Friday, July 11, 2008


Last night David and I attended the American Dream Banquet that honored "two individuals who have worked to build mutual understanding and respect between immigrants and U.S. born Tennesseans." At this banquet, we were introduced to the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). I was amazed to learn that between 1990-2005, Tennessee has the fourth fastest rate of immigrant growth in the US. The main focus of TIRRC is to (1) build a statewide voice for immigrants and refugees, (2) empower immigrants and refugees to be active community particpants, (3) actively promote diversity through public awareness, (4) defending the American Dream. You can learn more about TIRRC here.

The two pictures above are examples of billboards that are being placed in Tennessee and are a good reminder to all of us on hospitality to the stranger. After living in Kenya for 6 months, I can in a very small way relate to those who are coming to the US as immigrants and the difficulties that they are facing. I remember the culture shock that I felt in a new country and trying to adjust my "ways" to the "ways" of Kenya. I remember feeling lost at times in the Swahili conversations around me and wondered what our neighbors in Kenya thought of the white, American couple living among them. During our six month stay, we learned a variety of Swahili words and a few phrases but were never close to being fluent. I never felt judged or "less than" those around me because I could not speak their native tongue. Every Kenyan we met made us feel welcomed and comfortable in their country despite our vast different backgrounds of culture, language, and even food tastes. From the experience, I can transfer that same hospitality shown to me to those that I meet here in the US who are trying to make this strange new land home. I can do that not only because of my own experiences but also because that is what we are called to do as Christians and as it says in Matthew 25:40, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."