ESL Students

January 28, 2010

While in Delaware (see post below to get caught up with my travels), I met many students taking ESL classes. One of the many fabulous things about the ESL program at Lutheran Church of Our Savior  (LCOS) is the oppotunity for childcare that happens for parents learning English. I thought I would share with  you some photographs of the people I got to spend my evening with.

As students arrived the first people I met were two young girls and their mother. A volunteer named Barbara brought the girls over to me with a story to share. These girls had received a dollar that night from their father, and immidiately upon entering the Church for their mother’s ESL classes, the girls went straight to Barbara, and wanted to share the dollar with her. This anecdote is only of of many illustrations of generosity and community that I observed while at LCOS.

ESL Rohobeth Beach

January 28, 2010

Tuesday evening I took a trip up to Rohobeth Beach, Delaware and got to attend my first ESL (English Second Language) class ever!

Years ago, Lutheran Church of Our Savior (LCOS) in Rohobeth Beach was a recipient of a seed grant that was available through LIRS. With the money they received this congregation began an ESL program that has now evolved into one of the largest in Delaware.

This past week as I accompanied Jamie, another LIRS volunteer, to visit the volunteer ESL teachers/mentors as well as visit/observe  classes and talk with students, I was absolutely blown away by this church and their attitude of welcome. I sat in on the advanced class and was beyond impressed the entire time. It was obvious that the relationships between the mentors and students were absolutely key factors to the success of this program.

Fifteen minutes before the beginning of class, first time students began arriving wanting to sign up.  Volunteers ran around photocopying papers and signing people up, making sure everyone was comfortable and cared for. Others worked busily in the kitchen to create a table FULL of delicious food and dessert for the twenty minute break time that would happen later in the night.

As I sat in on a class of about twelve students the environment was encouraging. I felt accepted quickly and was instantly comfortable speaking and joking with others. The mentors to the advance class, Jim and Patti, were caring, humble, and intentional with their students.

This program is inspiring and is fueled by the hearts and energy of it’s students and volunteers.

Click here to read notes and listen to audio regarding the processof applying for Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the United States.

Dear readers,

Check out this new blog on the LIRS website.

“LIRS Director for Children’s Services Olivia Faires and Vice President for Protection and Programs Susan Krehbiel are in Florida doing field research on efforts to serve unaccompanied or orphaned children and to provide legal services for temporary protected status (TPS) applicants. These are their notes from the field.” (

Click here to read field notes.

Rehoboth Beach

January 26, 2010

In just a few minutes a co-worker and I are traveling to Lutheran Church of our Savior in Rehoboth Beach, DE! Tonight we will get to observe their ESL class, and hear about the different immigration ministry happening at their church. I will report on our adventure tomorrow afternoon, and I am sure I will have pictures to share!

Recently Reflecting

January 25, 2010

Upon beginning this blog it was both a personal hope and a promise made to readers that I would not only share of my tangible experiences while at LIRS, but also that I would take time to reflect upon my personal transformation during my year of volunteering.

I am uncertain as to whether or not I have mentioned this in previous posts, but a significant part of my volunteer experience thus far has been my living situation. After work I go home every day to a place called Reservoir Hill House of Peace (RHHP).

In a giant old brick house I live with three other Mennonite Volunteers, ten community members of Baltimore City, and three people who are currently in the process of seeking asylum in the Untied States. Fifteen people in one house can mean a lot of different things; one of the most significant products that I see coming out of RHHP is a beautiful and vibrant bringing together of different cultures. Currently, with six different countries represented amongst my housemates and I, there is always a new food to try, language to learn, and story to hear.

Last night many of us in the house gathered to celebrate the birthdays of two fellow housemates. We sat around the table together discussing issues of education and immigration. We talked about birthdays, and food, and the flu. We talked about “the next step” in life. As I sat listening and looking around the table, hearing the thoughts of those I sat with, smiling at these faces and people that I have come to know and care for, I felt extreme significance in what was happening.

I sat at a table full of people and faces and stories. I was thinking about how my “next step” in life sounds and looks so incredibly different then anyone else’s in my house. I live with fourteen other people who have each experienced life in a radically different way.  Many have had the experience of walking a journey that is long and unfamiliar. Some are in the process of learning a new language; many are navigating a new city. Most people are living away from their families and loved ones.

