“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. – Psalm 139:14
Leena. Suzan. Donya. Jane. Aiysha.
These (pseudo)names belong to immigrant women I know well. They are my friends. Here are their stories.
Middle Eastern Medical Professional
Leena and Suzan are a mother and daughter who arrived in America almost two years ago. They came with their family of seven seeking religious freedom and relief from local persecution. They left behind their home, business and secure employment as well as extended family and everything familiar. Leena is an experienced medical professional and Suzan had just completed high school when the family crossed the ocean to a new life.
One day several months ago, the family randomly entered the doors of my home church to find help for their desperate situation. Many generous Christians banded together to find a safe location in another town where a loving church congregation adopted Leena’s traumatized family. The younger children entered their third school since coming to the U.S. and all finally began to sleep well at night.
My husband and I visit Leena’s family as often as we can make the trip and marvel at their commitment to learn English and the Bible. We celebrated when their work permits arrived and their legal case continued to find favor. Starting from the bottom of the career ladder once again, Leena and Suzan successfully passed their CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) exams this month and are pursuing jobs in retirement homes and nursing centers. The father works at a fast food restaurant and all are pursuing more education as funds allow.
Central Asian Engineer
Donya is a single 30-year old woman who migrated here a year ago, leaving her graduate studies and other family members behind. They do not know about her legal efforts to become a U.S. resident. They think she is furthering her engineering studies. In truth, she investigated Christianity after visiting in America a couple years earlier and reached out to know Jesus. Returning home would mean walking away from this new sense of peace and connection to God.
With a recently awarded work permit, Donya attends job fairs and completes applications for her first job. She hopes for work in engineering one day, but realizes not all her foreign university study is recognized in the U.S. She needs to upgrade her skills and learn engineering all over again in a new setting. For now, most any job will do.
I take Donya to Bible Study groups, movies, restaurants, and city events. She loves to come to my house when my children and grandchildren visit, especially the little girls. Holding a sweet toddler and playing games with preschoolers make her face light up with joy. We engage in all manner of girl-talk and I offer American cultural insights. I taught her how to make a pumpkin pie in the fall and encouraged her to bravely accept a house-dog-sitting invitation by a lady from church. Donya has many fears from her former life, but with God’s help and many friends to journey with her, she is slowly entering into new freedoms.
Jane is a young mother soon to give birth to her third child, her first American baby. Her two young sons came with her and her husband from the DR Congo months ago by way of a Ugandan refugee camp where they lived for several years. I teach Jane English as well as how to wash dishes with hot water and use a can opener, only a few of the mysteries she encounters daily.
When my teaching partner and I arrive each Monday, we never know for sure who might be joining the tutoring or if Jane will actually be home. Communication is difficult and time is clearly a Western thing. Her friendly smile and words of thanks keep us coming back and letting go of any frustrations that might arise. Sometimes I corral the little ones so the moms can learn about money, days of the week, greetings, and new vocabulary with my partner. I snuggle the peaceful babies and share fruit with the big-eyed preschoolers while watching “Baby Einstein” DVDs to teach them colors, shapes, and numbers in English.
Several months ago my husband met the pastor of the Congolese church where Jane and others attend. He learned about the overwhelming job to meet the needs of so many new immigrants. He explained their plight to our church and now there are committees organizing English tutoring, job acquisition, transportation, and clothing and furnishings for our new friends.
Aiysha is a junior year college student from Afghanistan majoring in International and Women Studies. We have known her family a long time from our years living in Kabul. She joins our family for Christmas holidays and time away from campus. This summer she will come to our town for an internship with an immigrant resettlement organization. My husband will teach her to drive so she can obtain her license.
We talk about future plans and other growing up topics. She regularly connects via Skype and FaceTime with her family members who left Afghanistan last year and are doing well in another country. She hasn’t seen them in two years.
I Was the Foreign Woman for Seven Years
When I went to Kabul to serve as Principal of ISK (International School of Kabul), the American K-12 school in 2005, I needed local friends to help me understand the expectations of my new home. Afghan women showed me how to barter and handle chaotic marketplaces. They taught me how to dress, wear a headscarf, and blend in as much as possible to avoid male stares and shopkeeper hassles. I enjoyed evening meals in their homes, sharing stories and cultural differences. We hugged and kissed cheeks and felt the connected challenge of working and homemaking, raising children, and investing in our communities for a better future for all.
Now as the world shakes and scatters its people all around the globe, it is my turn to reach out to foreign women. The riches of such relationships give back much more than the cost to me in time or resources. This is my contribution to present day history-making of the refugee/immigrant crisis.
I will make the most of diversity, of God’s good strategy– my opportunities with foreign women, who are in truth, just women, planted in my sphere of influence.
Who are the foreign women in your world? What will your response be?
♡ Gail Goolsby is a life coach and serves as a Titus Woman for Proverbs 31 Woman.
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