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Embracing Immigrants


Immigrants to the U.S. face a number of challenges. Recent immigrants know this better than anyone. A group of Korean-Americans decided to help Hispanic-Latino newcomers in their neighborhood with meals, moral support and job skills. Jim Melchiorre visited this practical, and powerful, program.


(Locator: Bergen County, New Jersey)

The day laborers in this church van are thousands of miles from home.

Porfirio Hernandez /Day Laborer: “All my family is in Guatemala, just me up here by myself.”

Four nights a week, anywhere from 15 to 30 of these immigrants get dinner and a warm welcome from the Street Angels program at the Korean Community Church of New Jersey, a United Methodist congregation.

The Rev. Koo Yong Na /Pastor, Korean Community Church: “It started from one of the more devoted members of the church.”

That member, Steve Chung, is himself an immigrant, from Korea, in 1992.

Steve Chung/Member, Korean Community Church: “The first time you immigrate from another country to the United States, you know what you have to learn – you have to learn English. So we know what the immigrants needs.”

Like job skills. So one night a week, the program features a computer class. On other evenings, these men, and occasionally women, learn construction, electronics, and air-conditioner repair.

Porfirio Hernandez/Day Laborer: “Some of my friends, they find jobs in this program.”

Every night, there’s instruction in English. The schedule includes Bible study and a prayer circle, as all acknowledge their shared experience.

The Rev. Koo Yong Na /Pastor, Korean Community Church:  “Because we are immigrants, as Korean-Americans, we know the feelings of where the Hispanic Americans are.”

The Street Angels program began more than a year ago and has already graduated its first class of 21 students.

You can find out more about the program by contacting the Korean Community Church of New Jersey at 201-816-1284.

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