A look back — and to the future
In September 2008, I saw the needs of refugees arriving in the Houston area. Having lived overseas for several years, I knew how frustrating it is to try to learn a new language and a new culture, so I quit my job in December 2008 and began trying to meet the needs of Bhutanese refugees arriving in the city from the back of my SUV. I had no previous knowledge of their culture, the story of their persecution or why they came to America, but I sought to meet practical needs and love them as God had laid on my heart.
I’d be the first to admit that I made a lot of mistakes that first year, but God blessed me anyway. The friendships I formed and the people I have grown to love will forever be in my heart. A local management company gave us an apartment and set up a donation room so newly arriving refugees could shop for what they needed. Eventually, Kids’ Club began and now has expanded to Saturdays and Sundays.
But in 2014, Bhutanese refugees began leaving Houston and moving to other cities to join families. My heart was broken because I knew I’d miss them and their children I had grown to love for more than five years. I saw them come to the city speaking little or no English, secure jobs and then become U.S. citizens. Some have even purchased homes in the Houston area.
As I prayed, ‘Lord, now what?’ I met refugees from other countries who also needed help with practical needs and help navigating our culture. The ministry has now expanded to three apartment complexes where we offer English classes. The vision for the future includes computer training as God provides volunteers with those teaching skills. People from all nations have arrived in Houston. Perhaps there is something you could offer the refugees: Teaching classes? Inviting a family to your home for the holidays? Opportunities abound. The nations are here. Will you answer the call?
Today, I was honored to present a check to Santa and her family for $300. Santa and her husband have two children, one is less than two years old and she is expecting another baby in a few months. Even though she is a new Christian and was surprised to be pregnant again, she did not heed the advice of friends and seek an abortion.
Santa and her family never ask for help, but recently she mentioned that her husband's hours had been cut and then the apartment management has increased their rent. In order to pay bills, they were thinking of selling their car, but then her husband would not be able to keep his job in Sugarland (not on a bus line).
The Holy Spirit prompted me to go and visit today and to give her a check. She was surprised and would have refused it if it came from me, but was willing to accept it from Loaves & Fishes.
As we visited she told me that her family is hosting church in their home tonight and went yesterday to get some snacks at Fiesta. On the way, they saw a Hispanic woman with two little girls holding a sign and asking for help. Santa and another Christian lady stopped to help. They talked to the Hispanic mom about Jesus and she accepted Christ. The other lady invited her and her children to come to the church and said the church would help them. Santa said she gave the lady some chips and drinks and the kids devoured them right away. They were hungry. Even though Santa's family is in need right now, she was still willing to use what she had to help someone else, just like the story of the widow and Elijah or the little boy with a lunch.
I was so proud of Santa and thankful that the church of Jesus stepped up to help "one of the least of these." If the "church body" did not give money to Loaves & Fishes, I would have missed a huge blessing today.
Yesterday was Mother's day in Nepal and most of the women at St. Cloud apartments did not have the opportunity to spend it with their mothers. Either their mothers are dead or still in Nepal or in another state or country. In their culture they generally live with their mother in law. I asked a few women how they celebrated mother's day in the camp and they said they would fix a meal for their mom. (sounds good to me) Ha!
One of the Bhutanese ladies that I have known about 3 years asked me to come to her apartment at 3 pm. When I arrived she had prepared some special dishes of beans rice, and potatoes. She explained that her mother was dead and that her mother in law was in another state and she wanted to celebrate mother's day with me. I was honored and humbled when she handed me a bouquet of beautiful red roses that she had purchased from Fiesta. Why do those who have the least give so generously, I thought. As I sat and ate and we chatted, I asked how the donations helped her. She said her husband brings home barely enough to survive.and without the help of diapers, she would not be able to afford them and she tries to stretch what we give her. She said they have $200 per month in food stamps and spend $80 per week on food.
We were busy yesterday and served families with baby diapers, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, toothbrushes etc.and shoes and clothes. Those coming for assistance were truly in need and the numbers have doubled. It is not that the ladies don't want to work, it is that there is no affordable child care for them and they will be working minimum wage jobs.
I thank God for those who give and allow me to give to the "least of these". Following is the story from the friend who helped me yesterday:
"Today was crazy! We needed diapers... so this morning I headed to Wal- Mart to buy some. Then went to the warehouse to get the sizes I knew we had (we have tons of size 3)... Much to my surprise Margie had gotten a donation from a Pasadena church and we have every size! Praise The Lord! That will supply us for a few more weeks. I am completely amazed how Father provides for every little to big thing we need.
As soon as I got to the apartment people were coming... It's like they can smell us or something. It's crazy! I was kind of worried because people were coming for diapers that I wasn't expecting, but The Lord provided diapers for everyone who came. I was amazed because I thought I didn't have enough. Amazing!
We had a total of 21 people come today and no one left empty handed! Praising the Most High! I left around 1:30 and Margie was still at it, so who knows what happened when I left. :) It was a great day!
May He be Glorified!!!"
We were so blessed with the Indian American Association medical camp. Many of the Bhutanese did not qualify for "gold cards" and needed help. They were not only examined, but also given instruction on how to find free clinics.
First Baptist Bellville brought a mission team and played with the children and told the story of Jesus from creation to the cross to many children from several nations.
The ESL team took their ladies and gents to the Houston Zoo. When we practiced English during donations yesterday, I asked them what animals they saw and was amazed at how many they could name in English!!