Today we’d like to introduce you to Becky Nelson.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2007, the pastor of my church asked if I could help the Chin pastor who had started a church in Lewisville for Chin asylees from Burma who had escaped to the US. The little church of 70 people had doubled in size in 3 months because Chin refugees were finally being allowed out of Malaysia. The resettlement agencies of DFW were not providing them with many of the basic services they were supposed to have because they were supposed to stay in Dallas/Ft. Worth. So I asked some people in my church to help.
We provided them with donated furniture, enrolled their children in school, started ESL classes and helped them navigate the paperwork of American systems. I thought I would provide temporary help for these 70 people until they could get on their feet, but the next year 310 refugees came, and each year more came. Another church joined us, providing financial help and volunteers, then another, until we outgrew the mother church’s structure. In 2014 we became our own 501 c 3. There are now approximately 4000 Chin refugees in Lewisville and we are a coalition of 8 churches and many individuals.
The City of Lewisville also provides financial support. I no longer operate out of the back of my car as a volunteer. We now have a staff of 2 translator/caseworkers, myself and a part-time American caseworker. I am faith-based and so is the Chin. I believe God grew this ministry because He wanted Lewisville to experience another culture and He wanted the churches to overcome ethnic and economic prejudices and learn how to be in a relationship with fellow believers who have suffered much because of religious and political persecution.
Has it been a smooth road?
Although this is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had, it’s also been the most difficult. Besides being Asian in a Western country, they were mostly poor, uneducated farmers with no English, living in an affluent educated suburb. Cultural misunderstandings, my own ignorance about refugees, and their pride in not wanting to ask for help were the first struggles. I had to earn their trust – they were so shamed by their lack of English and their poverty.
I began by finding the people who spoke a little bit of English, asking questions to educate myself about their culture, attending their church even though I didn’t know Chin and building relationships. No one else in Denton County knew anything about refugees either. I quickly discovered that they were being denied many of the basic benefits they were guaranteed by law. Since I believe passionately injustice, I became an advocate for them. Not only were there barriers of ignorance, affluent communities have pockets of people who believe that people are poor because of some failure on their part, even though the Chin were working.
Those people did not want refugees in their community, believed I was responsible for bringing them and I was even threatened with a lawsuit. Even though the refugees were legally resettled here by the US government, they were not welcome. I would try to discover people within the hostile systems who had compassion for the refugees, and at first, we operated as a largely underground network of people who we called Chin friends that would help us get what was needed.
Fortunately, the attitude of the community has mostly changed as they have learned their story, watched their children begin to excel, see what hard workers they are, and see them learning English and trying to become citizens.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Chin Community Ministry – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We help establish, equip, and engage the Chin in Lewisville by connecting them with American individuals, families and community resources to help meet their practical, emotional and spiritual needs as they begin a new life in America. We provide case management services: the Chin bring us problems they need help with, and we teach them how to solve those problems. We are partners with Community in Schools, seeking to help the parents understand their role in their child’s education. We have a medical screening and health education program.
We also have a mentoring program in which we match American families, small groups or individuals from the churches with a Chin family to help the family learn English, solve problems and build relationships. We hold Saturday tutoring and a strong summer reading program for Chin elementary students, and we have a soccer team for middle school boys and a craft club for middle school girls. We provide translation services for our clients when they need help at doctor’s offices, etc. And we are advocates for them within the community, working to help the two cultures bridge the gaps between them.
I think what sets us apart is our emphasis on designing programs around the barriers of lack of transportation, having classes at so many different hours to accommodate work hours, and staying focused on their needs. A second emphasis is on equipping, not creating dependency. We are constantly teaching and demonstrating how to organize your papers, how to handle issues. A third emphasis is on relationships. I ask our volunteers to give themselves and become friends, not just give things. We engage at as many levels as possible.
And finally, I am most proud of our emphasis on mutuality, teaching Americans that we can learn so much from them and they have much to teach us about life and suffering, faith and being grateful
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Lewisville has an excellent school district and an excellent City staff, especially the present ones. It has a low crime rate. It has a lot of green space, recreational facilities, and is just a good place to live. Unlike Flower Mound, it is very diverse, and I like that. I dislike the traffic – it has gotten quite congested.
- Website: www.lewisvillechin.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Chin Community Ministry