It all began when I sat through a presentation on a refugee resettlement ministry that was forming. I listened intently, very interested in the group's efforts, but confident that I was not going to volunteer because I had enough on my plate. That is, until the presenter was in the process of leaving and I found myself propelled down the hallway after her. Stopping her, I found myself saying that I would love to volunteer to do the Social Security and Department of Social Services part of the ministry.
Over the following year or so, we met monthly, went through background checks and training, and finally reached the point where we gave the green light to IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) stating that we were ready to resettle a family. After a bit of a wait, had the pleasure of welcoming a Syrian family of three and working with them in every area imaginable - acculturation, finances, learning English, employment, and more with the goal of helping them be independent of our help within six months after their arrival.
When our part in their resettlement was over, we took a bit of a break, and then the question loomed - who was interested in journeying on toward resettling another family? Again, I found myself saying that I would love to.
We said goodbye to some of our original team and welcomed new members. We met, prayed, worked, prepared, and finally were ready to give the green light once again. After months and months of waiting, we got news of a family and quickly agreed to welcome them to our community.
One of the first questions that was asked after we agreed was whether or not I'd be available and willing to drive to the airport to pick them up, seeing as I have a van that seats twelve. Having anxiety about driving places I've never been before, nevermind to JFK Airport in Queens, New York, my brain screamed no as I somehow joyfully agreed to drive.
Nevertheless, it got messy. The family was required to undergo additional security checks at literally that last minute, and could be held up for months. We continued to meet, to pray, and to anticipate good, and soon we were at the airport picking up a family of four from Afghanistan.
The family arrived to a fully furnished, welcoming apartment. Reem, a member of the first refugee family we resettled and an amazing cook, arrived before we did with a home-cooked meal and set the table in preparation for their arrival. Her daughter Elin tested out some of the boys' toys and played a little bit of catch with them as the adults were shown around the apartment.
As I looked at their exhausted, yet excited faces as we said goodbye after helping them get settled in to their new apartment, I could feel the gratitude they had for everyone that had a hand in making all of this possible and the gratitude I had for being able to play a small part in welcoming this family to this community, to safety, home.
That family is now self-sufficient and doing well. And here I am, saying yes once again to welcoming another family into our midst.
There were so many times during this journey that my brain screamed at me to say no, nevertheless I feel nothing but gratitude for all the times the Spirit propelled me out of my fears and compelled me to say yes.