Hannah Wong was a 2017 Tenth Global Summer Intern, who continues to serve with Tenth Global.
Read her thoughts on the question, "What happens when you welcome in the stranger?".
Last Tuesday evening at Shalom House, a welcome home for refugees, a beautiful demonstration of this consequence was present. Within the walls of this Vancouver home, I had the opportunity to witness a beautiful assembly of countries and cultures. God in His mysterious ways brought individuals and families representing Kurdistan/Iraq, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Mexico, USA, and Canada to meet and share a meal.
As an Intercultural Studies major, I found this mixture of diversity exciting. But the focus of the evening was not nationalism, or one’s origin, or cultural heritage. Though each distinctive and unique, Tuesday illustrated the importance of relationships. And at this dinner generously hosted by Grace Vancouver Church and Tenth Church, a love of community was a common thread binding us all. One family who recently moved to Surrey even transited back to Vancouver to be a part of the evening.
To set the scene, picture this: The low summer sun shining bright. A kitchen counter covered with various dishes. Not a seat unoccupied throughout the living room and dining room. Eleven children between the ages of one to twelve pacing (or crawling) about, with even more adults laughing and swapping stories. Children's toys decorate the floor. Birthday cake and brownies being shared. This is the setting of last Tuesday.
In this upbeat atmosphere, two instances resonated with my experience. One was a heartwarming update: a refugee family that Tenth once welcomed recently welcomed an unknown family of six into their home. This small gesture is a beautiful reminder of how kindness keeps on giving. As we walk alongside one family, families in return bless others. In what manner could I extend further generosity in my everyday life? This family who was still settling into life in Canada is far more hospitable than I, locally born and raised, could ever be.
And the second instance involved the Arabic language. You see, of the past seven months, I spent four in the Middle East and North Africa through a semester abroad and a short-term mission trip. As language unifies in a unique matter, learning and utilizing Arabic brought a certain joy to those I interacted with while there. This same spark was present in Vancouver as I attempted to connect with some in their heart language. And interestingly enough, it also filled a desire I never realized I held – the beautiful language I learned overseas no longer remained abroad but rather began its transition to be utilized at home.
So that sunny evening, I parted with a satisfied stomach and a full heart. Tuesday evening was a taste of God’s kingdom working. However, a sample is only an introduction of what’s to come. And people are rarely filled by samples.
What does this mean moving forward? Maybe you are like me – there’s a desire in your heart to walk alongside refugees in Vancouver. Or maybe you’re not sure where to start. The incredible thing about Tenth is their investment in the local community. And as refugees are welcomed into Canada, Tenth follows suit. One event soon approaching is a free film screening on the evening of July 17th. Learn about the effects of the Syrian civil war in the documentary, After Spring, following two Syrian families as they move forward with their new beginning in a refugee camp. Or perhaps you’re interested in a more relational approach. Journey Home’s training program for resettling refugees is available at the end of summer.
And this is simply the tip of the iceberg; involvement is not as complicated as one expects. I often feel that a firm grasp of a different language is required. And I’m wrong – learning one or two greetings already makes a difference. Or better yet, have those you interact with teach you the words. Nor is a vast understanding of today’s global complexities necessary. A heart willing to serve and to learn is more crucial than simply head knowledge. God is waiting to use you and me.
Questions? Ask Patrick.