Last weekend we held a graduation/celebration for the 85 adult refugees who completed this semester of English courses. While there was a lot of attrition in the semester (likely due to Ramadan falling in the middle of it), it’s pretty amazing that 85 still completed their courses. The students were predominantly Sudanese, with other students from Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, and even an mother and daughter from Iraq who completed the preparation course together.
I got to say a few words of encouragement to the students. I spoke about how hard they worked and how much we care for them and want to see them succeed. That we pray for them and that really hope these courses can help them towards better lives for them and their families. I also took time to thank our teachers and volunteers–a mix of ex-pats and people who are themselves refugees here. The students applauded loudly and you could tell that the really appreciate and respect their teachers. One of the teachers is being resettled in England next month and the students were equal parts sad to see him go and happy for him for this opportunity.
At the end, as it goes, many students wanted to get up and say a few words. Our administrator of the program, who was also the one who helped start it, limited it to just a few, and as it was through our dinnertime, I was very grateful.
One of the students from one of the more advanced classes started thanking the teachers and the organization. He spoke in English and appreciated everyone’s hard work for the program. Then he asked permission to speak in Arabic, so he could say a few words that would be understood by the guests of the students, as well as by the students who were in beginner levels. He briefly summarized what he’d said in English, but then added a new bit. He said, “These teachers, they are from other countries, they are Christians and look at everything they are doing for us. And we, when we see each other struggling just say, “Hi. How are you? You’re fine? Bye!” We need to help each other the way these foreigners, these Christians, are helping us!”
It was a very interesting little speech and I was very grateful I was able to understand what he was saying. A very interesting insight.
The office for our organization is right in the church compound. The rooms we use for the English program are there too. Each week we have so many non-Christians coming into the church compound to receive services–emergency food, clothing, job training and placement services, accessory courses, English courses. And I think it is such a powerful testimony to be able to offer these services right in the church. The organization exists to follow Christ’s command to serve the poor and care for the stranger and it should be a natural extension of the church and it very literally is here and it is a powerful testimony in the communities we’re serving.
We had registration for the program for new students earlier this week. For three hours I and a colleague sat and registered students until we were past capacity. We started at 4pm, but as they students knew that it was first come, first served some had been at the office from 10am. People are desperate and the services we’re providing are a drop in the bucket for meeting the need, but for the ones we do serve it is an opportunity for hope, a place of community, and, we hope, a place where they feel cared for and loved.
“Ministry is the day-to-day human work of bringing more and more of our life under the joy and purpose and power of God. it is not an extra or an add-on…It is a way of living that lets the transformative power of God operate for the sake of human dignity, social justice, healed creation, for the world beloved of God.” Walter Bruggemann