Many have been asking us how our programs have adapted to the present challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we have been trusting that things will not be like this forever. Our focus has always been relational, so we are not changing our model to digital formats that would eventually cause us to lose sight of personal connections.
Instead, we have encouraged our team to find creative ways to remain connected to their friends using their own skills and creativity. This month, we’d like to showcase just one example of how this has played out. I asked Becky to tell about how she has been serving Ardo’s family from a distance. It’s amazing to see how God could use Becky’s gifts to bless one Somali family.
A year ago I met Ardo at the Table Talk program. As a retired teacher, I felt the tugging of my heart to meet a need … not just for Ardo, but for myself. Connecting over her desire to learn to read and write, we continued meeting in her home weekly as part of the Face to Face program. Our relationship has been life-changing: I found myself coming to terms with my own internal biases, prejudices and warped perspectives concerning culture … not just her culture, but my own white American culture as well. It was actually a rather painful journey, yet also a freeing one, once I sorted it out.
For the last 6 years since retiring, I’ve been working as a part-time elementary school tutor at a school with one of the largest refugee populations in Amarillo. Now here we are, dealing with separation due to the COVID-19 crisis. During these stay-at-home orders, when I would have been tutoring Ardo, I instead find myself tutoring Ardo’s second grade daughter, Faithi, for an hour every weekday.Many refugee kids are at home alone while both their parents work at a meatpacking plant. Their parents are doing what they can to provide basic needs, and they’re completely unaware of the schoolwork their children are expected to complete. Ardo is a good mom, and would love to be able to help her daughter. Yet the language barrier, lack of understanding, three young children in the home, and a lack of technology make it almost impossible.
Meeting by cell phone, and using duplicate copies of handouts I picked up from her school, we work tediously through the papers that are too difficult for Faithi to tackle on her own. The first two weeks consisted of 63 pages! We have learned that it’s best if she goes to her bedroom and closes the door, so as to not be interrupted by her three younger siblings. I’m amazed at her diligence, desire to learn, and long attention span, not to mention the ability to handle the phone and work at the same time!
I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the barriers that my friend and others like her faced, but I’m beginning to realize I just thought I knew! Each day, my mood is lifted, like a breath of fresh air, by this sweetest second grader, so eager to learn and engage with me over the phone. Our worlds are so far apart, yet when it comes to the need to be connected and cared about, we are one.
Isn’t this amazing? I’m so encouraged by how Becky has sacrificially shared her time and gifts to walk Ardo’s daughter through schoolwork. It breaks my heart that Faithi is in the minority of children with access to help during this time. Yet I know that it’s better to invest well in one family than to scatter our energy by investing poorly in many. May God bless Ardo’s family, and the Somali community through them!