You were one of the first people to volunteer for the MEMNT kids’ weekend program. What inspired you to step forward?
In 2018 my dad served on the advisory board for the ministry and invited me to take his place on the annual trip to purchase shoes for the upcoming school year. Interacting with the children on our trips to Walmart that day, I was reminded of the children I saw in the townships of Namibia and realized there was a way to help African communities from my home city of Dallas.
You have adopted a family being served by MEMNT and you bring several of the children to church every week. How can we encourage other church members to get involved like this and befriend a family?
MEMNT is on the right path by spreading awareness of the needs in our community as well as the potential value the opportunity brings not only to the family or child in need, but also to church members and their own families. So many people, myself included, easily become consumed with their family, career, and personal endeavors that we easily overlook the tragic situations that are right here in front of us. We need to quell the thoughts that prevent people from getting involved in the first place as they are often inaccurate or just plain excuses. If people are reminded of the devastating circumstances this community was born into, the suffering and hardships they’ve faced by no fault of their own, and the challenges of adapting to our society at the poverty level, they might be more inclined to step forward.
You have a special connection with the children, what approach can other church members use to connect with the children?
Approaching the children can be as simple as a smile. Know that your individual attention goes a long way as they are often one of many siblings in their household. They play and love just like all the other children at Our Redeemer and have an insatiable thirst for kindness, knowledge, and fun opportunities. Just like with your own children at home, consistency and patience are key. Even if you’re just the lady that smiles and waves at them at church every Sunday, you’ve likely added an extra beam of light to their day and they will feel more comfortable taking your hand, listening to, or opening up to you in the future.
What has the experience meant to you?
We say words in church every Sunday that emphasize our appreciation for all that God has done for us. I am a visual learner, and somehow just saying and hearing the words was not enough to truly resonate in my heart. Working with this community has allowed me to see with my own eyes that every belonging, every relationship, and every minute of every day is a gift from God. My first world problems and desire for material possessions have drastically faded, only to be replaced by an invaluable perspective on childhood, human nature, and life itself.
What other experiences have you had in the past that prepared you for your role as volunteer with the MEMNT children’s weekend program?
Seeing the deplorable living conditions in the townships of Namibia provided some perspective that may allow for a different kind of empathy. However, aside from some high school baby-sitting and minimal volunteer work with VBS and Sunday School, I’ve had very few experiences that have prepared me for this role.
What is your profession? Do you work with children in your job?
I am a corporate real estate analyst for a financial institution. There are no children involved (if we define ‘children’ by age).
What suggestions do you have to engage more church members to help with the MEMNT weekend program? How can church members connect with the children beyond just hosting a meal?
As a means of engaging more members to help with the weekend program, we could approach it in a manner similar to Sunday school. People can commit to serving for the fall or spring weekends, and if we are able to recruit enough they can alternate Saturdays if they choose. We may also improve in volume if we target specific messages to the right audiences.
The refugee community has so many needs, and it truly takes a village (and then some) to serve them. One developed relationship can go a very long way. Providing a mode of transportation on a routine basis was my gateway to developing many of the relationships that I have. It provides not only a forum to connect through music and conversation, but also an opportunity to learn more of their personal needs. If you have the drive and the capacity to offer this, even if only on a semi-routine basis, it can open doors to pathways that may change the trajectory of both your life and theirs.