Here is an introduction to a new ministry started by NAPC young adults this year. Read how Mitch’s own experience as an outsider in Slovenia led him to reach out to outsiders here in Atlanta.
Several years ago I was in Bled—a town in Slovenia—trying to take a bus to get to the train station. I carefully studied the schedules posted at the stop and, having gleaned no knowledge from the cryptic Slovenian tables, boarded the bus that felt luckiest. As we approached the outskirts of town 20 minutes later, I decided to ask one of the other passengers whether our bus was going to the train station. “The next stop,” I interpreted her hand gestures to mean. I briefly relaxed before the driver merged onto the freeway and headed toward the capital city of Ljubljana, an hour’s drive away! Of course, the driver was not going to turn around just because one American’s mistake caused him to miss his train. Now I look back and laugh, but at the time I had never felt less at home.
Even simple tasks can demand a great deal of effort in an unfamiliar country. Imagine all the questions you would have if you were interviewing for a job, signing up for health care, doing your taxes, or applying for college scholarships somewhere abroad. These are some of the challenges faced by our brothers and sisters from all over the world who now reside in metro Atlanta.
In the fall of last year, the young adult community at NAPC contacted World Relief and, through them, began a partnership with Emmanuel International Church near Clarkston. Robin H. says, “EIC is a vibrant church community made up of primarily ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese refugees. The congregation is growing, and it’s clear the Holy Spirit is at work among them.” EIC has outgrown its location and moved three times since it was established in 2009. The pastor, Silas T., alongside some representatives from World Relief, discussed with several NAPC young adults the makeup of the EIC congregation, which includes about 40 youth. These young students will soon be navigating the waters of adult life in the United States, a challenging prospect for anyone who did not grow up here. “As the form of the mentoring program evolved in conversations with the leadership at [EIC], they repeatedly told us that they wanted us to emphasize the importance of schooling and education with their youth,” Michael P. recalls from the meetings.
At the same time, the group from NAPC was hearing a call to come alongside high school students to be encouragers and friends.
Out of these discussions, the ongoing mentoring program was born.
In this first year, we paired two young adults from NAPC with two to three members of the EIC youth group. Each month, those small groups of four or five get together for an afternoon. Some might take a walk in the park, some might go to a movie, or some might play soccer. We also plan a monthly activity for all the EIC youth and NAPC participants together. Recently, we hosted a “career day” featuring a panel of five young adults who answered questions about what they did at their job, what sort of education was necessary, how to get started in those careers, and what kinds of scholarships or assistance was available. But it’s not all business—we hosted a big Thanksgiving dinner that filled the international classroom to capacity and had many of our students come to the recent Derek Webb concert! We are also planning a cross-cultural etiquette night, volunteer activities, and some events at EIC.
We don’t expect to get everything right the first time, but as we go forward, we hope that God will grow this friendship and teach us more about how to locate our center not in our comfort zones but in Christ.