Be a welcoming host

Father Jim Bream with naturalized citizens

Leaving one’s homeland is not a Sunday afternoon picnic. Be a welcoming host.

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. In my efforts to be a welcoming host, 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.

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Learn about a bigger world by being a welcoming 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.

Father Jim Bream has been a priest for more than 50 years. He has hosted refugees from Asia, Africa, and eastern Europ in his parish in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.