We gardeners greet the month of March with a mixture of skepticism and hope as we look for any signs of life in our dormant garden beds. It's spring, after all, the season of new life and rebirth. In this entry, Lauren Fortosis writes about new life--that is, the new life refugee families experience when they arrive here through World Relief.
When I first heard about Good Neighbor teams a few years ago, I sort of felt like Moses when God asked him to go to Pharaoh on behalf of the Israelites. I felt totally unprepared and assumed I wouldn't be a great fit for this type of ministry.
I am a bit uncomfortable in situations where it's hard to communicate, and this would almost certainly be the case with refugee families who partnered with World Relief and Good Neighbor teams. Yet, somehow, I felt God nudging me to do this, saying, "I'll equip you to do what I have asked you to do. Before I had too much time to talk myself out of it, I attended an informational meeting and signed up.
Within a few weeks, our little Good Neighbor team gathered at the airport, waiting for the arrival of our family. Steven, Ellen and their little boy, Isaac, arrived from India and the next couple of weeks were a whirlwind. We strategized about how to find Steven a job, how to take them to the grocery store and explain about food stamps and how to get them to ESL classes to work on their English. I was amazed at the magnitude of transition this young famly had to go through financially, culturally and geographically. I also saw the benefits of a Good Neighbor team in place to assist refugee families through this transition.
Yet, a part of me remained discouraged because they spoke almost no English. I struggled with the language barrier, let alone the cultural barriers that separated us from making an emotional connection.
One day at a WIC appointment as we waited for food stamps, I had a little glimpse into Ellen's heart.
I had recently found out that, like me, Ellen was pregnant with her second child. Ellen, however, had a health condition that could make the pregnancy dangerous to both her and the baby. It was imperative that we found proper medical care and nutrition for Ellen. The woman from WIC asked if we needed a translator and I agreed that it was probably a good idea. I will never forget what happened next.
For the first time, I sat and listened and understood Ellen as she poured out her heart and her struggles with loneliness and anxiousness about the pregnancy. She felt overwhelmed in a new place with so many new things to learn and take in.
I went home and wept after our appointment. I realized that Ellen and I weren't so different after all. I had struggled with some of those same feelings. A woman from halfway across the world experiences some of the same fears and cares a a woman in Wheaton did. And that woman from halfway around the world and that woman from Wheaton both ultimately need the love of Jesus.
It took a Good Neighbor team to bring these two women together. It takes a Good Neighbor team to share that love of Jesus in tangible ways. And if you join a Good Neighbor team, you will come away from the experienced as blessed as the family you are serving.