Monday, February 29, 2016

Reflection: The Bridge

While watching The Good Lie on a Delta flight last year (highly recommend that film by the way), I started thinking about my friend Pavi and some incredible work that he and a group of friends have commenced in one of the most crime-ridden and poor communities in Columbus, Ohio.

Pavi has always exemplified a passion for serving international communities in the United States. While completing his PhD at Ohio State University, he launched an international student ministry that had hundreds of students participating. But what he started at The Bridge was very different.

Columbus has an incredibly huge Somali, Iraqi, and Cambodian refugee population. Refugee housing places these groups in one of the mostcrime ridden communities of Columbus, Hilltop. Most of these refugees do not speak English, and they are trying hard to adjust to the American way of life while working incredibly hard to maintain their traditional culture. They are outsiders in the greater community and have been made to feel largely unwelcome by many locals because they are so different. They have difficulty getting jobs, and not many roll out the carpet to welcome them.

So Pavi decided to create a community center that is specifically dedicated to helping these refugees develop critical skills to adjust to life in America. They express an interest in classes and then the classes are formed and taught by volunteers. The Bridge has a community garden where people can learn about the soil and gardening, and it also has a soccer field for the kids to play in. Some of the top classes requested by these refugees are English classes and math classes. They want to know how to count American currency and how to purchase groceries. They want to be able to exercise and not get ridiculed for their traditional clothing, or lack of understanding of American culture.

And the results have been incredible! Classes are full, and people are feeling a sense of community as they gather from myriad points around the globe to chart a new life in the United States. And Pavi and his team are incredibly excited by what they are seeing.

If you live in or near Columbus OH and are looking for an opportunity to serve neighbors from around the globe, I highly recommend you check out The Bridge. And if you don’t live in or near Columbus, I encourage you to make it a point to reach out to welcome our global neighbors who are working hard to chart a path toward a better future here in the US. Or just reach out to your neighbors in general—folks just don’t do that much anymore.

May we all grow in our commitment to serve and practice hospitality to our neighbors, whether around the block, or around the globe.

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