On Wednesday, April 10th, about 30 refugee and immigrant English learners joined together with more than a dozen parishioners to share conversation and food at St. John’s American Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD.
Because of the growing class sizes at the main Refugee and Immigration building, students have been attending English class at St. John’s since January 2013. The parishioners at St. John’s wanted to get to know these students sharing the building, so they cooked a hearty lunch of soup, bread, and cake. But more importantly, the students were given the opportunity to share about themselves outside the walls of the classroom. Students eagerly told the parishioners about their language, country, and hobbies, while asking questions of their new American friends.
After the meal, the St. John’s quilting group showed the students how they complete each quilt that they donate. But, much to the surprise of everyone, the students jumped right in and demonstrated their own quilting skills to the group.
One student remarked, “[Making the quilts] is like home back in Africa. We used to do this every day.”
Another student said, “Meeting new people and sharing a meal and activities reminds me of home. I didn’t think that Americans also participated in these events.”
As the lunch continued, the students felt increasingly comfortable, and connected with the parishioners through more stories of childhood, employment, and family life.
One student remarked, “I learned that I work with the son of one of the women from St. John’s. Now, I know another American!”
These connections allow refugee and immigrant students, from all parts of the world, to feel like Sioux Falls is truly their home.
[By Emily K.]
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