Engaged • Compassionate • Conscious
Meet Mandy North, an ordained minister and lead pastor of the Manassas Church of the Brethren in Virginia. She firmly believes all people are called to love and be loved and we couldn't agree more.
For Mandy, compassion – for all people – is the single most important part of the human experience. It’s through this compassion, in combination with a strong sense of solidarity and the commitment to action, that we find hope in making the world a better place.
Learning From Refugees
Mandy’s life-changing experience began in Africa. She traveled there with New Community Project, an organization that offers Learning Tours to promote education about certain issues and projects happening all over the world. During her time in Africa, she met refugees from South Sudan who are currently living in northern Uganda. The New Community Project supports these women refugees through providing skills training and micro loans to encourage the growth of small businesses. Mandy was most impacted, however, by her conversation with a man named John.
John was nine-years-old when violence broke out in South Sudan. Although he was a young child, John felt there was no choice but to flee to Kenya. Let that sink in. A nine-year-old boy knew his home was no longer safe. Therefore, choosing to flee and live in a refugee resettlement camp. John lived in this camp for seven years. Saddly, this is reality for so many people throughout the world.
Clearly, this conversation impacted Mandy on a deeply personal level.
Inspired by the resilience and bravery of the people she met in Africa, once she got home, Mandy decided to participate in a ration challenge. The challenge was held in honor of World Refugee Day by, Church World Service and it challenged Americans to eat like a refugee for one week. That's only seven days. Mandy felt sure that if John could live like this for seven years, she could surive seven days.
You're living off what?
Once Mandy was registered for the challenge, the organization provided the following items:
- Four pounds of rice
- Three cups of flour
- Six ounces of dried lentils
- A little bit of vegetable oil
- One can of chickpeas
- One can of kidney beans
- One can of sardines
For the most part, participants ate for roughly $1 per day. For Mandy, a typical day looked like rice for breakfast, lentils for lunch, and lentils for dinner. This is the experience so many refugees face, all over the world and for much longer than one week.
This experience was, without a doubt, life changing for Mandy. It altered her perspective and understanding of the refuge plight while making her even more grateful for all that she and her family have.
Additional Resources Mentioned in Mandy’s Interview
Give a Girl a Chance – New Community Project
If a Tree Falls – New Community Project
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So many lessons learned
While the ration challenge certainly wasn’t easy, Mandy knew she only had to eat this way for 7 days.
It’s wonderful to do everything possible to stand in solidarity with our worldly brothers and sisters, but we can never really understand what life is like for a refugee. While she ate the same food as many refugees, she still had clean water to use for cooking and to drink. A warm bed was always availabke and she never felt physically unsafe. Additionally, she never had to worry about building a fire in order to cook her food. There was no doubt Mandy would make it through her seven-day challenge and then return to her normal routine.
Mandy used her time during the ration challenge to reflect on how we can stand in solidarity with other people. While we may not understand their struggle personally, we can always show empathy. Unquestionably, it takes bravery to stand up for others. When we take the to think about other people’s experience, we better ourselves and the world around us.
This world is a big place. Let’s stand in solidarity with our worldly neighbors. Let’s change the world through compassion.
After our conversation Mandy reached out and asked me to share a story she had remembered post interview. It is below.
It never occurred to me to consider how refugees memorialize their dead when they aren’t at home.
“I totally forgot to tell you the story of a bishop from my trip to Africa. We were supposed to visit a refugee camp while we were in Uganda, but when we arrived we learned that the bishop, who had access to get us into the camp, was grieving the loss of his mother who had just died. So we ended up being able to attend her funeral on one of our first days in Uganda. During the service, I learned that the bishop and his family are all refugees, too, from South Sudan.
He gave thanks for his Ugandan neighbors for sharing their land so they could be safe and for sharing land so they could grow some of their own food and for sharing their land so they could have a place to bury their dead. And he said he was looking forward to the day that they would be able to go home and take his mother home and bury her there. It never occurred to me to consider how refugees memorialize their dead when they aren’t at home.
I give thanks to Uganda for creating a sacred space for their South Sudanese neighbors. I also hope for the day when these refugees can go home again and bury their dead on their homeland.”
- It’s impossible for those of us who live comfortable, privileged lives to know what the life of a refugee is like. Participating in things like ration challenges is one way to stand in solidarity.
- Even the smallest successes are worth noticing – a smile on someone's face when they weren't smiling before, showing love for someone who hasn't felt loved before. It’s all worth celebrating.
- It’s important to remember that the world is so much bigger than the small part we live in.
- Stand up and support your worldly neighbors, not just the people who are next door.
Deeply committed to giving back and supporting others, Mandy encourages us to learn more about New Community Projects. This small but mighty organization focused on environmental sustainability and social justice. Through all of their work, New Community Projects aims to build a more peaceful human community.
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