The Potters’ Chin

Jenn Potter and her
husband Dan were members of our church in Delaware about 10 years ago. As Jenn
puts it, we “share a love of reaching out beyond the church walls to be a light
to the nations for the sake of the gospel, a light that Christ has made us and
called us to walk in.” We still keep in touch, and I knew about a unique
ministry Jenn is passionate about. That’s why I asked her to do a guest blog. I
am sure it will encourage you in your search to make a difference.
Since our time in
Delaware, God has brought us to the Dallas area and through a series of
wonderful events, lead us to a ministry that is the answer to a cry of my heart
since I was a teenager and a prayer for my family since we were married. I want
to share with you a bit about our story for two main reasons: #1. to encourage
you to persevere in prayer, especially if you feel called to serve in a certain
area but see no way to do it at present, and #2. to let you know about a
possible way to affect and interact with the nations without ever leaving your
Let me start in the
present and tell you a bit about what #2 looks like in our lives. Dallas/Fort
Worth is one of the six officially recognized resettlement sites for refugees
in Texas. The resettlement has moved outward toward the suburbs, and today in
the area I live (about 30 minutes from downtown Dallas), it is estimated that
there are 2,000 refugees from the country of Burma who live, work, and go to
school here.
They are a people group
called the Chin, a group that has been persecuted for racial, political, and
religious reasons in Burma since the early 1990s. They are a rural people,
mostly living in villages where they farm, and have no indoor plumbing, little
education, and none of the paperwork our country seems built upon.
The Chin have left Burma
by the tens of thousands, largely to Malaysia where they have waited for years
to be resettled. I met a Chin family yesterday who arrived in the U.S. in early
September—they had been in Malaysia for eight years, waiting for a country to
take them in. They come with one suitcase, little to no English, and limited
government resettlement support, which ends after 8 months. Perhaps you can
begin to imagine the culture, language, and way of life shock they live in,
literally for years, and the massive need they have to make American friends
who can help them navigate this complicate world we live in with all of our
systems, paperwork, busy-ness, computers, etc. That is where “we Americans”
come in!
There are countless ways
you can help a refugee including donating items, assisting with paperwork and,
more than anything, just taking the time to care about who they are, to smile
and welcome them, to pray for them and their families back in Burma and
Malaysia, and to continue to be there as a resource as they come up against
more and more things they do not understand.
Sometimes we have
volunteers who wonder about the danger of enabling them, or treating them as if
they don’t know anything, and so on. I had a good wake-up call to the reality
of what they are up against when my sister spent a morning with me visiting
some Chin apartments. She had recently returned from teaching English is China
for 18 months. She is a college-graduate, who has lived abroad before and
speaks three languages (although not Chinese). She was so intrigued by what we
were doing because she said, “This is what we had in China—someone to help us ‘figure
out’ how to do things there because it is so different than in America.” The
university she worked for had provided a “cultural liaison,” if you will, for
her while she was there, someone who helped her know when she needed to reapply
with the government for various things, how to find her way around, how to
cook, how to live in China. So if my bold, educated sister needed help from the
Chinese while she lived in their country, how much more do these refugees, who
are mostly illiterate even in their own language, have little to no schooling, and
are beaten down from years in refugee camps, need our help to navigate life in
I could go on and on
about the Chin, and refugees in general, but if you are interested in more
information about them or the specifics of this type of ministry, you can visit
this link:
If this
resonates with you at all, I would encourage you to look for refugees in your
area. You could try to find connections through schools or churches near lower-income
apartment complexes. You could look up resettlement agencies located in your
area. You don’t need a large ministry to get involved with—just find a family
(sometimes the hardest part) and begin a friendship with them. Ask to help them
with their mail. Or cook a meal together—I’ve found the Chin love spaghetti! Once
you develop a friendship and they know you are going to keep coming back, they
will open up to you and the ways you can help them will be countless.
And don’t
give up. Whether it’s helping refugees or whatever your passion is, hang in
there if connecting with it is not coming easily. I knew I wanted to serve the
poor and oppressed, and I especially have a heart for those from third-world
countries. But I didn’t know how to do that where I was living, short of
mission trips.
My husband
and I wanted to serve together, and once we had kids, we wanted to serve as a
family. So for the 13 years of our marriage, we tried about everything we could
find locally in addition to international mission trips: nursing homes, Habitat
for Humanity, student mentoring, inner city ministries, ESL for Spanish
speakers, soup kitchens, Thanksgiving and Christmas outreaches. But we always
found the ministry wasn’t exactly for us, wasn’t where our hearts were, or wasn’t
close enough for it to become a lifestyle for us.
But we kept
praying and we kept trying. It wasn’t until 18 months ago that we got connected
with the Chin Refugee Ministry, and it was actually through contacts made
during those years of trying out various ministries. I am overjoyed to be able
to use my gifts and passions in a ministry that feels tailor made for me (thank
You, God!) but I still remember that frustration of desperately wanting a way
to serve and not finding it.
If that is
you, hang on—keep praying as the persistent widow of Luke 18, keep trying out
things that might be a possibility, and trust that God will guide you to that
place He has for you and equip you with everything good for doing His will.

2 thoughts on “The Potters’ Chin”

  1. I'm posting the comments of our friend Lynda Steuer, who recently moved to Ethiopia with her family as missionaries. (She couldn't get the blog to open there, so I sent it via e-mail. I thought her comments were too good to miss):

    Thanks this is great and she is so right on! I worked (mostly with Eritrean Christians) in the Albany area. Living in another culture really helps me appreciate how difficult the culture shock would be coming to the US especially from a very community based culture to ours and refugees often feel so isolated especially having issues with language. Here I'm effectively illiterate and need a lot of help, which thankfully most Ethiopians are happy to give. We are encouraged and helped by strangers at every turn. It would be so nice if American Christ followers would also take that lead in the US!

  2. Jen- this is great! Thanks for sharing. I loved reading and hearing more of your heart. So thankful for you and Dan and am always so encouraged to hear how the Lord is working in and through you both!

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