Be a welcoming host

In honor of World Refugee Day 2017: Be a welcoming host

Leaving one’s homeland is not a Sunday afternoon picnic

Having lived with several refugees or immigrants, I know that it is very difficult for them to leave their home country. One person or a family leaving his or her native land does so because it is just too tough to stay. They just cannot take it any longer and must leave. I have lived and worked with probably twenty people from Ethiopia, Burundi, Eritrea, Vietnam, Poland, Afghanistan, etc. Leaving one’s homeland is not a Sunday afternoon picnic – it is very difficult because of several challenges: learning a new language, adjusting to cultural differences, having little or no money, learning a new legal system, facing possible religious or racial prejudice, finding a job, etc. But these people are willing to put up with all this because of the impossible alternative of not leaving.

I am a Catholic priest who has done parish work all my life and am now retired. Several refugees have lived in the same rectory as I did for a few weeks, a few months, or maybe a year or so. I enjoy outside activity such as jogging, canoeing, tennis, etc. Some of these people have enjoyed the same. I have walked the streets with people looking for a job, helped them learn how to drive, and have taught them what foods to buy, among other things.

Working with refugees or immigrants taught me the value of a simple life

Several advantages attend to working with refugees or immigrants. I have learned more the value of a simple life, that much of what we think is so important just really does not matter. Enjoying a simpler life has made it easier to put my faith more in God’s providence and goodness, not in the material or preoccupations of this world. This also allows me to give more money to charity because I do not spend it on what is worthless. Another lesson I have learned is to be more open to learning about the world. It’s a big world; there is much to learn about this temporary home. And that is exciting because it is from God. The beauty and goodness and intimacy of God is better known and lived as we experience more of God’s creative activity.

Learn about a bigger world by being a good host

I just related some of the benefits I received from working with refugees and immigrants. And since I have always done parish work, I have in many instances involved members of the parish in this work. These people have received some of the same benefits. Their minds and hearts have been broadened.

I highly recommend this work to anyone who wants to grow and learn about a bigger world by being a good host.

In honor of World Refugee Day 2017, the Refugee Center Online is collecting stories of how refugees make our lives better.

The Refugee Center Online believes newcomers make our country a better place. Refugee resettlement is not just the moral or ethical thing to do – it benefits us and our communities as well. These stories from individuals around the country show how knowing, teaching, working with, and perhaps most importantly, being friends with, refugees have improved the lives of Americans.

Refugees shaking hands

World Refugee Day June 20, 2017

Find events in your community and learn how you can celebrate World Refugee Day 2017.

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About Fr. Jim Bream
My name is Fr. Jim Bream, a priest for 53 years who has done parish work all his life. The refugees I have taken in are from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. I am located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.