For the last five years, I have served my community faithfully on staff at my church. I know we can toss around cliches like “life changing” and “transformational”, but God has used the last five years to change the trajectory of my life, and I can’t simplify it anymore than that. Six years ago, he provided me with a welcoming community of believers who opened their arms and took me in as I was: hurting, pretending, broken. Because of them, I have been able to heal from past mistakes and change old habits, and I continue to see how God peels away the “old” in my heart and reshapes it into the “new”. God gave me all new people six years ago, and I will never forget how they took me in, no questions asked.
I have had the opportunity to volunteer in many ways throughout my community, serving in the jail, a homeless shelter, and a safe house for trafficking victims. These encounters brought me close to a side of our humanity ….
And over the last few years, God has opened my eyes to the difficult journey of immigrants and refugees and has broken my heart for the pain and the long road each of them walks. So much so, that I have felt called to pursue a full-time role in refugee ministry. God is still revealing exactly where this will take place, and whether I will be staying domestic or going international.
The leadership team at my church is incredibly generous, and they are so eager to encourage the staff and the congregation to take the next step towards what God is calling us into. To that end, I have been invited, over the next six months, to learn more about what God has in store for me through researching and exploring these topic areas on migration and the changing face of the nations:
- Global Conflict and Displacement
- Response of the Church
I have longed to live overseas for at least twenty years, and the desire is still very much alive within me. I moved north for college and then again when I headed to the west coast. But these moves were desirable changes, leading me in anticipation of adventure and growth and new discoveries.
I have been blessed with a safe and loving home. To me, home is a place where you are known and respected. So the words of Somali poet, Warsan Shire, grip my heart in a powerful way:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
What if “home” was no longer safe? What if I could no longer count on being protected at home, physically or economically? What if I was leaving home because staying would mean sending my family into almost certain poverty and ruin? What if I was packing only what I could carry while bombs were falling on my neighborhood? Where would I go? Would I be welcomed once I got there? Would anyone help me?
These are just some of the questions that drive this research and they stir up in me a desire to welcome with open arms those who have left home, who have fled to a place they pray is safe, to a place they pray will bring opportunity, where their family can begin again. I want our nation to be that place, and if sacrificing my desire to live abroad means I might have an impact on the cultural narrative we tell about immigrants and refugees, then I will stay.