We come from different places and have lead incredibly different lives. We are all in extreme transition. At times we experience the same thing in different ways, and other times we experience different things in a similar way. But still, we sit together around the same table, sharing our thoughts and opinions with one another. We learn and we grow and we help each other.

My year at LIRS is devoted to learning about “welcome”. Both internally and externally this organization strives to exude an attitude of welcome. I have been sent on a quest to better understand what this word, this attitude, might look like in a variety of different contexts. While I continue to travel and meet people and hear stories, I find it entirely necessary to stop and recognize that “welcome” happens each day when I go home and am greeted by friends in the kitchen.

As one house member wrote about RHHP “For such a mix of people going through changes, RHHP provides sanctuary and community which makes it easier for them to live through these times of uncertainty.” RHHP is a house of welcome.

Currently Reading…

January 19, 2010

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Advocating for the SIGNIFICANCE of women’s education worldwide.

A Few Faces

January 19, 2010

Newest LIRS addition to YouTube!

The Rev. Linda Theophilus

January 14, 2010

The LIRS Archives

January 13, 2010

While creating this blog  at the beginning of my term I looked through old LIRS photos to choose an appropriate image to be used as my header (a header is no long necessary, as I have changed/revamped the format for the new year!). While digging through some boxes I came across quite a few different images that I found ot be quite powerful. Wanted to share them with you all!

While the quality of  YouTube videos is not as crisp as those on Vimeo, I am uploading my videos to both sites. I am unable to embed Vimeo videos in the blog, but I CAN post the full YouTube videos on here. That way you can watch them while staying on this page! Enjoy!

Volunteering With CAIR

January 13, 2010

Back at the beginning of November I went down to D.C. for a day and participated in a training with CAIR Coalition. Yesterday I joined CAIR on their monthly visit to the Howard County detention center. Here I volunteered by doing intakes, a process that entails gathering information about new detainees, or detainees that have never spoken with a CAIR representative. After asking some basic questions, and learning a little bit about a person’s story, CAIR is then able to assess an individual case, evaluating whether or not they are able to get involved.

As I entered the detention center I was unsure of what to expect. I wound up doing no intakes, but rather answering questions for people, and simply engaging in conversation. It is hard to describe what I thought or felt while I was there. Perhaps for now the word “heavy” would best reflect my time at the detention center.

This experience serves as yet another example to me of how badly our country needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Systems are slow, unjust, and inefficient. Innocent people are criminalized and left feeling helpless and alone.

I am thankful for my interaction with CAIR and will continue to volunteer with them, perhaps on a trip down to a larger facility in Virginia next time. They are doing important and necessary work in the world. If you live in the D.C. area and are interested in volunteering or getting involved, visit their website to find out more.

Thought to be the biggest gathering of Karen people in the United States, this year’s Karen New Year celebration in Omaha, Nebraska attracted people from all over the United States. I spent my time wandering around, talking to people, video taping, and taking pictures. I was able to connect with different folks through the wonderful people at the Lutheran Family Services office in Omaha. Through my LFS contact, I was introduced to many Karen refugees who had been resettled to both Minnesota and Omaha. People from states such as Colorado, Michigan, and Wyoming (just a few examples), were also in attendance.

Complete with a volleyball tournament , Karen market, delicious lunch, Karen-idol singing competition, as well as a variety of other entertainment, this festival was a fabulous place to meet people.

One woman I met, Moo-moo, told me of differences that she had experienced while coming from a Thailand refugee camp to the United States. “It was hard to get used to the soft bed,” she recalled as she giggled a little. “At first I just wanted to sleep on the floor. The bed made my back hurt. It wasn’t long though until I got used to it.” This is just one of the many things that Moo-moo spoke of as she remembered her initial move to the U.S.

Stories similar to Moo-moo’s continued throughout the day, as I learned just a small piece about the lives of a few different individuals.

All together a wonderful experience. Learn a lot of about the incredible work of Lutheran Family Services in Nebraska, and was absolutely blessed by incredible hospitality. Thanks to all in Nebraska that made my visit a highlight!

Bishop Wayne Miller

January 8, 2010

New video created. CLICK HERE to see Bishop Wayne Miller of the Chicago Metro Synod speak on the importance of equality and comprehensive immigration reform. 

Bishop Wayne Miller, Metro Chicago Synod, ELCA; Bishop Gerald L. Mansholt, Central States Synod, ELCA

More on BISHOP MILLER and his time in D.C. with LIRS.