God has placed all of us in a position to love others. And yet doing so means we must set aside our selfish desires and self-destructive feelings that somehow we're not qualified. Will we choose to trust and have faith in God's plans? Blog Contributor Kara Haselton shares how an internship that has her working with refugees this summer is challenging her to rely on God now more than ever.
By Kara Haselton, Blog Contributor
For the past month, I’ve been interning with a refugee resettlement organization in Durham, NC. I got the news that I was granted this opportunity the same week COVID-19 kicked me, a student, out of Boone.
Suddenly, it all made a little more sense. Sometimes the “no’s” we’re told don’t make sense because the environment in which they do make sense has not yet come. Does that all make sense?
I understand, only now, that God wanted me to be home this summer. He wanted me to work with this organization. He wanted me to experience the challenges He knew I would face. That last one I’m still coming to terms with.
Welcoming the Stranger
It’s been a month, and what a month it has been.
Global refugee crises have been something I’ve cared deeply about for several years now. The more research I’ve done the more I realize just how little I understand about the world and all the interwoven difficulties its people face. I’m just scratching the surface.
Not only have these individuals been forced to leave homes, families, and cultural familiarity due to situations out of their control, but they’re also often forced to face discrimination and profiling from the countries that are granting them entry.
The assumptions that are made about these individuals—that they’re uneducated, terrorists, job-stealers, and so on—are…just wrong.
My first day of training I learned that welcoming refugees and desiring to provide them with safety, security, and refuge had always been a popular service among Christian churches—as it should be. Welcoming the stranger and loving those different from us are a central part of Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 25:35-40; Luke 10:27 to name a few).
The organization I'm interning with never had trouble finding support and volunteers. However, in 2016 that all changed. Suddenly, it became a politicized issue. It became a controversial topic. They lost significant support. One can assume why that would be. The language, labels, and rhetoric people use have power.
Things Are Not Always Fine
Only one day in and I learned that making phone calls is kind of terrifying, especially when you’re having to assume the role of a professional, of a knowledgeable individual, and you’re not those things. But, I thought, we’ll be moving into the office soon and so this is only temporary. Soon, I’ll get a grasp on everything. Soon, I’ll get used to it. It’ll be fine.
One month later, I am still working from home. I am not used to it. Things are not always fine.
I have started a decent number of “new things” in my life to know that the first day/week is always really tough, overstimulating, and emotionally exhausting. Getting used to a new normal, accepting you don’t know everything, being willing to stand up again after you make mistakes takes a toll. I am very familiar with the feeling that accompanies these experiences.
But this feels different. The exhaustion hasn’t gone away.
Never before in my life have I felt so utterly and entirely incompetent. Never before have I identified with the “imposter syndrome” so deeply. I don’t belong here. I’m only in the middle of my undergraduate degree. And that degree is not even in social work, sociology, public health, or anything intently focusing on working with people in difficult situations.
I received less than one week of training. And then I was thrown into the deep end of the pool, working with individuals coming out of one trauma and walking directly into another. They are entering a culture they’re not familiar with, struggling to speak a language that is foreign to them. All while trying to prove that they’re useful to a society that so often seems to say that our value is directly related only to what we have to offer.
What Am I Doing Here?
A few weeks in, and I was given my first in-person task. I was to follow COVID-19 protocol and run a few errands, including picking up a newly arrived client and taking them to an appointment.
Here I am, a 20-year-old female college student working with a newly arrived 36-year-old male refugee, someone who is clearly intelligent, skilled, able, but simply doesn’t speak proficient English and has just arrived stateside.
What makes me qualified to be in this position? To be “representing this client” and assuming authority?
I just so happen to speak English. I live in a wealthy nation. I appear in a way that provides me with privilege. I own a car. And I'm interested enough to want to work with a refugee resettlement organization. Is this enough to qualify me?
What am I doing here?
How humbling it is to realize just how little you really know and how ill-prepared I feel for the thing I'm doing. And how emotionally exhausting it is to keep pressing forward and being willing to try to understand.
Here for His Reason
I’m assisting clients seeking new employment thanks to COVID-19. I’m speaking with supervisors and employers and landlords and doctors, gaining necessary and important information on behalf of clients in need. I’m helping grown adults with 25 years of experience in their home country “prep” for an interview with a position they’re highly overqualified for.
What am I doing here?
COVID-19 has put us all in places where we ask this question over and over again. Including the people experiencing forced migration to a country that doesn’t know how to communicate with them and more often than not, doesn’t seem to even want them here.
I’m still waiting for this to make sense. As we all are. But I know without a doubt that I'm here because of God, as we all are. I asked for this experience. Still, for some reason, I didn’t expect it to be so challenging for me.
I wish it could be different, but maybe God is simply using this time to teach me (among thousands of other things) something about myself and Him. I’m still waiting for that feeling of clarity and qualification. But is that something we ever get? Or is that feeling actually about a choice we make called faith and trust?
Loving our neighbors (all of them) is really hard. It’s exhausting. And I’ve found that it takes everything within me to get up and choose to do it. But maybe that’s the point.
Jesus didn’t set examples on the easy path, the things that come naturally to us. He spent 40 days, alone, in the wilderness, with the devil as his companion, being tempted to give in to those easy, natural, human desires.
It’s a lot easier to choose to be apathetic, to indulge your impulses, and give in to the selfish philosophy of individualism. It’s a lot harder to put others’ needs first, to be willing to listen to those who are different from us and give our enemies the benefit of the doubt.
Learning to Trust
It’s hard to trust we are where we're supposed to be when we don’t understand why we're there in the first place. And maybe the reason these things—the right things—are so hard is that God wants us to acknowledge that we can’t do it without him.
Anytime we love people the way God calls us to, anytime we submit to trusting God’s reasoning when our reasoning fails, that’s all Him. Him within us. And maybe the key is simply recognizing that.
So even though I don’t understand how I am doing what I’m doing—even though I continue to feel incompetent and unqualified—I can rest knowing that doing this at all shows that God is with me and in me. Having to lean so heavily on him every minute shouldn’t result in insecurity, but rather peace knowing He is my security.
Alone, I can’t do this. But in Him, I can find strength even in the face of anxiety, confusion, and daunting reality. And that gives me hope that God has me here for such a time as this. And that qualifies me.