By Karen Zimmerman
I met my first refugee family in 2010 while I was volunteering with a Korean medical missions team in a small village near Gorkha, Nepal. We had a makeshift camp in a local primary school and I met a teacher there who was going to be relocated to North Carolina with his family. He said it was a city called “Sharolatay”—Charlotte, which is not far from my hometown. We exchanged contact information and stayed in touch.
When the Chamlagai family arrived in Charlotte later that year, it was bitterly cold. My church collected donations, and I delivered a care basket full of lentils, blankets, candles, and a nativity scene. The Chamlagais welcomed me into their family with open arms. Over the years, they have shared life with me—we have slept on hospital floors together, cooked for weddings together, worked on job applications together, painted our hands with henna together, discussed religion together, danced at festivals together. I am a different person—a better person!—because I am their bahini, their younger sister.
After the horrible terror attacks in Paris a few weeks ago, the American public was gripped by fear—an understandable fear of such horror coming to our doorsteps. Rhetoric about refugees quickly became a political bargaining chip, and I found myself to be an outspoken advocate for welcoming Syrian refugees into the United States. My experience with refugee resettlement organizations and my relationships with the Chamlagais and several other refugee families give me a unique perspective on this debate. Still, I find myself wishing that I could do more to advocate for those who are unwanted, unwelcome, unloved.
My personal impact is limited. I am a pastor at a Cooperative Baptist church in urban Atlanta, doing what I can to share the love of God in my community. Still, I know that my efforts alone will never be enough to change the tide of hatred and suffering that so many people are experiencing. And that’s why I give to CBF—because I know that God’s love is going so much further than I can go, working in ways that I’ll never achieve, to touch people that I’ll never meet.
I am grateful for the many ways that CBF is working to restore dignity to our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters. I am thankful to serve in a church that welcomes my Saudi Arabian friend, covered in hijab, to our Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of increasing Muslim distrust and anti-Muslim sentiments. I give thanks for field personnel like Alicia and Jeff Lee, working with partner organizations in Skopje, Macedonia to provide emergency toiletries, shelter, and rights education to increasing numbers of asylum seekers. I am grateful for Janée Angel’s many years of experience working with Arabic-speaking immigrants in Antwerp, Belgium, and the unique way she is already positioned to build relationships, navigate language and culture differences, and exhibit the love of Christ in a growing population. I am grateful for the vision of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that equips us to give, serve, and love in transformational ways.
Karen Zimmerman serves as the Associate Pastor for Missions and Community Ministry at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. Join Karen in giving to CBF Global Missions and sharing your “un-selfie” tomorrow on Giving Tuesday.
1. Take a “selfie” with a caption explaining why you give to CBF Global Missions. Make your own or download the official CBF selfie sign here.
2. Post it to Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter and tag 3 friends to challenge them to do the same. Share with the Fellowship by tagging the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on Facebook or @cbfinfo on Twitter.
3. Use the hashtags: #GlobalMissions, #GivingTuesday, #unselfie.
4. Give to Global Missions by visiting cbf.net/givenow and encourage your friends to give.