Wesleyan students and faculty find many ways to support their community. Whether that be through partnership with Norcross Service League, Omicron Service Society or volunteer work at local churches, there are always people with open hearts who are happy to serve.
One way a few of Wesleyan’s faculty members have gotten involved with service is with World Relief Foundation whose mission is, “[to] stand with the vulnerable, partnering with local churches to end the cycle of suffering, transforming lives and building sustainable communities.”
Faculty members, Gabi Grogan and Greg Lisson, along with three church friends from Trinity Anglican Mission Church, sponsor a Syrian refugee family of four: Hashim (age 32), Mariam (age 29), Malik (age 9), Muna (age 1).
Grogan found her interest in Syrian refugees when she went on the Wesleyan Clarkston mission trip this past year, but she said, “[she’s] always had a heart for people who have been oppressed and persecuted.”
Clarkston is the most diverse square mile in the entire country. “Just being in that community and feeling like you’re in a different part of the world… when it’s in our own backyard… was so fascinating to me,” Grogan said about her love for the city.
Lisson also led the Clarkston mission trip with Wesleyan. “It’s not like you go and feel like you’re just serving everyone, you go and feel loved… it’s a vibrant, interesting place to be,” Lisson said.
Both Grogan and Lisson went through host training through World Relief to learn about the refugee resettlement process and about the needs of their new coming sponsored family.
The very first day, to Lisson’s surprise, the Muslim family stated an interest in going to church. The family went to an Arabic Baptist church nearby and have “slowly begun to volunteer to share their story,” according to Grogan.
The biggest struggle proved to be the language barrier, “I was pulling out my Google translator… but we were all kind of at a loss [for words],” Grogan said.
“We were confused on how it was going to work,” Lisson said.
While they were with them, the father said something to the little boy and he immediately ran out of the room. The group of six sponsors then saw the little boy, Malik, return with a neighboring Syrian refugee, also named Malik, who happens to speak Arabic and English.
“It turned out really great, and we didn’t even know he was going to be there,” Lisson said. However a more significant moment was when Lisson realized, “This is going to work.”
Malik and Lisson had a special connection on the first day thanks to a bubble wand and an air conditioner. The air conditioner blew countless bubbles through the air. The two bonded over one especially big bubble where Malik extended towards Lisson with a smile and the squeeze of a hand.
“I’ve always known this, you can communicate through touches and you can communicate with your eyes, but it’s easy to forget that,” said Lisson.
The faculty duo has already learned a great deal about their new Syrian family thanks to their unexpectedly convenient translator, and they have created bonds through “God moments” and simple interactions.
“I’m learning that though our worlds seem so different, when you look a little deeper, we’re not so different at all,” said Grogan.