Monday, September 27, 2010

Global Faith Forum

After hearing Carl Medearis speak in Austin this past May, I decided to read his book: "Muslims, Christians, & Jesus." The book was such a breath of fresh air in a sometimes stale conversation (within some Christian circles) on Muslim-Christian relations. I truly appreciated both his insights and shared experiences from a life trying to live out every day not as a Christian... but simply as a follower of Jesus. I learned a lot from the book and hope that his perspective on Truth assimilates itself more and more into my life.

At the end of his book, I read that he had a blog, which I started to follow. Last week, Medearis posted about the GLOBAL FAITH FORUM (of which I'd never heard). Here is his blog post about the event:

Global Faith Forum

November 11-13, 2010

NorthWood Church, Keller, TX


HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal, HE Vietnamese Ambassador Le Cong Phung, Os Guinness, Eboo Patel, Ray Bakke, Bob Roberts, Jr., Ed Stetzer and others

Why the Global Faith Forum?

In case you haven’t noticed, the world around us is getting smaller. What used to be “on the other side of the world” is now in our own backyard.

As a result, we are rubbing shoulders with people of different cultures and religions who hold different values and beliefs.

In the midst of this shrinking world, we have three basic choices:

1. Live in fear of what we don’t understand threatening to burn, hate and denigrate.

2. Bury our head in the sand and play like none of this is happening (but you’d better turn off the evening news and try to not act too surprised when the globalized world lands on your front porch.)

3. Seek to engage in conversation, learning to respect and understand others while not compromising our core beliefs.

We believe option #3 is the best choice.
Join us at the Global Faith Forum as we learn how to join the conversation.

I am intrigued and eager to learn from this event. So, tonight I registered and am encouraging all you out there to go and sign up too!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

All in 2 Weeks Time

Last night I attended a training on volunteering with incoming refugees. The more I learn about the process they go through, the more my heart hurts for them. I've known on principle that the move & transition itself has to be incredibly difficult. How could it not be? You leave all you've ever known, you are afraid for your life, and now you're thrown into a completely foreign culture and given 6 months to adapt until you are on your own. WOW.

During this training, I learned for the first time a basic time-line of the incoming refugees first week in the States. It is a WHIRLWIND! The stress must be fierce.
(Image above of an incoming Burmese family being greeted at the airport)
  • 3 days out-- The agency receives an arrival date, including flight arrival details
  • 1 day out-- The agency sets up an apartment for the family using donated furniture & some purchased items... including culturally appropriate groceries & supplies
  • ARRIVAL DAY-- The agency greets the family at the airport & (in the same day, or night-- even if they arrive at midnight) provides a housing safety orientation at the new home
  • Day 1-- The next day (jet-lag & all), the agency accompanies new refugees to social security office to apply for new social security cards for the family (because they cannot begin receiving food stamps or other government aid until their have a receipt for their social security application), then they return to the agency offices for a general orientation & to complete social services referral forms
  • Days 2 - 5-- The family receives health screenings and are connected to city clinics (they have to give stool samples to ensure they don't have parasites, they have to get vaccines, and get a general "all clear" on their incoming health issues)
  • Week 1-- Within the first week, the adults are enrolled in ESL classes (free for 4 months) and begin job training & their job search... children are immediately enrolled in AISD schools
Can you even imagine having to race through all of that in the midst of a major cultural upheaval. Its sounds exhausting. :(

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Missed Opportunities

Once upon a time, I went to UT. At the time, I was an athiest, a complete "b", and also a sorority girl (laugh all you want, I am laughing right along side you). While I was at UT studying journalism my entire life was consumed with class, studying, and partying. I had no idea of all that campus life had to offer. Never heard of a single student organization. Never noticed any other ethnicity while I was in class. Never paid attention to ways I could get involved in serving my local community. What a loss!
This fall, I have had reason to be back on UT's campus several times since the semester kicked off, and my perspective is soooo different. I look at everything, and everyone, so differently. And I am lamenting all the missed opportunities that passed me by when I was a student.

Tonight, I went to a volunteer orientation for Refugee Services of Texas that was held on campus. 90% of the attendees were students who learned about the opportunity through various campus emails & groups. These students had a heart to serve refugees from some of the most war-devastated regions on the world. They were passionate and empathetic... anxious to get involved and make a difference!

Monday night, I went to a facilitator orientation for the International Office's Language Circle program. 99% of the attendees were students who were excited to take advantage of the opportunity to meet international students and help them practice English. There were also Language Circles for American students to learn/practice a second language-- like Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic, Korean-- led by native speakers from those places. I had no idea this was ever an option when I was in school. But what an creative avenue for culture & language sharing right there on campus!

Last week, I heard about a group that serves lunch, for free, every Wednesday to international students just to show them hospitality and be available to help them navigate Austin, UT, and life. Over the semester, they build relationships and encourage (often times) lonely, homesick students.

And this coming weekend, I am attending a "Backyard Barbecue" held on campus by one of the schools there to welcome international students. It is hosted by a program where local Austinites & UT students can be paired up with an international student (or student & their family) to be their "friend" for the semester... helping them to learn about Austin, America, and local family life. Its a chance to give them a feeling of home away from home just by having someone they can call or reach out to when they have questions, need to talk, and just want to have some fun.

My personal tilt (now, as opposed to back when I was a student) is that I LOVE internationals! I love learning about other cultures, I love traveling to other cultures, and I love welcoming other cultures to my hometown Austin. I am so impressed by all the chances current UT students have to meet & befriend & learn from other students who are here from foreign lands... what truly broad opportunities UT offers now. They probably offered all this back when I was a student too-- but I was to self-absorbed to notice, much less get involved. What a shame!

Tonight, I am sad to have missed all this back then... but I am praising God and thanking Him profusely for opening my eyes to these things now (and for letting me still be involved, even though I haven't been a student in more than a decade!).