BY PR. LISA ISENSEE
Every time I minister to our refugee brothers and sisters, whether in the States or overseas, I am blessed. In October, I spoke for the Friday evening vespers at the St. Paul (MN) Karen Church. The church is large and located in an attractive residential area. Pastor See Nay proudly showed me around the building. God had wonderfully provided the 300-plus members with their own church!
The sanctuary was spacious and pleasant, the front filled with orchids and fresh-cut flowers lovingly arranged. That night we had a special vespers together. It was touching because as I showed them pictures of people I had met during an ASAP mission trip to a refugee camp, someone would sometimes say, “I know him,” or “I remember them.” As I waited for my words to be translated, I watched the vibrant faces of the Karen people as they took the Bible texts and stories to heart.
Once vespers was over I went to the back of the church where I greeted adults and handed out butterfly pins to the children. It was then that an unexpected thing happened. I was standing there when an elderly man walked towards me, a white envelope clasped in both his hands. In Asian culture, giving something with two hands is typically used to show honor to someone older or respected, or to show that what you give is of value. I knew that I was not older, and while the Karen people are very gracious and respectful, I wondered what this meant. Then it struck me what was in his hands: he was giving money for ASAP’s ministry to refugees. A woman came next, again, both hands holding onto an envelope. From all around the church, from teenagers to grandparents, people began pressing envelopes into my hands.
I have had many people share gifts after I’ve spoken, but never SO many. Thirty-two people gave generously that night. It wasn’t just a dollar or two in each envelope; that evening, those envelopes included anywhere from four dollars to a hundred dollars, an offering totaling $769. The Karen are hard-working people, but having just come to the States, only a small percentage are able to work in high-paying jobs. Yet they gave amazingly –sacrificially – that evening. They knew firsthand the refugees’ needs and were doing whatever they could to bring them safety and peace and a knowledge of Jesus. As I stood there at the back of the church with all those envelopes in my hands, tears pooling in my eyes, I prayed inwardly, “Oh, Jesus, if all your people gave like these Christians have given, you would be able to come very, very soon, wouldn’t You?”
Thank you for hastening Jesus’ coming with your gifts for refugees.