Last week I (Laurie) had the opportunity to spend a week in Phoenix with an amazing group of teens, (who we called the “Dream Team”), their amazing leaders, Shaun and Maria and a large group of Nepalese refugees. Over a hundred Nepalese refugees from Bhutan have been attending a church in Phoenix, (that Shaun is connected to), and trying hard to carve out a life in this country. They don’t understand much English, almost every one of them is Hindu, but they keep coming back week after week. It’s clearly something God is doing!
So a couple of months ago, the Sheahans asked me if I would be interested in going along with them and a small team of teens and leading the ESL teaching times. It felt like a big assignment (it had been awhile since I taught ESL), but I was immediately excited about it at the same time.
Part of our preparation ahead of time was to invite 3 Nepalese families we’ve gotten to know here in San Diego over for dinner at our house. Rob and I have spent the past several months teaching these families English and helping them adjust to life here in the US. So 25 of us—Americans and Nepalese refugees—gathered at our house and had a great time together eating, talking and playing. Two of the Nepalese moms said that the evening reminded them of the “once a year dinner our mothers used to make for us.” And it gave the teens a glimpse of the week to come.
Once in Phoenix, we started our week together meeting a group of Nepalese girls preparing a dance for a special fair they would be performing the following weekend. They are really beautiful children and I even found myself crying at one point, watching them dance and thinking of all the hardship they’ve had to endure living for years in a refugee camp. A life I can’t imagine. And then I was overwhelmed the next day with seeing all of them at church--so thankful for what God is doing and this journey he has them on. It also made me wonder what things he may have in store for our Nepalese friends in San Diego.
On Monday the camp officially started, with an ESL class for the adults in the morning, followed by one for the children, and then a class for the youth in the afternoon, totaling 150 for the week! Every day the teens played and sang songs, which they all loved and participated in. It was such a funny sight all of us jumping around, shouting and singing! Then Maria taught a story from the Bible and I taught English and we all divided up and practiced English at their tables. We played a lot of games, which the Nepalese teens especially loved. One afternoon we had a birthday party for all of them and even played Pin the Tail on the Donkey, which quickly turned into “Extreme Pin the Tail on the Donkey!” I’ve decided that one of my favorite things from our week together was seeing the Nepalese laugh and have so much fun.
Our prayer all week was that we could be a bridge, helping the church members to reach out and get to know the refugees better and also that the way we loved the Nepalese would help them to see Jesus and be compelled to want to know him more. By the end of the week we saw more people from that church become interested and make friends with the refugees and we continue to pray and trust that our new Nepalese friends experienced Jesus through us.