It used to be that if you wanted to take a Christian mission trip to help impoverished Africans you went to Africa. But, heck why spend the money on airfare when you can do the same thing right here—in Lewiston, ME. Here is an article about an Exeter, NH church group that hopped a bus and drove a few hours to nearby Maine to help poor and many presumably unemployed Somalis and other homeless people there.
You may have heard about Lewiston, Maine. It became famous for its Somali population a few years ago when the story was that Somalis living in the Atlanta area got sick of being harrassed by local blacks and sent their elders city shopping. They picked Lewiston, Maine—a very unhappy town at the time (and maybe still is).
According to this article there are 7000 Somalis living in Lewiston now, with more arriving daily—7000!
So the church group spread around a lot of Christian love even though some among them were set back a bit by the behavior of the Somali kids. But, it’s o.k. because it’s all post-traumatic stress that makes these kids behave so badly.
It was during this playtime with the Somali kids that we saw frequent flashes of what post-traumatic stress has done to these children. [Ed: These Somalis have been in Lewiston a long time and I’m betting many of these kids were born here] The boys, in particular, are extremely aggressive and do not have any ability to talk out a conflict. They immediately resort to fighting and they fight hard.
Another factor that exacerbates the bad behavior of these children is that the Somali parents in Lewiston allow their children to just wander about town unsupervised and, as a result, are never there to witness the questionable behavior. The Somali parents think of Lewiston as their village rather than as an urban city. The director of the Jubilee Center, Kim Wettlaufer, has initiated dialogue (via interpreters) between the local police and the Somali parents so the police can try to explain why it is not safe for them to let their children wander unsupervised.
Despite the fighting and bad language, our kids recognized that these children needed and wanted the same things that every child wants: to feel safe, to have friends, and to be loved. In the afternoon, we created a safe and organized place for the kids to do crafts. Our kids gave these children endless piggyback rides, played hopscotch, blew bubbles, played soccer and basketball and just hung out and talked. When bad language was used, our kids would gently and consistently let them know that such language was unacceptable. Our kids were important role models for these children for the whole week and it rubbed off on them.
Yup, and after a week the church folks went home.