We attended a fundraising event for World Relief MN-Refugee Life Ministries tonight that brought awareness to the needs of refugees coming to Minnesota. You may have read previous posts when I shared “oh the simple joys of life” or “you just never know” regarding the stories of our refugee families, so you understand that this is a passion of sweet Bob.
Tonight he had the opportunity to share 4 minutes of reflection during this event, so I will let him share his thoughts here…
About two years ago, my wife and I dropped off our only child at college in Eau Claire. On the way home, we joked about becoming “empty nesters” and what that looked like and how we would fill some of our time. Well…it wasn’t long and I had found the answer for me and that was with Refugee Life Ministry.
We had just welcomed our first family at Woodbury Community Church in that spring two years ago: Bwee Paw, two of her adult children Dah Moo and Htee Nou and her granddaughter Mu Law Paw. I can’t begin to explain the joy, blessings, encouragement, and the “keeping of life in perspective” that I have received these last two years.
Unlike my wife, who has been to Haiti on mission trips to work with students and adults, I have never been out of the United States to serve others. However, I have realized that I am the lucky one because I get the chance to go on a mission trip not once a year or maybe twice, but each week and sometimes even twice if I want to. My mission trip has no connecting flights and often can be reached in 20 minutes from my house in Woodbury to the final destination of Larpenteur and Rice Street. How cool is that!? Getting to know the family over the last two years has been one that gets better each week, as the ability to communicate improves. In the early weeks and months, it took me stepping out of my comfort zone and going not only into their home, but into the Karen community that was their apartment building. I quickly found out who spoke English in the building and would write down the name of the person and apartment number if I needed some help with translating. I also was amazed at the sense of community, as I never knew who was going to walk thru that unlocked door and join us in what we were doing. Which was usually just sitting around on the floor, watching me sweat, as I tried to show and say at least something they might understand. I quickly learned as time went on how ice-cream became our universal language. Along with games such as Connect Four, Chinese Checkers, Jenga and Uno that really helped begin the bridging process.
Fast forward to the present time, and that first family we welcomed is doing great. The son has a full time job; the daughter is going to school, married and expecting her first child; Bwee Paw has found friends that she enjoys each day and Mu Law Paw has straight A’s and her English is amazing–even when texting on the cell phone she got through our “family plan.” But the family tree just doesn’t end with them…in these last two years, Bwee Paw has also welcomed her other daughter and son from Thailand that now live in the same apartment complex. So, from the original 4 people, it has grown to 15. The branches on the family tree are ones that I am still trying to figure out.
The people of Woodbury Community Church have been a huge factor in the success of both of the families our church has helped. We have many individuals who have stepped up when asked. There was the team of people who took the time to set up the apartments and make it so homey to our new families. I also think of the lady who volunteered to do the laundry for the one family and show them how to do it, as well as the people who have donated furniture, clothing, and other items. There is the man in our church who constantly lets me use his truck when a delivery needs to be made. These are just a few examples of how people of WCC have stepped up. But more than that, it is the chance for our church to get to know the families and to open our eyes to a world bigger than our own. Having our refugee families come out to Woodbury and join us in service, or having Mu Law Paw sing special music in Karen and exposing our congregation to that gift.
Refugee Life Ministry has been a huge blessing in my life and at WCC. I would challenge anyone who is thinking about it, but not sure how…to just step out of your comfort zone and the rest will take care of itself. Remember, you don’t even need a suitcase for this mission trip.