Building Complex Bridges: How to Pull One Another Across the Cultural Chasm

It has been a joy to serve the refugees and other international residents of our city during this tumultuous year. Though it hasn’t been easy, we have seen that our model of building bridges with refugee community leaders has been effective and deeply impactful in our city. We saw our strong relational network shine when the pandemic struck, and the city needed to identify strong interpreters to communicate crucial information in various languages. And we saw our network shine again just this week, when we were able to support a school’s effort to find a home for a young girl caught in a difficult situation. We bridge wide gaps between refugee communities and local schools, churches, organizations, and individuals.

Bridge Building with Amarillo College

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting about our bridge-building model to adult education personnel at Amarillo College and to members of the Texas Peer Mentor Network. The focus of my presentation was on the complexity of cross-cultural bridges. “The wider the chasm is,” I explained, “the more complex the bridge must be.” Have you noticed that wide bridges require multiple pillars?

This is the same thing we see among people. One person isn’t enough to support a wide gap between cultures. Instead, it’s important to establish multiple community leaders who can serve as pillars along the way. That’s exactly what the picture at the top of this newsletter illustrates. This is a picture from my time living in Papua New Guinea. I’m in the middle, being helped across the water by leaders on each side.

What I explained to the community college leaders is that they are like the man on the right. Their job is to find a way to reach the refugee community, but it’s too far away. Instead, they must build trusting relationships with people who are positioned in the middle. That’s the role that Refugee Language Project serves. My team and I are in the middle, trying our best to learn from the college about their needs and restrictions. We do this same thing with the city, with law enforcement, with local school districts, and with other non-profits. At the same time, we grasp the hand of local refugee community leaders. We spend time with them, listening to them and trying our best to meet their needs. We know them and we look out for their best interests, so they trust us.

Those refugee community leaders then make the last connection to their wider communities. The message is translated several times before it reaches its destination. The school pulled us across the water. At the same time, we held onto the refugee community leaders, pulling them across after us. Finally, they reached back to grasp those in their communities and pulled them across too.

No one, by themselves, can tackle such a challenge. But together we can form the complex bridge that is required to meet the felt needs of the people and institutions on either side of the cultural chasm. Thank you for supporting us as we build the pillars under important new bridges!

Amarillo Refugee State of the Union

That reminds me! I want to invite you to attend our Amarillo Refugee State of the Union next month. This is part of our effort to bridge more gaps for more communities. Maybe you’ll learn something that will enable you to play an important role. Learn more here.

And Merry Christmas!! God bless you all.

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