This story comes from a GoTEN staff member who recently traveled to Bangladesh to visit the largest Rohingya refugee camp. The names of her friends have been changed for their protection.
Kutupalong Refugee Camp, Bangladesh
I looked around for the family members of S and J, wondering if they would be in the right spot or if I would even be able to recognize them. S and J are Rohingya refugees that were legally resettled to Phoenix. Both of them live at my apartment complex, and I’ve developed close relationships with them over the past few years. They had asked me to bring gifts to their families in the refugee camp, so I walked into the camp with two large bags of gifts, excited to meet my friends’ families.
I saw S’s mom first. She was crying as she walked over to me, and she gave me a big hug. She was so happy to see a friend of her daughter’s, since she hadn’t seen her daughter in over 15 years. I tried to talk to her and the other family members with the few Rohingya words I know. Then, we video chatted S and J as I handed out the gifts. While it was incredible to spend time with those families, I wasn’t allowed to stay in the camp for very long. I also didn’t have many opportunities to engage with other Rohingya refugees in the camp, or share any Bible stories.
When I got home from Bangladesh, I went to J’s home for a visit. She cooked me an incredible meal to thank me for everything, and I told her the story of how God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to others. I shared with them a little bit of my story and how God has blessed me. Because of his blessing in my life, I want to be a blessing to other people. That story really meant a lot to her.
By the time I got to S’s house later that day, J was already there and had told her about my visit at her home. They were speaking in Rohingya, but I heard the word “Abraham.” I asked J about it later, and she said that she had been telling the story of Abraham to S – the same story that I had shared with J!
After experiencing the limitations of the refugee camp, I realized the value of what we’re doing here in the U.S. with refugees. I had started to think, “What if S and J became believers? They could tell their families about Jesus, and that could spread through the camp without us even being there!” Now, I see that even though neither S or J are believers yet, they can still share stories about God with their friends here in the U.S. and with their family members who are in refugee camps! The trip to Bangladesh reminded me that God has us in the right place, and encouraged me to be patient, to keep praying for my friends, and to continue sharing stories of hope and truth.
To meet a Rohingya refugee and start a friendship, come to an English class! You can sign up here.