Telling one’s story is an art form; we pick and choose what to include to communicate particular aspects of ourselves. We do this based on who is asking, and what we perceive they’re interested in knowing about us. For immigrants, we are frequently asked how and why we got to the US – it is a door for others to know us. In my first year in Pittsburgh, I got plenty of practice telling that story.
At City Reformed, we’re blessed with a significant number of immigrants, each with their own stories. My own story has been shared in a previous post by my wife. In the coming posts, we invite you to read to the stories of those who have experienced what it is like to be or walk alongside immigrants.
We invite you to listen, and to better know the sojourners (in many cases, these are people you share communion with). You may know them, or of them, but we invite you to listen not just for the details of their experience (which you may have heard before), but for the unique loves, burdens, challenges, and perspectives that are revealed in the telling of their stories.
Since the 2016 presidential election, telling an immigrant’s story can take on added dimensions. I have found that my upon hearing my story and any anxieties I have about immigration, some quickly dismiss my concerns because “I’m one of the good ones” (someone coming here for graduate study). In such an exchange, my story has been used to make a point, which makes it hard to feel like the hearer cares about knowing me and seeing things from my perspective.
In this polarized culture (that we’ve written about previously), it is worth reflecting on whether we have acquired some bad habits for listening. To hear someone’s story and see only how it supports or disproves a belief is to miss the chance that someone has offered to know them better.
We invite you to view these stories as doors through which you can better know others. In this day and age, it is exceedingly rare to share fellowship with those who differ from us, but the church offers us that invaluable opportunity by joining those of every nation and tribe into one body. We cannot know the fullness of human experience without the help of others who are willing to share their stories.
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Matt Koerber is the senior pastor at City Reformed Presbyterian church. This is his personal blog that he also asks guest writers to participate on.