Volunteer Profile on Bill Cameron, SALT Site Director in East St. Paul
Courteous, hospitable, and respectful are the three attributes Bill Cameron used to describe a group of community members who moved into the apartment complexes in his East St. Paul neighborhood 13 years ago. These attributes are what drew Bill to plant a SALT (Somali Adult Literacy Training) site, teaching English language skills to this group of Somali refugees.
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]SALT is a great program for opening up doors[/pullquote]“Their eagerness to improve is what continues to inspire me,” Bill says, serving as a SALT site director and tutor. His most significant role though, is the role of serving as their friend.
Bill and his wife have grown close to one student, Etsegnet and her children, and a mutual trust has blossomed. Bill tutors a Somali family for 3.5 hours a few times a week, while balancing his demanding corporate work schedule.
Bill desires “to show by example what Christ’s love is.” The prayer that is on Bill’s heart is that tutors continue to be called so that when the harvest is ripe, solid relationships will be in place to shepherd Somalis who begin to seek Christ.
Through a partnership that he cultivated with Hope Church Oakdale, 10 new tutors volunteered to support Somali students. Bill believes the greatest gift that could come out of these relationships is when Jesus is revealed through tutors’ actions towards their new friends.
Bill’s mission as a SALT volunteer reflects the account between Philip and the Ethiopian man in the Book of Acts. God clearly orchestrated an encounter between the two, and when the Ethiopian was asked by Philip if he understood the Scriptures he was reading through, the man replied, “How can I unless someone guides me?”
Bill Cameron was called to just this opportunity in just this community.
“SALT is a great program for opening up doors,” says Bill.
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]We just want to say thank you for all that you have done for our mothers[/pullquote]Somali families who partner with a SALT tutor, like Bill, are primarily seeking English skills in order to advance their education or take to a citizenship test. Passing the citizenship test is important because becoming a U.S. citizen lays a promising path for them to reunite with family members who remain in refugee camps in Africa. Ninety percent of the SALT students are women and children; in many cases the father remains in a refugee camp due to women and children being granted priority status.
The vulnerable situation of many Somali women, raising children on their own in a new country, tends to open doors for rich conversations with their tutors. During these times of hardship, when a tutor enters a Somali person’s home with Christ’s heart, it can be a healing salve.
This rang true for Bill when one night he was approaching an apartment complex to tutor. He grew nervous as half a dozen teenage boys began to approach him. They asked him if he was part of the tutoring program at their apartment complex. When Bill replied that he was, they moved closer to him and said, “We just want to say thank you for all that you have done for our mothers.”
The relationships Bill Cameron has enjoyed with his Somali friends over the past 13 years encourage him as a SALT volunteer. He believes in the prospect of how God can use these relationships for His glory; which inspires Bill to serve for many years to come, abounding with hope over the fruit it could yield in our communities.