Wednesday, October 31, 2012

trudging through legal jargon

Sometimes I think the term "missionary" might be synonimous with "miscellaneous servant." It seems like every day affords me a new, unexpected, and thrilling challenge. At first, it knocks me off my feet like an ill-placed banana peel, but then I remember that the Lord is my strength and my song, and I delight to get back up and allow him to teach me, grow me, and be glorified through such an unlikely character as myself.

Today I can add one more thing to the resume... I'm just not really sure what to call it! Case manager? Government assistance assistant? Social worker? Tax payer advocate? Legal jargon translator?

My student came this morning at 10:00, and I was prepared to teach her English - something I feel pretty well equipped and qualified to do. She was prepared for me to help her apply for a job, fill out tax forms, report income for food stamps, battle the idiocy of the Medicaid office, and apply for a different phone service. I am SO unqualified for any of this. Though I have gotten somewhat prolific in some of these areas over the past year or two, it is only as a single person. Try doing all this for a widowed mother of three (one with special needs) who speaks little English and lived many years in a refugee camp, and it becomes ten times more complicated! My reflex was to run to my dad or the nearest patient and kind and experienced adult I could find... whichever was closer. Then I took a minute, as I surveyed the pile of legal forms and notices that she plopped before me, and took a slow and deep breath and prayed for divine understanding. And the adventure began.

Together we consulted her little notepad of her family's private information, then googled some legal jargon, then followed the IRS's papertrail through forms for dependents, child credit, etc. We had some questions, but we wrote them all down and found out where to go to get the answers, so she's on a mission this afternoon, and hopefully by tomorrow every blank will be filled. I don't know if it made her nervous that I wasn't experienced, or if she was comforted that it really was that confusing even to an English speaker. But we were able to laugh together and cheer with every form we completed.

For those of you out there who do know how to navigate the complexities of tax forms and Medicaid requirements... please pray about using your knowledge to serve and assist internationals in your community. It is difficult to find employees in government programs who are patient and compassionate toward speakers of other languages. Even if you do not speak other languages, use pictures, diagrams, gestures, and simple words to decipher these hard-to-read notices and forms for them. The fact that you will take the time to sit with an international person and trudge with them through it all will speak volumes about your love and care for them, and will bless and encourage them tremendously.

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