Nurture every sign of God’s presence

Nurture every sign of God’s presence

Mission associate Michelle Hays reflects on getting to know refugees in North Carolina, USA

Photo: A Colombian girl ices a cake with a new Iraqi friend at Welcome House Raleigh in North Carolina

What does getting to know a new refugee family look like at Welcome House Raleigh?

by Michelle Hays, working with Welcome House Raleigh, a ministry providing welcome, kindness and a place of shelter to immigrants and refugees

Before I go knock on the door to meet a new family, I take a minute to remember that the people I am about to meet are known by God and treasured by him. Their names, that are undoubtedly going to be hard for me to learn to pronounce, roll off of the tip of his tongue with ease. He loves them and has been aware of every step of their journey. I pray for eyes to see beyond what is true on the surface and for God to teach me to nurture every sign of his presence as I get to know them.

Today I am coming with a Welcome House volunteer and one of our House Hosts and her daughter, and we have all the supplies to make a cake with our new guests. We find that conversation flows easily with this Iraqi family. I ask about how one woman learned English and I am surprised when she responds, “I had some English in school starting when I was 14, but honestly, my best teachers were Grey’s Anatomy and the Backstreet Boys. Have you heard of them?”

I like her sense of humor already, I think to myself with a smile. The conversation continues and phones are passed around to show pictures from graduations and weddings. “Really? You designed and sewed that gorgeous dress that your sister wore to her ceremony? It is beautiful!” We learn that one of them has a background in fashion design, one in law, one in graphic design, and the 11 year old is obsessed with Harry Potter.

While we are mixing the cake, the mom (who is about the age of my mom) squeezes my hand, looks into my eyes, and says something to me in Arabic. Her adult daughter translates for me, “You remind her so much of my older sister who is still back in Iraq. She has a terrible sweet tooth just like you! We really, really miss her.” While we are waiting for the cake to bake, one of the women blurts out, “Did you know I have a job interview this week?! What kinds of questions to do you think they might ask me at my interview?” We take some guesses at what they might ask and she practices her answers.

Then, somehow our conversation turns toward things that make us think of home and our Colombian House Host begins to play Vallenato music for our Iraqi guests. She shows them how she dances around Walmart while she stocks shelves to make her time at work go faster. “Music from home makes me happy. What is music like in your home?”

In the picture above you can see her little girl frosting a cake with her new Iraqi friend. The Iraqi girl speaks Arabic to the Colombian girl who responds, undaunted, in Spanish. I am not sure exactly about how their communication works? It must be working though because they smile conspiratorially at each other, glance at me, simultaneously sneak tastes of the frosting, and then dissolve into shared laughter. Tea is made and cups are passed out among the adults. At some point, we notice that a LOT of time has passed and both our House Host and I need to leave to pick up our respective kids from school.

We stand up and begin to say our goodbyes. I give a hug to each of the women and they each hold onto me tightly and say “thank you, thank you” in my ear. Plans are made for the next time that we will cook together, but next time it will be at their apartment which is nearly ready for them. “We will teach you to make something from Iraq. Please come and see us at our new home!” I tell them we can’t wait. Their new Colombian friend also hugs them responding, “Sí, con la ayuda de Dios, allá estaré” (Yes, with God’s help, I will be there!) and they respond with big smiles and “Inshallah” (hopefully, God willing, may it be so).

In this ministry, we get to meet God’s children who come from all corners of the world. We get to offer them a safe place to stay, food to eat, and English class. We communicate peace to them, we wrap them in the love of Jesus, and we welcome them into a community. They have arrived in a foreign land, but they will not go through this transition alone. They will be among friends and they will be loved.

Praise God for the way he is at work in our houses and in the community!

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