What if We Viewed Refugees as "Guests?" {Guest Post}

Part of my day job is assisting our Mission Pastor with local outreach events. The next outreach on the calendar is Thanksgiving Dinner with our partners at the Arab-American Church in Sacramento. My family participated in that meal a few years ago and I wrote a story about it. Today, Leslie Verner published my story as part of her series on refugees. Leslie recently wrote a book on hospitality: Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness. As someone who lived overseas for years, Leslie’s perspective on welcoming the stranger is unique and valuable. I’m honored she published me story today.

Below is a snippet of my story and a link to read the rest on Leslie’s website.


My first experience with refugees was when I was very young, although I didn’t learn the word, “refugee,” until many years later. I was taught to call them, “Guests.” 

For a short time, my father worked for an inner-city mission in the Bay Area of California. As a mechanic, he was responsible to keep the mission’s vans and buses running. When they were short-staffed, my father drove the bus to pick up Guests and bring them to the mission. On occasion, I was allowed to accompany him on these trips. I sat on the front seat and watched as the bus filled with people very different than me. Dad told me they were from Vietnam and Cambodia, places I didn’t know how to find on a map. Brown-skinned parents carried tired children, some without shoes. They whispered words that clipped and twanged in my ears. Their clothes, in various shades of brown, hung loose on every one of them.  The oldest, wrinkled and hunched over, were given the best seats, a clear sign of reverence even a child could not miss. As they piled in, I wondered why they were there and why they looked so sad. 

Once, I followed the crowd off the bus and into a small chapel. The room was familiar enough, with lines of wooden pews and a large oak table near the front. There, the Guests sang hymns using strange words, not the words I sang to the same tune on Sundays. I watched more than listened as a man at the front stood to speak. It didn’t need to be in English for me to recognize the sounds of a fiery gospel message. The children fell asleep while their mothers rubbed their heads and the preacher droned on. My sister and I would have run off to play in the back of the room after such a long sermon but these children stayed with their parents quietly. My first experience with refugees, guests to our country, was simply a look at tired, weary people.  

 My second experience with refugees came three decades later.

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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