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The Hand of Friendship

Moody students learning to share Christ's love through relationship building with refugees in Chicago's Little India
  • April 22, 2022

Grace, a student at Moody Bible Institute, teaches conversational English during a class at the Family Empowerment Center in Chicago's Rogers Park. This is the last in a four-part series on how Moody's Practical Christian Ministries are serving refugees in Little India. Read part one, part two, and part three of the series. Photo by Lawrence Bohlin

by Linda Piepenbrink

Exodus World Service: you’ve got a friend

At the end of a Sunday church service at Sabka Sahaara in March, Bonnie Hill, a student at Moody Bible Institute, announces a New Neighbor program, an opportunity to befriend Afghani refugees. The program is in partnership with Exodus World Service, a nonprofit organization that works with resettlement agencies, filling in the gaps to help refugees assimilate to their new culture, language and geography.

Hill, who works part time for Exodus, says she and some Moody friends recently delivered a welcome pack to a new Afghani family in the neighborhood—“dishes, cups, blankets, basic necessities for living in an apartment,” she says. “They invited us in, and we shared a meal with them. They were incredibly hospitable and kind, a beautiful family and people.

“A lot of times we hear from these families that ‘the hardest thing about being in America is not that we don’t have this or that, but we don’t have friends.’ Now we as the church—we who have been invited to come into relationship with Jesus—get to extend relationship and friendship to our incoming friends as they are settling and building their life here.”

Exodus World Service is one of the Practical Christian Ministries at Moody. Its senior director of program operations, Sue Horgan, recently invited students in Moody’s children and family ministry program to hold a kids club for Afghan refugee children in a downtown hotel. The children and their parents are staying there until they can obtain more permanent housing.

Nine Moody students took part in the event. They set up different stations and supervised a variety of activities, from relay races and paper crafts to painting the red, green, and black Afghan flag on the kids’ hands.

“One little girl came and asked us for the American flag on her hand—she’s excited to be here,” says Alyssa Beuving, a junior whose heart’s desire is to work with foster kids or children in broken homes. “For my PCM next semester, I really think I’m going to apply to work with Exodus because I really loved doing that.”

Masada Curlin also did face and hand painting with the kids. “I’m super passionate about refugees,” says the senior, who has been on mission trips to Uganda and other countries and plans to be a Christian elementary school teacher.

Photo caption: a Moody student works with an Afghan child during a kids club event hosted by Exodus World Service at a hotel in Chicago where Afghan families are staying. Photo by Linda Piepenbrink

Family Empowerment Center: teaching English among friends

Moody PCMs stretch farther east on Devon Avenue to the Family Empowerment Center in Rogers Park, where Moody students McKayla Baer, Alyssa Dokolas and Grace DeValois, are teaching conversational English to refugees and immigrants on Thursday nights.

In one classroom sectioned off by partitions, DeValois teaches Level 2 intermediate students Olga from Eastern Europe and Pablo, a delivery man from Mexico. Pablo is eager to improve his English after he misread a package and delivered it to the wrong door. DeValois teaches simple past tense, having Pablo act out a sentence (“This morning I brushed my teeth”), while Olga guesses and restates the sentence using third person. (“This morning he brushed his teeth.”)

“Great job acting!” DeValois says, weaving in personal conversation with her students. She ends by offering to pray for their requests, which include peace in their native countries. She then bows her head and prays for them.

Many of these classes are led by Moody students who teach curriculum from one of theirTESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses. The weekly volunteer efforts of these students have brought together men and women from a range of cultures, countries and ethnic groups for a common purpose.

“I recently sat in a class at the Family Empowerment Center watching the students teaching,” says Nathan Strand, Moody operations manager of Practical Christian Ministries. “I sat next to an Afghan refugee. On my left was a lady from Nepal. On my right was a lady from Russia and a gentleman from Mexico. A student was teaching these different language groups together at the same time. There were true relationships being developed across a number of cultures. It was such a great sight to see. I was so proud of our students and so glad to be a part of it.”

Grace, a Moody student, prays for the prayer requests of two of her conversational English students during an ESL class for refugees and immigrants at the Family Empowerment Center in Rogers Park. Photo by Lawrence Bohlin

About the Author

Linda Piepenbrink is a senior editor in the Marketing Communications department at Moody Bible Institute and the managing editor of Alumni & Friends magazine.