A group of volunteers from G.O.d. teach Burmese refugees the tn driver's manual to give them a better chance at life here in the states.
Take a second and think about all the things you use your car to do. With all the places you go and activities you’re involved in, being able to drive goes beyond just a convenience, but a real need to navigate the day. And for the Burmese refugees I spent six weeks teaching the Tennessee Driver’s Manual, the need is ever-present. For them to have a sustainable life in America, they will need to acquire a license and feel competent driving to work, or doctors' appointments, shopping, or taking their children to school.
For six weeks, myself, Amanda Byrd and Chris Jones met with a group of Burmese refugees on Saturday mornings with the goal of preparing them to take the written exam for a Tennessee driver’s license. I soon learned upon beginning our classes with them that this task was going to be a privilege and challenge all at the same time. It was a challenge because we needed to communicate detailed information to a group of non-English speakers who have never driven a car.
It took effort to not assume understanding about even the most basic principles of driving. On the first day of class we took the students out to a car and let them sit in the driver’s seat to do simple maneuvers like operating lights and adjusting mirrors. I found out that, for the majority of the students, this was their first time sitting in the driver’s seat of a car.
One of our fellow teachers, Chris Jones, reflected on his initial experience: "I was not expecting the chasm between what I take for granted in my knowledge of driving a car and general road rules compared to the starting place that a couple of our students were at. When we took all the students out to observe the different components of a car, I explained the hazard button, and one lady stopped me and said, “So every time I stop the car, I need to push that hazard button?” I later found out she grew up in the mountains of Burma where she just never rode in cars."
As class continued, the privilege of this opportunity far outweighed the challenge. It was such a joy to sit and talk with them while also being able to help meet a need for them.
Jones also reflected on the reward this experience was for him: "I moved to Nashville from Atlanta to be a a part of G.O.D. in November of 2017, but most of my business is still in Atlanta, so I find myself traveling a lot and working on ‘my business.’ The past few years, I’ve not made much time to serve my neighbors, and a large part of my motivation to join in with G.O.D. is so that I can find meaningful ways to invest in others. Spending time with Nick and Amanda by working through the Tennessee Driver's Manual with the Burmese adults who took our class was fulfilling and eye opening."
As I reflect upon this time I remember a passage that has often impacted me in John 13 where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. In this text we see that Jesus identifies a need (the disciples feet need cleaned), then immediately puts himself in a position to meet it (washes their feet). It wasn’t a complicated form of service. It didn’t require extensive training. All it really needed was someone who was willing to make himself available.
When I was told about the opportunity to teach these Burmese refugees, it was presented in a way that there was a vulnerable group of people that needed help to learn the driver’s manual and they couldn’t find anyone to take the time to sit and teach them. I knew that by making myself available, the Lord was going to help. I really appreciated being able to serve in this capacity and I look forward to developing the friendships that were established during this time.
Sometimes serving the Lord happens in the most practical ways. And it happens when we are sensitive to the needs of our neighbor and recognize how we can assist in small ways that improve life for them in big ways.