For my cultural immersion project, I chose to focus on the African American population. A substantial amount of the research I read discussed the importance of spirituality to the African American population. In fact, researchers have found that African Americans are five times more likely to utilize spiritual coping mechanisms (such as prayer) when they experience depression or other chronic conditions (Lewis, Hankin, Reynolds, & Ogedegbe, 2007). Additionally, many African Americans state that spirituality is a source of solace, hope, meaning, and forgiveness when they experience oppression (Lewis et al., 2007). Due to these findings, I chose to observe a church service at a local African American church. The pastor encouraged everyone to hold onto the assurance that the light of God will always ultimately overpower the darkness of this world. He closed his message by reminding everyone that God is always with them and ready to help in their time of need. Congregants were encouraged to engage in the same spiritual coping tools (such as prayer, fellowship, etc.) that researchers have identified as being commonly used by this community.
The second event I observed was a march and rally that protested police brutality and the death of Mr. George Floyd. I was very anxious about how the event would go and also how to sensitively discuss the issues the protest was focusing on. However, I quickly found that the individuals that I spoke to were happy to discuss their perspective on the issues with me. No one expected me to be an expert, but rather, just appreciated me approaching the conversation as humbly as I could and viewing it as an opportunity to learn. I was very fortunate to witness a peaceful event that (in my opinion) reflected many biblical principles. As Christians, we know and believe that every person on this earth is made in the image of God. One verse that stuck with me was from the book of Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NIV). We are all called to extend the love of Christ to every person. God makes it clear that no race is “greater” or “superior”. As Christians, we have a duty to live this truth out and be sure that we are setting an example for the world to follow.
The main challenge that I am anticipating with Part 3 of the project is that I will probably still feel anxious about whether or not I am being culturally sensitive enough as I conduct my final interview.
Lewis, L. M., Hankin, S., Reynolds, D., & Ogedegbe, G. (2007). African american spirituality: A process of honoring god, others, and self. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 25(1), 16-23. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1177/0898010106289857
For my project I am working with the homeless population in and around northeastern NJ. It has been extremely difficult since we are the epicenter of Covid-19 and basically all shelters and soup kitchens have closed down rendering this vulnerable population in an even more precarious situation. One of the most interesting things I am learning through this immersion project is the desire for some of the homeless population to stay ‘homeless’ even when offered housing options. Many of these men and women prefer the freedom that the streets provide as opposed to the rules and regulations that they must abide by in order to remain in housing projects or apartments. This is interesting to me and reinforces the power of getting to know someone and empathizing with them to hear their story before simply trying to ‘fix’ them or help them with the next steps that I as a counselor feel they should take.
Another point of learning has been the extraordinary generosity and how the homeless group I am working with looks out for one another, shares what they have amongst each other and gives to those less fortunate than they are. It is powerful to see the ‘sub-group’ with its norms and unwritten rules among this group of individuals. Sadly, some of their interactions with each other seem more like a church then the church.
Overall, I am learning a ton while being socially distanced from the lost and the least of northern New Jersey. So many people are stepping up and helping this group out that it has been an overwhelming display of God’s grace through people even during this crisis time in our state and nation. I am thankful to be on the front lines of God’s grace being displayed in such tangible ways to such beautiful, messy, and valuable people who bear the image of their creator in so many ways.