Friday, February 3, 2017

Refugees

(all illustrations are from the featured book)
Today’s PBT feature book is the latest I’ve shared about refugee children and their families. In the wake of recent political events, people in your faith communities may benefit from hearing stories of refugees and discerning their appropriate responses to the issues and to families who immigrate.
Picture Book Theology is perfect for exploring potentially contentious issues across age groups because people feel comfortable and nostalgic around picture books. Also, sometimes people are wary (and weary) of information from the internet or other media outlets. Picture books are a nice change. No matter your sources, always connect the story or information to the ideals of scripture and your faith traditions and encourage faithful and respectful questions and responses.
You’ll find the other PBT posts where I featured several books each about refugees [here] and [here]. The book I featured about Jesus’ family and their refuge experience is the 2nd book posted about [here.] Choose wisely. These stories have power. And listen empathically to the concerns of people on all sides of this issue.
Also, I just heard an excellent interview about this issue and the political differences within churches. Adam Hamilton, pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection spoke with NPR. Find it [here]. My church just happened to be finishing this past Sunday a sermon series called Refuge, planned months ago. For that series, we placed 2 identical banners on our church which have received lots of attention. Check out an article and photo of our banner [here]. Now today's wonderful story:

Picture Book: My Name is Sangoel
Author: Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed
Illustrator: Catherine Stock
Summary: Sangoel is a young Somali refugee who has been living in a refugee camp. 
While saying goodbye before he leaves to immigrate, his wise mentor reminds Sangoel to be proud of his name, the Dinka name of many of his ancestors. “You will be Sangoel even in America.” 
Sangoel waves a final goodbye to his friends and gets on a “sky boat” that takes him, his mother, and sister to America. 
In the airport, they are amazed by the people, their pace, the noise, and all there is to see. After seeing Sangoel’s name on a poster, they meet Mrs. Johnson. 
She greets them and has trouble pronouncing Sangoel’s name which is both his sir name and family name. 
They are taken to their new apartment where they are again amazed by the stove and TV. As Sangoel transitions to new environments (their apartment,
the doctor’s office,
school, 
and soccer) 
people are not able to correctly pronounce "Sangoel." This disturbs him until he comes up with an ingenious way for others to remember how to pronounce his name. 
He finds a white shirt from the used clothes and toys he has been given, and creates a code for pronouncing his name. 
At school, Sangoel’s code is popular and other children spontaneously begin creating codes for their own names. Can you decipher their codes?
The teacher is pleased and encourages this creativity and compliments Sangoel on his name. He explains the importance of his name and declares that he is Sangoel, even in America.
Hanna’s Comments: Besides the obvious connections this story makes to biblical themes of practicing hospitality, immigration, and refugees, there is an opportunity to explore the importance of names, another biblical theme. I thought of the concept of dignity as I read this book. The pronunciation of Sangoel’s name seems to be crutial to his dignity and pride.  There is an Author’s Note in the back of the book about the Dinka traditional names and the experiences of many refugees.
Original Publisher & Date: Erdman’s, 2009
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 6 and up, 1st and up
Formats other than Book: None at present 
Scripture Connections: All are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong…(Leviticus 19:33-34); strength and dignity are her clothing (Proverbs 31:25); … I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matthew 25:35); you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28); do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group in your faith family when considering the issues of immigration & refugees and the practice of hospitality.