By: Emily Shuler
Imagine that you and your family, after losing your property, are taken to and left in a foreign country that will become your permanent residence, with no hope or potential of returning to your homeland. You are forced to leave all you know behind to come to a place where your lack of knowledge is crippling. You don’t know anyone outside of your family, and you don’t even know the language. As a result of this, you encounter countless adversities, as large as having no idea how to get a job, to as small and simple as not being able to read your mail. In the midst of your immense despair, you don’t even know where to go to ask for help. Now imagine that you are a child, only six years of age, experiencing all of this with your family. This state of hopelessness is reality for the thousands of refugees living in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it is reality for a certain helpful six-year-old named Mimi.
This fall break, Lipscomb Missions excitedly launched a new mission trip, taking a small team of Lipscomb athletes to Charlotte where they partnered with a local non-profit sports ministry serving the refugee population of the city. The small team of seven made their way to the Queen City to join forces with Project 658, an organization that exists to restore hope to the abundant population of refugees in Charlotte. Project 658’s unique ministry begins with a ball and a sports court. This simple combination draws in the kids of the refugee families, and by forming friendships through playing sports, Project 658 is able walk into discipling these kids. Empowered by this mentorship, the children are then able to transform their families, and eventually, transform whole communities. Since Project 658’s strategy begins with kids, it’s only fitting that the team’s most memorable experiences are the moments they shared with Mimi.
It is evident by the way the team talks about first meeting Mimi that God hand-picked her to bless the team. As Lacey Klotz explains, the team ran into a small hang-up in their plans when they prepared to meet some of the refugee families. “The pastor who was coming with us to translate ended up not being able to come. So when we entered the home of this family it was somewhat awkward.” With no translator, the language barrier forced communication to take the form of pointing, head nods, polite giggles and smiles. Lacey shares,
“We heard a knock on the door and in came this sweet little girl. She spoke English and translated for us, and she was so smart and caring. When we asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she said, ‘Helper, I want to be a helper!’”
And help she did.
Team Leader and Director of Spiritual Formation in Athletics, Chris Klotz, describes Mimi’s impressive nature, saying, “She was born in Malaysia, and at six years old she is trilingual speaking Malaysian, Burmese, and English. She learned English from watching American movies!” Because of her incredible gift, she was able to communicate on behalf of both parties. “She shared the families’ stories with us and prayed with us and spoke for the refugees as well,” says team member Caleb Stubbs. Lacey adds, “When she prayed she thanked God for saving her world… saying, ‘I just want to praise God.’”
Even though Mimi has experienced the harsh brokenness of the world as she lived in a refugee camp and had to literally run for her life before her family found their way to America, she simply wanted to praise God.
Psalms 8:2 says, “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” (NIV)
The enemy would have loved it if the Lipscomb team and the various refugee families could not communicate, but through the mouth of a child both the refugees and the team were able to experience heaven. Senior track runner and team member, Gemikal Prude, shares,“God showed His love to us through the community we experienced when all these nationalities were loving each other.” In that space, every knee bowed and every tongue from all of these nations professed Jesus as Lord!
While their experience in Charlotte was powerful, a huge takeaway for this team came upon returning. Assistant Track and Cross Country coach Marcus Evans comments,
“I see a lot of similarities between Charlotte and Nashville, and it was extremely eye opening to go into an urban area and see people in so much need. It has really encouraged me to take off my blinders and look for those in need here in Nashville.”
There are opportunities to serve, to experience heaven, and live as God intended right here! All you have to do is take off your blinders. Caleb shares the joy he found from taking off his blinders, saying,
“I just decided to go all in, and it was the best weekend of my life.”
If you are interested in visiting Charlotte, NC and the Project 658 ministry, look for more information coming soon on our next mission trip there in the winter/spring of 2016. Additionally, learn more about:
For more information on Nashville’s refugee population, visit the following link:
Emily Shuler is a senior on the Lipscomb Women’s Soccer Team, and is a Student Ministry major.