• Josh Anderson

For Such a Time As This

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?