Chin Refugee Ministry Newsletter from Lewisville, Texas.
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Drive Ten Minutes to Southeast Asia

Newsletter: May 2013

Chris and FamilyBrightly colored pairs of shoes placed outside the front door. Pungent food smells. A baby bundled onto the back of mom by a long piece of cloth. Mats lying on the floor where people sleep, though they have beds. A language very strange to her ears. Chris Calverley of First Baptist Church of Lewisville, travels several times a month to Asia - yet, only 5 miles from her home in Lewisville, TX.   

Chris has served as a Chin Refugee Ministry mentor for about two years. She began as a school buddy for a young 6th grade girl who had responded to this new country by withdrawing into a shell, and was failing in school. Chris jumped right in, meeting with the student as much as she could. She began with the ABC's and basic numbers, and required the young girl to learn vocabulary words every week, encouraging her constantly. Bit by bit, as Chris earned the trust of the family, they began to ask for help in other areas, like reading necessary paperwork. Now, she mentors the entire family, helping them with Medicaid, food stamps, school and doctor issues - at least, when they will let her.   

Chris has experienced some “failures” along the way, too. The Chin family do not ask for help as often as they need to, because they do not want to bother her. She also cannot get the parents to attend their kids’ choir concerts. Chris stands in for the parents to encourage the kids, and wishes that she could get the parents to understand.   

What “benefits” has Chris received? She now notices simple things in her culture through the eyes of wonder, things that she had taken for granted. For example, when she took two of the sisters letterboxing with her, they saw a motel for the very first time. When they saw the Super-8, they stood at the door in awe and told Chris how beautiful it was. 

Her middle-schooler is growing increasingly confident and outgoing and speaking English very well. The faces of the Chin family light up when they see Chris and they consider her to be a part of their village, a gift they give only to those Westerners they trust. Chris has been part of a Chin birthday celebration, a Chin BBQ, her Chin family’s village’s Christmas, and even  attended a Chin wedding. If her Chin family knows she is coming, they will try not to cook any foods that might offend her sense of smell; trying in every way to show how much they value her. 

If you ask Chris why she is a family mentor, she hesitates to say, because it sounds like a cliché - she does it because she feels like it is what God wants her to do.
Chris is making a difference in the lives of Southeast Asians  – and she does it in Lewisville, TX!

Chin Culture Corner

ShoesThe best way to identify a Chin apartment at Basswood is by the shoes left outside the door. This tradition is rooted in the old homes in Asia, including Burma, that were raised about 2 feet off the ground, and therefore, you would have to step up in order to enter. 

Shoes were placed outside the door to help keep the floor clean, no matter what the weather. Lives were centered on the floor, eating at very low tables and even sleeping on the floor, so it was important to keep the floor spotlessly clean. Removing shoes was also a sign of respect because you were stepping up into somebody’s private space. 

People in Asian cultures also believe that going barefoot is good for you. In the original Chin culture, life was lived outside as much as weather permitted, including eating and cooking. No one wore shoes. 

Removing one's shoes was not originally a Chin custom, and strict Chin patriots do not observe this tradition - so should Americans? The Chin do not expect Americans to take off their shoes, but many do it because it is a showing of respect for their traditions.

Farhan and JenniferA Note from Our Director

Yesterday, I asked Benny, one of our translators, to write thank you notes to two churches who made major contributions to Chin Refugee Ministry. I expected her to write a short note, but instead, Benny kept writing and writing. 

She said to me, “I cannot write enough. I am writing the same thing over and over because I cannot say enough about how thankful I am for the help they are giving my people.” She asked, “How do you say in English that your heart is so thankful and you know you cannot give anything back except to just pray and pray for them, that God will bless them.” I responded, ”Just say that, Benny. Just say that.”

That is exactly what the Chin people tell me about our family mentors. Mentors are American individuals or families who have made a commitment to meet for one semester with a Chin family once a week. However, most mentors continue meeting with their 'adopted' Chin family after one semester since it takes that long just to get started. 

Mentoring is a cultural challenge from the beginning. Americans come in 'gung-ho' – "I am going to help you." The Chin people look at the Americans and say, “But who are you? What village are you from? Who is your family? Can I trust you?”. Americans tend to blame the gap on the language barrier and the Chin people blame it on the fact that Americans are “too busy”.

Once the gap is bridged and mentors are invited into the Chin family's lives, they discover that the reason God has called them to be mentors is not only because of what they have to offer, but also because of all God wants them to learn by walking with a persecuted people group. 

Do you know that the Christian Chin mothers, fathers, and grandparents pray daily for their American family mentors and for God to send more American mentors to their extended family in America to help them? Do you know that the women’s prayer group prays weekly for all Americans who help their families? Do you know that Benny and Emma, our translators, pray daily for all of the Americans who help their people? It is their way of saying thank you. I hope you will appreciate their gift.

Becky Nelson
Director, Chin Refugee Ministry
(972)  221-3249
Congratulations to Freda Khun, a graduating senior of the LHS class of 2013!

Freda has been offered a position in the Emerald Eagle Scholars at UNT. That is a full ride for all 4 years - as long as she keeps her grades up! She is also in the top 4% of her class - You go, girl!

Correction from the April 2013 Newsletter
The last paragraph of Chin Corner should read:

There is dispute over the literacy level of the Chin people in Lewisville. The Chin pastors tell me that their people are 80% ILLITERATE in their own language because the pastors feel shamed. We believe they are approximately 50% illiterate, still a hard obstacle to overcome.

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