Huge Challenges/Great Opportunities—Nations Ministry Center
They have fled persecution, violence, war, hunger, life in makeshift and overcrowded camps. As refugees coming to America, they have been given a chance for a new life. But now they face a new set of ordeals having to navigate the complexities of daily life in a new culture and do so with minimal language skills. Resettlement agencies assist newly arrived refugees for three to four months with many of their firsts, including obtaining housing, registering the children for school, getting the required health screening, figuring out how and where to buy food, and finding a job and the means to get to it. But the needs don't stop at the end of those few months. So the Nations Ministry Center steps up.
The Nations Ministry Center is specific to Nashville, Tennessee, which has a surprisingly large refugee population (8,000 to 10,000). Chris Lovingood, the Executive Director, characterizes the efforts of the organization as moving the families toward self-sufficiency. The goals are for the children, youth, and seniors as well as adults to integrate, assimilate, live meaningful lives, and contribute ultimately as citizens.
The Ministry Center works tirelessly to help everyone in the family improve their language skills and literacy. Volunteers especially assist middle school and elementary children after school with homework and in the summer with reading skills, as well as occasional field trips and other fun events. Other volunteers assist seniors with basic language and cultural literacy in their new home.
Chris and other staff, with some clerical assistance from volunteers, work to help the adults find better jobs, so the family can become more economically stable. In addition, they aid the adults with understanding the regulations and applying for their Green Card and for citizenship.
Volunteers know they are helping the families, but they also report being in awe, inspired by the resilience of those who have suffered much, especially the children, and also by their drive to learn in order to make a better life for themselves and their family. The refugees have faced and continue to deal with huge challenges, but they embrace them as great opportunities. That spirit is the gift they give back to the volunteers.
To find out more about Nations Ministry Center and its volunteer opportunities, visit nationsministrycenter.org or call 615-828-9664.