Reflections on Refugee Transition

Linda W Living as Anabaptists

Our church has taken the lead in forming the “Lake County Resettlement Group” which co-sponsors a Congolese refugee family recently arrived in the U.S. Volunteers of various backgrounds, united by a spirit of service, are supporting the family as they begin to settle into a new life. We feel blessed by the new relationships with this family and with one another. And yet…  

The efforts to bridge very different lifestyles prompted this reflection.


They have arrived.

Finally.

After the chaos and violence they fled,
After 17 years of squalid existence
In the tents of a refugee camp
Away from their homeland,

They have arrived.

They are very grateful:
They are in a safe place,
A very different place,
The place for which they yearned.

Should they fill more than
One bucket of water for daily washing?
It’s cold here. Is it okay to just turn a dial to stay warm?
New friends provide “cleaning rags” –
These were valued towels and blankets before.
Others give them “disposables” –
They used to pick these from garbage dumps for multi-use.
Why are so many different soaps advised? It’s all

Very confusing.

Before
They had no money; everything was scavenged.
They stayed put.
Life was difficult.

Now
They have no money. Everything costs, and
Money runs out before bills are paid.
They travel to work two hours each day.
Life is difficult.

Before
Children were looked after and safe in the crowded community
Though goods were pilfered and quarrels erupted.
Loneliness was a luxury.

Now
Children are to be guarded,
Nearby neighborhoods are considered unsafe,
They are warned against fraudsters, and
Loneliness creeps up at night.

Volunteer friends help them learn a new language
And a new culture.
Television, computers, cell phones and digital games
Appear essential and are quickly adopted.
“Social media” endorse much attention to and use of
What was formerly unthought-of and
Would have been considered wasteful or silly.

Just
Where have they arrived?