Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What the pictures don't tell you...

An image of gaunt children wearing rags always tugs at my heart strings to the extent that I simply cannot watch those TV specials.  The need is so obvious, the cry of outrage against such injustice bubbles up, ready to explode!

In contrast, the pictures we have of Welcome Home residents look like any other multicultural Canadian - drinking coke in the park, camping in the wilderness, eating meals around a crowded table. I struggle with this, because I wish a picture could portray what I see at Welcome Home.

  • I see refugees doing laundry every day because the clothes they’re wearing are all they have. (Did you know our African marathoner has proudly worn his Ride 4 Refugees shirt daily since he got it?)
  • I see the “deer in the headlights” look on their faces when they first arrive, and how a safe place to sleep and a community to share life with changes that so quickly.
  • I see the depression and anxiety that many struggle with- the weather, the separation from family and culture and home, financial woes, wrestling with the English language and waiting for resident status, work permits…
  • I see the long journey to emotional and physical wholeness, often with 2 steps forward and 1 step back, which many have to take. Lack of medical and dental care, prison, extortion, rape, kidnapping, torture, fleeing for their lives, betrayals, watching their family be killed, bombings- all these traumas are hidden behind the "smile for the camera!" faces of the courageous refugees who live at Welcome Home.
Last week we celebrated one woman’s birthday and the next morning she looked so glum. Trying to cheer her up, I asked her about her party and she sadly said, “No uncles to come and wish me happy birthday.” We may try, but we can never replace what each one has lost along the refugee highway. She often practices her English with some hilarious memorized “Fortunately/Unfortunately” dialogues.

Let me try one:

Unfortunately, no one can restore what a refugee has lost personally, culturally and relationally as they begin their new life in Canada. 
Fortunately, we can invite 15 refugees at a time to live in safety and community, sharing the love of Jesus who Himself promises to make all things new!