By Nell Green
Tears rolled down his face. This middle aged man from the Middle East allowed me, an American woman, to share in his heartbreak and distress.
Though he had been in the United States for about four years with his family, he simply could not seem to catch a break. His older children were having trouble finding jobs. His health insurance was canceled. His wife needed thousands of dollars worth of dental work. He could not rent a house because he still owed too much money to repay his family’s air fare to the U.S. He received calls from his children’s elementary school but could not understand what they were telling him so quickly over the phone. He wanted and needed a vacation but could not take off work, nor could he put together enough money to spend during the time off. The mountain kept getting bigger and bigger. He simply could not overcome. Depression and despair over took him.
They wanted a life for their children that did not include constant threats of violence. Their oldest daughter—barely fourteen—was becoming a beautiful young lady and was the pride and joy of her parents. So many people were congregating on the border. They knew the wait to apply for asylum would take weeks—maybe months. They felt they had no choice. Scores of people were on the bridge. It was very difficult to keep the family together. Suddenly they realized their oldest was missing. Human traffickers had been approaching many of those waiting to speak with officials. One lost child among so many was not a priority.
He is talented. He has been making batik fabric in the mountains of Indonesia his entire life. He knows that in order to do more than eek out an existence for his family, he must somehow grow his market. But how? He needs to understand how to make a fabric that will sell in the West. Can someone help him develop this idea and learn how to build his marketing skills? Where will he find such a person in this remote location?
She is from the other side of the world, trying to make her way here in the United States. After completing her graduate education, she needed a job. She spoke English quite well. An interview was lined up for her. She arrived at the high end boutique in jeans, tennis shoes and a t-shirt with her hair untidy. When responding to questions about how she viewed the possibility of selling merchandise, she responded that she had never done it and didn’t think she would like it, but would try. While education and language were not lacking, interview skills and an understanding of American marketing were.
The stories are endless. Many of us realize that there are immediate needs for those who are displaced. Food and shelter are basic. But what happens after that?
What happens when there are no more food baskets delivered? What happens when there is no more help with the rent? What happens when you must get a job and now you can’t attend English classes? What happens when you are happy in your home country but economic instability threatens to displace you? This is where The Off Ramp can step in to help.
For three years, the business, Threads by Nomad, has been hiring refugees in the United States, sourcing fabric from across the globe, and providing marketing opportunities for artisans around the world. Yet helping people thrive, not just survive, requires much more than a regular paycheck.
As we engaged with vulnerable people both stateside and around the world, fears of possible displacement due to economic instability or lack of skills and opportunity were voiced. The Off Ramp, a nonprofit entity, seeks opportunities to thrive for those who are displaced or in danger of displacement. Together, Threads by Nomad and The Off Ramp seek to help end the cycle of poverty for these individuals by investing in them and their talents. This happens with job preparedness and soft skills development, business knowledge and marketability, crisis intervention and human trafficking prevention.
Dignity and worth are basic rights of humanity. When an individual experiences worth and self-respect they are able to invest themselves in the society where they find themselves. They contribute to the overall well being of the society. They seek the greater good of their community. They are able to take an off ramp and exit, once and for all, the refugee highway.
Nell and her husband, Butch, are CBF field personnel serving in Houston, Texas, where they develop outreach to refugees and internationals, partner with Interfaith Ministries, minister to the Muslim community, combat human trafficking and more. Learn more about and support their ministry at www.cbf.net/green.
The Greens’ long-term presence in Houston is made possible by the CBF Offering for Global Missions. Join God’s mission in the world. Give to the Offering for Global Missions. 100 percent of your church’s gifts will be used to send CBF field personnel to share the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world. Go to www.cbf.net/transform and order your free OGM resources today.