Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Refugee Thanksgiving Dinner

Last night Mike and I had the privilege of hosting tables at a dinner for about 350 refugees in the Houston area that was co-sponsored by our church and Houston Interfaith Ministries. 

Our church's Food Ministry provided a traditional Thanksgiving meal for our guests while church members and staff members of HIM waited tables and provided logistical assistance. We actually had a surplus of church volunteers! What a blessing.

Refugees are different from immigrants. Although they are immigrants to this country, they have come with State Department permission because of political/ethnic/religious persecution in their countries. Our guests were recent refugees, coming within the past year to the Houston area.

Seated at my table were two families: an Iraqui mother with her young son and daughter and a Burmese family consisting of a married couple, their toddler and aged aunt, and a family friend. 

The Iraqui mother, clad in traditional style, had no English ability while her young daughter chattered away in English with no accent and served as translator. I was unable to get the story of the young Iraqui family and wondered where the husband and father was. Dead? Working that evening I hope?
The young Burmese father had limited English and told me his family had been in this country for three weeks, but "we are Americans now!" They fled ethnic cleansing in Burma and were assisted out of that country by the United Nations. He is very eager to find a job and was excited about the opportunity for education his young daughter would have here. He told me he and his family are Christians.

El Jefe hosted another Iraqui family and several young teenage boys from Tibet who were somehow separated from their parents in the table assignments. He thought they weren't too sorry about that either!

The Iraqui mother at my table had her daughter ask me if the meat on her plate was pork. When I told the young girl it was turkey, she looked very confused so I told her to tell her mother it was chicken. She didn't eat it but didn't object to her children eating it--which they did with great gusto. Not sure what she really thought, but she seemed overwhelmed by the crowd and her lack of understanding English. My charades weren't that successful with her either, but she thanked me very graciously at the end of the evening.
A children's craft room was set up for the kids and they all seemed to really enjoy that activity after dinner while the adults were entertained by singers and dancers from Bhutan, Burundi, Malaysia and our Hispanic ministry group. It's really hard to follow the African drummers, I'm just saying!

At the end of the evening we taught them to sing and clap along with "Deep in the Heart of Texas", dubbing them all Texans now.

So that's the highlight of my Thanksgiving season. What's yours?

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