A Place for the Refugee

McKinley United Methodist Church
Winona MN 2002

We hosted Community Education’s Adult Literacy program in one church I served. The combination of being a college town, with International students and a place where many of the Hmong refugees were settling, kept the program busy.

One year, the church decided to be more intentional in interacting with the students. Teachers were on board, thinking it would be a good way to teach about the cultures their students were from. An older Hmong woman told us the story behind her quilt. Until then, I didn’t realize that these brightly embroidered quilts, captured the history of a family. She pointed to a place where two family members were lost at sea and another while crossing a river, as they fled Laos and the danger there.

I thought of all of this, when I watched Sunisa Lee at the Olympics, winning a Gold Medal in gymnastics. I thought of how hard the Hmong community has been hit by Covid. I thought of that first generation, trying to learn to read and write English, when their own language had only recently taken written form. Most in the Adult literacy program, were not skilled in it. I thought of Sunisa’s personal history, and the history of her parents and grandparents. I thought of the distance Suni Lee and her family have come and the gifts they bring as an immigrant community.

I was reminded again, how we are a nation of immigrants and stronger because of it.  As we begin to bring in refugees from Afghanistan, may our hearts be open to those who need our welcome . . . Both to their needs and to their gifts.

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings.” Deuteronomy 24:20