and reorients me towards what is important.
Visits with the family are sometimes awkward, sometimes funny, sometimes long, but somehow, even when we don’t speak the same language, friendship happens and it’s a beautiful thing. A typical visit may consist of going to get library books or using google translate to try and communicate how to make macaroni and cheese. Often its just sitting with each other over food, or smiling and pointing to different objects to try and communicate. I might ask how something is pronounced in Kirundi, and they may ask how it’s pronounced in English (there is a lot of laughter when this happens.) With time, everyone feels more comfortable and there is more and more to “talk” about. Spending time with people from another culture and country always reminds me of the vision in Revelation of people around the throne from every tongue, tribe, and nation. I feel like I get a small taste of that image when I’m with my Burundi brothers and sisters.
Learn more about how you can welcome local refugee families as part of our Advent Gift!