Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Placement

I met Mohammad and Hussein in their living room in the summer of 2015. Mohammad was obviously older not just in size but in mannerism. He scolded Hussein for being fidgety and loud while I talked to their father. "They don't know English," he said sternly, "and they don't trust the police, the police are not useful where we come from. If they get separated from you, they will not know what to do." "I understand" I replied as reassuringly as I could, "I won't let them get lost." Then he rose and called to his daughters. The boys came with me and the girls went in another car and off we went.

The family consisted of the boys, their sisters, their mother, and father. Six in total living in a three bedroom apartment in Dallas. They had come from Iraq, where the Father had been an interpreter for the military during the Iraq War. His work had made him a target for violence 
and the family was allowed to come to the United States with SIVs or Special Immigrant Visas. Other SIVs I've talked with have similar stories. They don't let the kids play outside and tell them never to answer the door because they are afraid that someone will use the kids as an easy target.  

In the past six months after moving to Texas, the children had barely left the house because they not only lacked language skills but so did their mother. Their father's language skills had helped him get a job as a taxi driver but he had become the sole provider for the six of them and he worked as often as he could. Today, however, was different. Today we were off to a baseball game.

Hussein did a better job containing himself as we set out on the road but between the limited English the kids spoke and my nonexistent Arabic skills the short half hour car ride started out uncomfortable. I wanted very badly to ask them if they were excited to see a new sport. To know what their favorite sports or games were and if they had ever been to a professional sports event at all. All of this was profoundly out of reach for me. So I turned on the radio to see if they would dance or knew any of the songs on the radio. If they did they didn’t let on and sat politely staring out their windows at the traffic. As we’re driving I checked my rear view mirror and saw twelve motorcycles coming up to pass me. I quickly pointed to the kids to look out the windows and as I did the bikers split off from one another and passed on either side and then reformed the group in front of me. The brothers were so excited they started talking to one another and pointing and all I could think was, whether in Iraq or the U.S. some things, like Harleys, are always cool.

We met up with many other children from other families from different countries Some spoke the same language some didn't. The thing they shared the most was that they were all attempting to start over, to go back to being carefree children. Many had never been inside a sports arena, they were wide-eyed and fascinated with every aspect of the stadium. Popcorn was purchased which caused great laughter because many had never had it and little to no baseball was actually watched. We all left happier and more silly than we had started out.

We often think of mission work as being work that takes place in what we might call developing or third world countries. Rarely do we consider that mission work will need to take place in a Western city like Liverpool, England but the truth is the European Union is just beginning to understand the enormity of the number of asylum seekers and refugees coming from Syria and north Africa. I've been working for the past year to help raise money and awareness for the refugee community here in Texas and as my one year position at Refugee Services of Texas came to an end I knew that I wanted to continue that work. 

Welcoming strangers can be a scary thing but God often asks us to lean into what is scary. On this issue, He does so repeatedly in Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:34, Matthew 25:34-40, Hebrews 13:1 & Romans 12:13. In my efforts to imitate the life Christ has shown us, I cannot help but think how blessed I am that He has given me the opportunity and ability to extend hospitality to those we might call strangers. That is why I am so happy to share that I will be working with the Anglican Diocese of Liverpool and the British Red Cross to help with the European crisis. I can't tell you how blessed I am to be going and how excited I am to share it with you.



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