H, from Vietnam, wondered aloud why her life is so hard. Why did her husband leave her? Why does her 21 year old son have kidney disease and have to go to dialysis every week? Why did she have stomach problems two weeks ago and go to the emergency room and then get a bill for $4000? Why did she have to leave her home country?
F, from Afghanistan, brought her brother's paperwork and we looked over the Department of Defense form that will have to be filled out in order to try and locate his American supervisors. We came up with a list of things she will have to find out from him in order to complete the forms. His life is in danger. He just wants to bring his family to this country to be safe. F is desperate for any help she can find to help make that happen.
T, from Nepal, told me about her husband's friend's mother who died yesterday from blood cancer at age 52. There will be a three day wake which, she said, is very hard on the family.
How little it seems our sewing can do in the midst of problems like these. What a small thing it is to sit beside a woman and show her how to thread a sewing machine. And yet ... I have a waiting list of many more beginning students than we can accommodate in the new classes we'll add in September. Women who want to be in a sewing class for two hours in hopes, of what?
Full time employment at a living wage? I can't promise that.
Their own business to provide a fair wage income for their family? I can't promise that.
Solutions to the problems like the ones I heard today. I can't begin to promise any of that.
But there are things that after three years of teaching sewing classes to refugee women I can offer ...
Teachers that will share the love of Christ in word and deed; who will offer not only their knowledge but their hearts.
Teachers that will patiently walk beside students as they learn new skills and show them over and over and over again, as many times as it takes, how to thread the machine, where to put the bobbin, how to sew a simple seam. As many times as it takes.
Teachers that will go beyond the classroom into their homes and become friends. Teachers who will walk beside them, trying to learn and understand their struggles and helping with needs as we are able or pointing them to others who know better than we do how to deal with their problems.
Laughter. I can offer them laughter. Plenty of it. And smiles. And hugs.
Creativity. I can offer them the opportunity to stretch their dormant creative wings, to try new things and not have to worry about judgement. I can offer encouragement support, and applause for their efforts.
I can offer a place that is safe and warm and welcoming, where hurts can perhaps be salved for a while to the rhythm of a sewing machine. I can offer that balm, and hope for healing for women who have experienced traumas I can barely imagine.
Classes are over for this term for those of us who work with Make Welcome. We need a break to refresh and recharge, to plan and prepare so that we will be ready for a new term of classes come September, when the learning and loving and growing will continue, Lord willing.
We can't pay hospital bills, or heal kidney failure or cancer, or bring families fearful for their lives to safety. But we can show up with fabric and scissors and sewing machines and instruction and love. That's what we'll do and we'll wait, expectantly, to see how God will work in our midst
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August 25, 2012
I was unprepared, basket of peppers and zinnias in hand, yard-sale pots and pans in the back of the car. I was unprepared when she opened the door, ninety pounds of worn woman with black eyes deep in malnourished sockets. Black eyes that lit up and shone bright with delighted surprise at the simple gift in my hands. This was my first welcome, my first fresh-from-the-camps encounter, my first standing-so-close to the edge that I could almost see what her eyes had seen. I was unprepared. I may never find my breath.
September 9, 2012
I saw her again yesterday, walking in the parking lot of the apartments many refugees call home. I did not recognize her at first, long black hair shining down her back, cheerful blue skirt billowing in the breeze. Our eyes met. She smiled and waved furiously, recognizing the car that brought the basket. Her eyes, her wave, her posture: all revealed the beauty that hope brings, the health that nourishment brings. #Godatwork
March 29, 2015
A delectable aroma escaped the opened door. I hurried to leave my shoes on the step alongside dozens of other pairs as she took both my hands, ushering me into the crowded front room, into a birthday party unlike any I have ever attended. A pastor stood by the window, crepe paper flowers alongside his worn bible, speaking in one of the languages of Burma. I was quickly guided between rows of young children (sitting quietly! listening!) to a seat on the couch. My sister-in-Christ, Julia, friend of the family, partner in mission, sat on the floor next to me.
We listened. Our ears did not understand but our spirits were in agreement. We sang the songs with them, two languages at once to one tune. I wondered if this was how God hears all of us at the same time, hearts attuned even if the words are different.
We prayed, ending with the familiar “Amen”, this language of Hebrew knitting us. In harmony, in one language, we sang Happy Birthday, with an added verse: “May God bless you always.” The food—fried chicken, noodles, shredded vegetables, soup, agar, watermelon, pineapple cake with strawberries—poured out from the tiny kitchen in a steady stream, served by children, loaded onto 6’ round tables with 8” legs. Knee to knee on the floor, conversations and laughter flowed.
And what of the woman? She beamed. She glowed resplendent in lavender, in a handmade, wrapped-and-tucked skirt and side-buttoned blouse sent in love from another woman half a world away, where her two eldest children had remained behind. Today she was celebrating birth and life. Today, she welcomed friends and church. Today, God was evident. #Godatwork
Today, she wrapped her arms around me.
- Written by Lisa Roszler, Make Welcome Sewing Instructor, Product Designer, Refugee Advocate, and Friend!
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