Her name is Bipana and every time I see her she wears a bright yellow shirt that matches her personality. She has the kind of smile you can’t ignore.
Bipana is an ethnic Nepali. She is 26 years old and spent the first 20 years of her life in limbo in a refugee camp in Nepal after her family fled Bhutan for racial discrimination.
The refugee camps didn’t have electricity, the conditions were very cramped and the outbreak of fire was always a concern. Bipana attended a makeshift school within the walls of the camp. As she got older, she became a self-taught beautician.
Life in a refugee camp was very harsh.
Bipana resettled in the United States just one year ago as my neighbor with her toddler daughter and husband and she picked up English easier than most. Her husband works at a factory 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
And while she dreams of being a beautician in America one day, she spends her free time knitting beautiful items to help buy diapers and other necessities for her family.
My first day with the refugees was her first day in the new Art Business Class that my friends asked me to help lead. We were drawn to each other –with her willing heart and my need for a translator.
Sometimes you don’t need to speak the same language to be able to understand each other.
When she walks into the room with a bag full of knitted items, she looks for me. We hug and grasp hands. We are connected. We are friends.
Someone asked me why I haven’t told her about Jesus yet.
How could I not share Him with this Buddhist woman?
I was hungry and you fed me.
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.
I was homeless and you gave me a room.
I was shivering and you gave me clothes.
I was sick and you stopped to visit.
I was in prison and you came to me.
They reply, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you? Then the King will say, I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked and ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” –Matthew 26: 36-40
I’ve spent the last six weeks loving this woman. My friends and I have taught these beautiful refugee women a few things and learned much more. We are helping with their basic needs and with navigating this new culture. We are building relationships.
“There is such an emphasis on church buildings in the United States that we sometimes forget that the Church is the people-not the place where people meet… The church –a group of believers-is God’s ordained place for the discipleship process to take place. God’s Plan A for the redemption of the world is the Church, and He has no Plan B.”” K.P. Yohannan
My new friend may never step inside a church, but that doesn’t mean the Church can’t go to her.
Because we are God’s plan.
Every week, new refugee women join the Art Business Class and something amazing has happened. Instead of us teaching them, faltering with the language barrier, they teach each other. I’ve watched Bipana countless times show a new woman how to get started.
I hope one day we can talk about what compels me to drive two hours a week to be a part of her life.
But really, I hope that as I follow Jesus, Bipana will follow me and find Him. And then she will teach her friends about Him.
This isn’t just a social gospel –doing tangible things like sharing our wealth with the poor. It’s more. It’s a life-changing Gospel that makes dead people alive. But it’s not one or the other. It’s both.
Sometimes we use words to share the Gospel.
Other times we just live it.