The summer of 2018 our office split open like dehydrated sidewalk cracks in the hot Texas sun. We hadn't had a family arrive since April. That’s not to say that we didn't have families to serve, only that the waiting for new arrivals was trying to seal our feet in the concrete. The weight grew exhausting, as each day we tried to muster up new initiatives to break free.

The summertime had our office in a season of waiting on the Lord. Waiting brings temptation to make ourselves kings. It’s disheartening. It’s uncomfortable. The stretch hurts, and it’s sobering to have our weaknesses revealed, but the Lord says time and time again that He knows our next step. He hems us in before and behind, and He does not forsake us or abandon us.

 

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,

The justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;” –Psalm 37

 

Each staff member in our office has been planted here. We have come from all over the world (literally!) to be here, doing the work of resettling refugees in the year 2018. In the midst of fluid funding, unknown arrivals, and a polarized nation on welcoming refugees, our staff has been rooted here for such a time as this. Regardless of policy, funding, or public opinion, we have been called to be faithful to love and serve the people around us and to continuously call on the Lord for strength and guidance so that we may not grow weary. And He promises that if we don’t give up, in good time, we will reap a harvest.

Our call doesn't’ change in the waiting, so we’ve been dreaming and planning, coming up with new initiatives and services so that we can continue to see and actively participate in communities transforming economically, socially, and spiritually. We’re implementing ESL classes, citizenship classes, and football clubs. We’re dreaming of community development projects focused on wellness and gospel presentations presented by our church partners and big soccer fields.

And right now, that’s all we can do. We can be faithfully present, showing up to love and serve our neighbors.

Thankfully, we weren't’ alone in that this summer.

On June 30th, goodness and mercy poured down from heaven like a sweet summer rain shower and filled the tiny cracks that had us kneeling, with an overflow of abundance. 121 Community Church hosted our first International Fashion Show featuring 7 stories of refugees and immigrants from all over the world. It wasn't a traditional fashion show, but we most certainly had models of bravery, strength, and hope with us.

 

A Congolese family sharing their story

 

Several families who our agency has walked alongside, stood before a room full of strangers and shared stories from some of the most vulnerable times of their lives. Next to hearing personal accounts of trauma from war, genocide, and other horrors manifested by the human condition, I think one of the greatest lessons from the evening was learning that the vulnerability doesn't end when a refugee is resettled in a third country. Sometimes it remains that they are physically vulnerable to elements around them, but even more so, they become vulnerable to isolation, bigotry from national communities, getting taken advantage of financially or worse.

 

“She said to me ‘don’t be surprised if one day your daughter comes home and tells you that someone called her a terrorist because they [Americans] have a mindset that all Arabs or people from Iraq are terrorists.”

 

An Afghan woman sharing her family's story

 

But you all - our partners and our volunteers, the service providers who serve in a variety of programs, the teachers in the schools who don’t give up – you all challenge the narrative. You help rewrite the story.

 

A Somali girl sharing her family's story

 

I beamed with pride, trying to swallow a choke on the powerful healing that vulnerability can bring to any person’s wounds. But their strength and courage displayed on stage is not what surprised me. What surprised me was the atmosphere of the room afterwards. Native born American families approached each and every speaker to thank them and share with them the impact that the speaker’s story had on their own life. I saw with my own eyes, bridges built between polar opposite communities, false rhetoric replaced with truth, and walls torn down. They helped people who came from outside our borders know they are belong. They are welcome here.

An Iraqi woman and her World Relief case worker

 

“My dream is to be a caseworker and help with immigrant cases and also help in getting justice.”

 

An Iranian girl

 

An Afghan woman sharing her family's story

 

A Congolese woman