As Women of Welcome, we are committed to living out Christ-like hospitality for all of God’s children, specifically for “the stranger.” We have been on a journey together to increase our proximity to immigrants and refugees in our local communities.
We’ve shared various ways we can take the next step and move from conversation to connection, like hosting an immigrant family for dinner and listening to their story, or befriending a newly arrived refugee/asylee family and helping them navigate life in America.
But, we also realize that sometimes it can be challenging to find time to take those next steps, especially during various seasons of motherhood. We often ask, with the limited amount of time I have, can I even make a difference?
We want to encourage you today, that even the smallest act of kindness towards immigrants and refugees can make a difference! Here are a few stories of mothers from our community who have shown (or received) welcome.
Most of the things I have done are very small, and they’ve been scattered over a decade. And so, when I look at myself, I don’t see someone making much of a difference in the global refugee crisis. Usually, I just see a mama who is busy, somewhat frazzled, and sometimes a little disappointed she can’t muster more energy to do something more meaningful for refugees.
During the apex of the Syrian refugee crisis, I can’t even tell you how intensely I longed to jump on a plane to Greece, the epicenter of where humanitarian aid and suffering met. I’d see videos of moms like me coming off the boats and I just wanted to be there. I felt like I’d give almost anything to let those women know they weren’t alone.
But like most travel, the cost was steep. And my family’s need for their mama to stay home in that season was just too much.
I knew that just because I was home didn’t mean I had to ignore the state of the world’s refugees. But what I had to give was hard for me to value because “being there” for them ended up looking different than I had imagined.
That year I collected and packed up any baby carrier I could find. I connected with a group of women starting an organization simply to help new mothers as they fled from their homes in Syria.
I didn’t do a lot to help, but I did something.
And although there is a time to go, act, and to do something (anything!)–I’ve also experienced waiting in the stillness with God. Asking how He is going to deliver. And there, surrendering to be available in whichever way He thinks is a good fit for me to be involved, it becomes His work, not mine. Even if my part to play is only in a series of simple, even ordinary, movements.
Bri (Women of Welcome Director)
After a busy day, I was tired. I ran by the grocery store to grab groceries for an Afghan family new to our community. The grocery store closed and I was locked in at 11 pm. I literally enlisted the store night stocking crew to help me find all the items on my list so I could try and get out of the store. They unlocked the door to let me out and as soon as I left, the door was locked behind me. I share this because I know we’re all busy. You cannot do it all, especially you young moms. But just chip away where you can. Start somewhere so when an opportunity arises, you can grab it and be reminded of how small the world is, and how close to the nations actually are in your own city.
I had a really great conversation with someone who came to hear me speak at church. She said, “I just don’t know where to fit it all in.” The truth is, you can’t. But…you can fight for the time to do what you can. If it makes you feel any better, I went through volunteer training with my local Lutheran Family Service office to help refugee families. So, I’m part of a group that is emailed about the service opportunities that spring up for incoming families. It’s been a year. This is the first thing I’ve been able to do.
There’s never really a “good time.” But when you do it anyway, it will change you. Because you’ll meet others who enter into this work daily, and they’ll invite you to meet people you’d never see, smile at, or hug if you hadn’t just gone to the grocery store at 11 pm while drinking a large number of Emergen-C as you blare music to stay awake on the drive home.
I was out on an evening walk with my family and we crossed the street to compliment my neighbor’s beautiful flowers all around their porch. She was out watering. I learned she is Honduran and has been in the U.S. for one year. We both have sons that were born just two weeks apart that will be turning two this month. Neither of the boys have any other little amigos, so we plan to get them together to play and work on practicing her English and my Spanish. Friendship is blooming!
When my firstborn was 3 months old, our little family moved to Argentina. It was hard. We stayed in a studio apartment, and my husband and I learned how to be parents in a foreign country.
I was lonely, and I worked for my job in the States every day from a local coffee shop that served me sparkling water after a cup of coffee. (I was thrown off for a while, but even now, I still like it!) I was accidentally accused of dining and dashing and I couldn’t defend myself because I didn’t speak the language well, so I just paid twice.
We spent almost every non-working hour walking the cobblestone streets, pushing our newborn daughter in a stroller. I walked all over that city, and I have so many special memories of our little family from that season.
I also hold onto the harder moments. I empathize with mothers in all walks of life who relocate and try to navigate culture and language while also raising kiddos. I remember nearly every kindness shown to me because I so often felt alone and invisible as the city bustled around me.
What may feel like small acts of welcome can mean the world to someone far from home. That was my experience.
The truth is: taking the step, no matter how fumbling and messy, is welcoming.
God’s Spirit does the rest. He never said we had to be graceful, so why are our expectations so high? God directs us to trust in him, letting him lead. We are not failures as we follow Jesus’ example. Even when we are discouraged, we don’t have to grow weary in our attempts at good, for we don’t always know what our role is in bringing forth the harvest.