When the “I Was a Stranger” initiative was announced, I asked the Lord what I could do to help. I had previously taught English as a second language (ESL) to refugees in Salt Lake City and found it to be one of the most meaningful experiences that I had ever had. But one month after Sister Burton’s talk was given, my family and I moved from Utah to a small town in the Midwest.
In our new city, I searched for local organizations that I could volunteer to teach with, but the only organization listed had inaccurate contact information. I kept looking for opportunities, and I finally found a group of people starting a nonprofit called Springfield Welcome Home. I tried to call them but was frustrated when I had to leave a message.
However, the Lord is in this work. The day after I left the voicemail, I attended our stake Relief Society activity. At the end of the activity, a guest speaker came. She spoke about how much help the refugees in our community need and how we can get involved. The speaker was from Springfield Welcome Home, and she happened to be the exact person I had tried to contact the day before. Because of that activity, I was able to get involved with this nonprofit and participate in many welcoming parties for newly arrived refugees. I also started to teach several wonderful families in the Springfield area, and I developed great friendships with them.
I was able to teach English at night in the families’ homes, and, for a while, it worked wonderfully. I felt rejuvenated whenever I left their homes. However, I soon received the call to serve as Relief Society president. Our ward covers a very large geographical area, and it requires a lot of time to care for the sisters’ needs. With my new responsibilities and the needs of my two small children at home, my husband and I worried that teaching ESL at nights was taking away from our very limited family time.
I prayed to Heavenly Father about what I should do and felt that He would show me how to work it all out, and He did. Two weeks later, all the families I was teaching moved to other states, ending that round of ESL courses. At that same time, a few new refugee families arrived—and this time, they had small children who were the same ages as my own children.
We have been able to welcome these new families with meals and toys, and when I go to their homes in the evenings, I take my entire family. Now, serving is enriching my family time instead of detracting from it. Meeting such humble people has also given my family a chance to share the abundance we have with others. Seeing the gratitude the families show for anything that we give them is inspiring. It teaches me to be better.
This is a noble work that brings us all closer to Christ. I believe that there are ways for everyone to get involved. Heavenly Father can show each sincere seeker a way to help refugees in his or her community. It is such a privilege to meet these people who have gone through so much and have pulled through with such strong character.