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Coping with COVID as a Foreigner

in Blog, Current events, Immigrant and Refugee Ministry
Don’t let the mask keep you from loving the foreigners around you.

None of us is having the summer we expected, are we? As a foreigner in my host country, I’m finding this time uniquely tumultuous and challenging. Not necessarily more challenging than for others, just uniquely challenging.

If you’re enduring this crisis in your home country, I encourage you — even in the middle of your own chaos and loss — to look for the foreigners around you. They may be immigrants, refugees, international students, or green card holders. Take notice of their experience. Ask them about their unique challenges.

Here are four ways your foreign friends may be struggling these days.

1. They’re probably baffled by what’s going on around them.

Think you’re confused by conflicting information and constant updates? Imagine if English wasn’t your first language. There’s nothing like a worldwide pandemic to highlight cultural confusion. The foreigners around you may not follow the local news and social media as much as you and therefore don’t know the latest information. What they do see and comprehend probably makes them confused, frustrated, or angry. They were likely dealing with culture stress before 2020, and I guarantee you that stress has multiplied.

2. They may be facing visa issues.

With universities moving online, consulates closing, and jobs disappearing, many foreigners fear losing their legal status. Will their visa be renewed? If not, how much notice will they have to leave? Can they return to their home country? Even if flights are available, can they afford a last-minute rate? Navigating visas is hard enough under normal circumstances. Add a global crisis, and uncertainty and anxiety can skyrocket.

3. They’re missing friends and family more than ever.

Perhaps they had to cancel a visit they were planning this summer. Perhaps they missed a wedding or funeral. They may be concerned about family members catching the virus and having poor or little healthcare. (I had to accept that if something happened to my family member back home, I probably wouldn’t be able to go and be with them.) Just like all of us, they crave the comfort of being close to loved ones during such a tumultuous time.

4. The foundations of their lives may be crumbling.

Many foreigners moved to North America with the promise of political stability and financial security — two things we’ve seen deteriorate in the recent months. They may be watching the instability of the world’s systems and their own plans, wondering if they can really trust anything or anyone. We know the source of unfailing hope, and I firmly believe this could be the opportunity for many to come to faith.

Take some time this week to reach out to the foreigners around you and ask how they’re doing. You don’t have to have solutions for all of these challenges. Reach out anyway. It will encourage them, and you may find it encourages you too. Maybe God will begin to fill the void of all that’s been cancelled and lost in your own life through these new relationships.

May we who have hope faithfully point others to that hope during this ongoing crisis.

Crossworld worker Chloe Wilson (a pseudonym) and her family make disciples in East Asia.

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