We’ve been trying to volunteer with refugees for two years. Yes, two years.
I don’t remember what it was that happened in Syria two years ago that got our attention, but we’ve been trying since then. It’s hard when you work during the day, have kids too young to help, and you are introverts.
The closest we got was to helping with a Christmas party for the families at a refugee center, but then David had to have his appendix out. Hello ER, 5 day hospital stay and 2+ week recovery period.
At some point we got a burst of motivation to try to volunteer again. We had been continuing with Buy One, Give One and donating more as we felt we could. Kids and work were still a problem, but we’d figure it out, right? The next step we took was when I attended an event about refugees in Texas, where I was pretty certain that I finally had the right connection to start volunteering (because it wasn’t just ourselves preventing us from volunteering… the time and energy of non-profit employees is limited too).
A couple months after the event I called Catholic Charities and asked about volunteering. Finally, we had begun.
Connected now with the Catholic Charities Volunteer Coordinator, we filled out our paperwork, I did the training (with Brendan in tow), and we considered sponsoring (mentoring is really a better word for what we do) a 13 person family. But David was still working, Chelsea was still in school, Brendan was having what I hoped was the last of the terrible two’s fits, and work for me was just too much.
So we paused another month.
This time, I got the call… I didn’t have to chase it.
A new family had arrived in the US. They’re from Afghanistan, had lived in Pakistan awhile, now are refugees. Mom, 4 daughters, 1 son. Only the eldest daughter speaks English. I am ALL IN.
Let me back up a bit. You guys are awesome.
Seriously! That’s why I’m backing up. After some angry (yes, I admit it, injustice and unloving-ness makes me angry) Facebook posts plus posting that I had signed up to volunteer with refugees… I had some followers. Not only that, people who want to do this too.
Back to the present, one friend is ready to volunteer too! And they’re just as excited as me to work with this family!
The date was set, and we were going to meet them. Just Brendan and I. Rebecca came too, and the Volunteer Coordinator met us there also to help introduce us all to the process.
Now, the family has a case worker that is dealing with all the paperwork. Because when you run from your home, there’s a good chance you don’t have a passport, birth certificate, money or anything else you need to get started in a new country. So the case worker helps make that happen.
Our job as Sponsors (remember, mentor is probably a better name for what we actually do) is to be friends, help them practice their English, and show them how life here works. Think money, transportation, see the sights, introduce to life.
I’m not going to lie. The first meeting was a little awkward for awhile. I am a classic introvert when it comes to meeting new people. I was incredibly stressed leading up to the event, super awkward, and small talk is almost painful. And Rebecca claims to need hospitality lessons. But girl, do I need you!
Thanks to both of us, Brendan and the Volunteer Coordinator, the family began to open up. They answered questions, asked questions, and shared things.
Here’s an important fact…
Hospitality means a lot. This is how many people show love and is what they have to offer.
It’s Ramadan and our family is Muslim. So they’re fasting during the day. But they made us a delicious rose juice… even though they can’t have any.
And as little as they have, the little boy shared his cars and Hot Wheels track, allowing Brendan to play with it the most.
I love them already.
We set a time to go with them the next week to show them how to ride the bus.
But from this visit, the most important thing: I can’t tell you how incredibly peaceful I felt.
Much of my Bible study and spiritual thought is spent wondering what peace is and how to find it. After all, life is crazy, and I need that for my sanity.
To find peace I’m always trying to make space. Which is helpful, but I can so easily tip to “bored”.
Yet here, out of my comfort zone, meeting people, working hard for someone, driving way out of my way (which I hate)… I found peace.
Peace won’t be found the same way for everyone. But refugees are people I feel for and really, really want to help. Now it wasn’t just an intangible “we have $50 extra this month, where do we donate it?” It wasn’t “I finally have time and can focus on this 100%”. I did it myself with one child who I feared would lost his mind halfway through, a woman I’d met once, and a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. I was outside my world and doing something 100% for someone else.
That, for me, was peace.