The Kansas City metro is home to an estimated 4,000 Bhutani/Nepali refugees. I recently had interviewed Anna Coridan, who has made it her mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this people group.
What led you to start this ministry?
I spent my sophomore year of college teaching English and science in Benapa, Nepal, and serving in the surrounding villages. During that year God placed a burden on my heart for overseas missions, and I determined to go back to Nepal after completing my studies.
After graduating from Union College in 2014, I was offered a job as a nurse at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. My plan was to work for a couple years and get out of debt, then go overseas.
As time went on I became consumed by my own plans and goals. I was living my life in hopes of where God would lead my future, verses following where He was leading day by day—spending all my time and energy telling God how I wanted to work with people overseas, yet not seeing the people right in front of me.
Last August a friend told me about some Nepali kids who always play soccer at a certain park. He said he would often play with them and, knowing I spoke a little Nepali, invited me to come meet them. The kids weren’t there, so he showed me where many of them lived.
As we drove by one of the apartment complexes he recognized some kids out front, so he pulled in. I spoke to them in Nepali for a while and eventually was introduced to their mom. We made plans to eat a meal together the next day. After the meal they asked if we could visit a family member who was sick. We ended up visiting several other relatives as well.
By the end of the day I realized I did not need to wait until I was completely out of debt and set up financially to start helping those around me. God had work for me to do right here in Kansas City.
I began praying about how best to serve them and decided I needed to move into their community so I could share life with them on a daily basis. I signed the lease in November.
What does a typical day with the refugees look like?
We share meals together, shop for groceries together, walk through the neighborhood together and visit with people we encounter.
In a very real sense, it’s becoming like a family. We visit the Nepali churches on Sundays and spend time worshiping God together. We celebrate holidays together. On Wednesdays, the public schools get out early, so my nephews come over and we play soccer with the kids. We’ve started a Nepali youth group, which the kids named NC4Y (New Change for Youth). They were invited to join a local Adventist soccer tournament, and they won!
What are you most hoping to achieve?
God has created a special place in my heart for the Bhutani/Nepali people. They have gone from war torn countries, to living in refugee camps, to being transferred to a country where they do not know or understand the culture or language. No matter the language you speak, or the culture you are from, the challenges of health, finances, and family are present. The refugee population is hurting even more so with not knowing where to go when presented with those challenges.
I want to be their friend. I want to share daily life with them. And most of all I want to share God’s love with them. He has been so kind, patient, and loving with me, I want them to be able to experience His peace that passes all understanding.
Do you feel like you’re making progress toward those goals?
After five months of living in this community I praise God for the doors of friendship that have opened. We’re building trust. I’ve taken some of them to doctor’s appointments. We’ve started citizenship classes three nights a week. As I mentioned before, we’ve started a Nepali youth group.
My Nepali is limited, but kindness is a common language.
What challenges have you encountered?
Time is a challenge. Not only does it take a lot of time to develop the friendships needed to build trust, but many of the parents are working 12-hour days, six days a week. Coordinating transportation is difficult, and the young people need mentors.
The language barrier creates all kinds of confusion in areas such as communication between the kids’ teachers and parents, healthcare issues, filling prescriptions, paying bills, etc.
What have you learned in this process?
The biggest lesson I have learned while working with Nepali refugees is that I need to treat them like I would my own family.
The night I moved into my apartment I was greeted by a Nepali woman my age. She introduced herself as my neighbor and welcomed me to the building. Two weeks later I was returning from work around 10:00 pm. I was hungry and decided to eat some oranges before going to bed. I could hear my new neighbors talking, so I knew they were awake. I felt nervous but decided to knock on their door anyway to see if they wanted to eat oranges with me.
My new neighbor opened the door, smiled and said, “Hello sister, come in.” I offered my oranges, they offered their apples and we had a meal.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of working with these refugees?
The greatest reward of working with refugees is seeing the results when trust has been built. You become family, and my life has been enriched by the new friends and family I’ve made.