Welcome to a New Home
(Note: Most of this was written after the fact, on 5/19.)
Well, today the delivery crew completed the furniture delivery that got canceled on Tuesday. (Again, it’s not their fault, there was just some miscommunication.)
The late afternoon was the most interesting part of today. I had the privilege of being there when a new refugee couple arrived at the airport here in Louisville, and when they moved into their apartment for the first time. I had wanted to experience this part of the resettlement process ever since I first became aware of it, because I could tell it would be more personal and make me feel closer to our clients. I was right.
I left the office at about 4:00 P.M. with Marianne, one of our staff workers. Before we went to the airport, we stopped by a shopping center where there is a grocery store and a Chinese restaurant. We bought a precooked chicken from the grocery store and white rice from the Chinese restaurant. This is what we always give our new clients for dinner on their first night, because it’s the most universally culturally-acceptable dinner we know of. From there, we went to the airport and met Ali, our interpreter, outside of security. We waited there, as part of the crowd of others who were meeting travelers. We got there nice and early, so we waited more than half an hour. I was thrilled to see our clients, identified by the green-and-white plastic tote bags they had received from the International Organization for Migration, arriving and finding us. We ended up as part of a big, lively group of around ten people: not only were Marianne, Ali, and I there, but some of our colleagues from Catholic Charities were also there to meet their own incoming refugee clients, who had come on the same flight as ours. It was clear that everyone was happy, whether to be working or to be in a new, safe place.
Since our clients had taken a different flight than they had originally held tickets for, we had to get their baggage out of one of the baggage offices. I could relate, since I’ve done that twice now. Then, we carpooled the short distance over to the apartment our furniture-delivery crew had set up for our new clients. I brought the food in from the car and put it on the small kitchen table. Marianne and Ali, who had helped bring in the baggage, showed our clients the rooms of the apartment, and how to use the gas stove and the shower. Watching that learning experience taking place was the coolest part for me. We left them with some cash, bus passes, and a schedule detailing when they need to come by our offices for orientations, to start English classes, etc.
I could only get a faint glimmer of an idea of what the experience must have felt like for the refugees, but it did cross my mind. Here’s what I thought about that: “So, you come to a brand new country and there are three people to meet you, one of whom speaks your language, but all of whom are friendly. You go immediately to your very own home, where there is food and light, and a stove that works, and a bed. These people must really care about your well-being.” Wow. I love it when I get to experience the blessings of God being extended to his people.
Marianne and I went back to the office, where I took my bike, stopped by Walgreens to get snacks, and then went down to the Episcopal Church of the Advent for the Thursday-night young adult Eucharist. Afterward, we went to O’Shea’s, and I had a really, really good chicken sandwich for dinner.