On Friday, I had my first real taste of working with refugees.
Wow. This is going to be harder than I thought, but also more rewarding than I imagined.
Yesterday I was paired up with John Geiger and we spent the day solely with three Somali families who have been here in America for about three months now. They all came here direct from the Somali refugee camp in Nairobi, Kenya, where they lived for an average of 15 years before being granted a release. You can read some updates about this camp here.
Somalia has been in civil war for 18 years and the Nairobi camp currently holds about 280,000 Somali refugees. We are learning bits and pieces from our friends here about their past. These families have lived through unimaginable circumstances.
Soon, I will take time to explain more of the refugee resettlement process, but for now, a window into yesterday...
John and I picked up a father and his 11 year old son to drive them to Christ Community Clinic. We weren't sure if they'd be ready to go, but we were greeted at the door by the father and son and they said "Sit. Sit. Sit." Very friendly people. The son has been having breathing and vision problems. John and I both sat in the doctor's office with them and we eventually had to dial a translator service to communicate more effectively. The son took four shots in his arms without a flinch.
Then we drove the son to Lester Middle School in Binghampton and spoke with the office about tracking down his immunization records. Our conversation with the teacher, from Berundi I believe, didn't bear much fruit and we walked away with only a copy of the record. We'll have to stop by the case worker's office to see if they have the family's records.
The clouds opened up at this point and we ran to our car in a torrential downpour to drive over with the father to Walgreen's to fill the son's prescription. After a long wait, we drove him back to his apartment.
John and I took a lunch break apart from the Somalis, who are in the middle of Ramadan and don't eat or drink anything during daylight hours.
We returned to the Hollywood Apartments to pick up a different Somali man at 1 o'clock, not really sure where we needed to take him, the words lost in translation on the phone. We arrived and found out he needed to go to the DMV to take the computer test for his driver's permit. We brought another Somali woman along - our Woman of Peace (Luke 10) for the Somali community at this point - who helped do some translating. So, we got to do some more waiting with them at the DMV. Unfortunately, he and another Somali man who met us there both failed their tests and will need to return this coming week to try again.
After dropping them off back home, we met up with our friends Catherine and Peter who were taking another Somali woman out to eat at a Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood. Eating?! We learned that she is a nursing mother and is exempt from Ramadan fasting. So, the five of us went to the Abyssinian and had an incredible meal together, communal Ethiopian style.
Our day wrapped up around 5pm. God granted us opportunities to serve these families in tangible ways and share simple words with them of love and thanks. As I look at these three families and the 13 children represented between them, I am filled with hope about the work that Christ will do in their lives over this coming year. We have much to pray for.
(I think I'm going to have to come up with a naming system for our refugees...these posts will get confusing)