Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who are the Chin?
The Chin are a people group from Myanmar (Burma). The Chin who come to us live predominantly in Chin State in the western side of Burma, near India. They speak the dialect Hakka Chin and are called the Hill People.
Why are they coming?
They have no place to go. The Chin are a predominately Christian tribe, converted by early missionaries to Burma. They are seen as threats by the Buddhist military junta who rules the country because they supported democracy in the last election. They live with constant intimidation. Many have fled to neighboring countries – India, Thailand and Malaysia. The men have spent anywhere from 2 years to 11 years in Malaysia in tents in the jungle, working to get money to get their families out of Burma into Malaysia. Then the whole family hides and works in Malaysia for a year or so, waiting to get to the US. The US and other countries through the UN have offered to take a certain number of them as political refugees. The Dallas metro is a major resettlement city; our Chin originated as a spill-over from Dallas because of the jobs available at Reliance Airport.
How many are coming?
No one really knows exactly. The US sets a quota on the number for refugees allowed into our country, but the national resettlement agencies are predicting the majority of the resettlement in the Dallas area for the next 3 years will be from Burma. We partner with Chin Evangelical Baptist Church which has a membership of approximately 600. That represents half of the Chin in Lewisville. The majority of our families have come within the last four years. Most of our newest refugees are relatives of the ones who are already here and they are continuing to bring families to get them out of danger.
Why do they come to Lewisville?
Because we have a settlement of Chin here, and their families are here. They have been separated from their brothers and sisters for many years and they all work to get their families out of Malaysia, which is a very bad place for refugees. Lewisville is a good middle point between several job centers for Chin – Sherman, Ft. Worth, Alliance and Dallas. The Chin are eager to work and are very hard workers. They are also extremely frugal and know how to make a little go a long way. The majority are in their 20’s and 30’s – young marrieds just starting families, or singles.
Who is the Chin Refugee Ministry Team?
First Baptist Church of Flower Mound sponsored Chin Evangelical Baptist Church as a mission and basically the little Chin church took care of their own. Refugees had slowed down to a trickle because of 9-11. Three years ago, the US opened their doors to fulfill their resettlement promises to the Chin, made before 9-11 and the Chin church got 70 new refugees all at once, all who had been hiding in Malaysia. In June 2007, First Baptist Church of Flower Mound formed a voluntary ministry team, the Chin Refugee Ministry Team, to partner with the Chin Evangelical Church to help the newcomers. In the fall of 2009, the Village Church entered into this partnership. In November 2010, the Chin Refugee Ministry Team began a partnership with World Relief of Fort Worth, an evangelical resettlement agency. As part of a 17 month government grant World Relief received, Becky Nelson, team leader of CRM, will be on payroll of World Relief as the director of the Lewisville initiative. Jennifer Potter, assistant leader, will be on payroll coordinating the English as a Second Language program. The Chin Refugee Ministry Team provides support and help in any way they can; they are a church-based ministry partnering with the Chin Evangelical Church to equip the Chin to become productive members of this community, and eventually productive citizens of the US.
What do they most need?
They first need a job, which means they need access to a car or carpool. And sometimes they need rent assistance, furniture, dishes, coats or diapers. Coming from the jungles and mountains of Chin State to North Texas is quite a jump! They need a smile of welcome. They need explanations of American culture. All the paperwork and red tape that accompanies our lives on a regular basis are a nightmare for them. They need help navigating our “systems” such as school and work and the health system. They need English. They need interaction with Americans. They need to be treated with respect as our Christian brothers and sisters who can teach us about suffering for the name of the Lord. They need us to love on them for a while. And we need to learn patience, endurance and faith from them.