Reflections from the kitchen (refugee resettlement)

Kids are the most awesome ice breaker.  Start with  a family of three working (English only speaking) adults, add a family from Burma (a dad and two daughters , age 9 & 11 speaking Burmese and Karen-little English)  in the process of being resettled to the US  from a refugee camp in Thailand, put together in an apartment for two weeks and what do you get?  A recipe for some of life’s better moments.

Start with lots of vegetables, add a huge quantity of rice and fish sauce, mix with liberal amounts of curry and laughter. Throw in lessons on recycling, can openers, garbage disposals, dishwashers, running water, teapots that stay hot, and some pantomimes of going out, coming in, time to sleep, and “Ten Apples Up on Top” for some diligent eager students.  Show a video done by kids doing relief work in Burma with their parents ( and you will find a way, in spite of language barriers, for the dad to communicate that he was an IDP, packing his possessions on his back as he fled from the Burma army.  The girls were born in the refugee camp and this is the first time they have ever been free.  Give thanks with a grateful heart for food, shelter, safety, family, new friends, and the grace of God to cross borders, boundaries and language barriers as you pray the agency resettling them will find an appropriately priced apartment in our very expensive city….

Practice price comparisons at Ballard Market and Viet Wah.  Glimpse how overwhelming Costco can be while getting a deal on a rice cooker for their new apartment.  Play with scrabble pieces together practicing showing love through laughter and phonics and listening….Stop, look and listen at cross walks.  Wear seat belts.

Grateful once again for the incredible gift of community, and how truly amazing grace is.  Reminded once again you don’t have to be especially gifted to be able to touch someone’s life.  You just have to show up, and be willing to treat someone else like you would want to be treated if you were a stranger in a strange land.  It’s SO worth it.  Glad again, that even quiet bookkeepers who like to cook Thai food and have a house full of people have a place in the kingdom of God.  Grateful.  Very grateful!

Give thanks for all those partners on this journey: Deanza, who brought a doll house that is getting MUCH use, Kate & Janelle and a friend who took the family to the aquarium last Saturday, Mona and Rosie who have translated by cell phone across different states and in person (and brought an amazing meal), Dr. Tao for advice, our daughter Ginny for being willing to share our space and befriend those in it, Linda for being an amazing friend, example, translator, and either big sister or new auntie to her delighted new friends, Maggie for being a caseworker or pastor (I have a really hard time telling the difference on most days as I watch her shepherd those God has placed around her!), Tim for the balloons we used to play volleyball in the living room in the evening without disturbing the neighbors, Gary & Gloria, Bethany (who suggested to her friend the case manager to call Deanza), the folks at World Relief, and the list goes on…

PS  When this opportunity first came up, I thought it looked like a good fit, but I hesitated to ask my husband what he thought ’cause it was his schedule that would have to get monkeyed with to make it work. But he took the bait too, and has proven, again, to be amazing.  I don’t think he ever saw himself as a teacher before, but he excels at it.  Funny how both time and hearts can expand to make room for what needs to fit in them.  Funny too, how once you let people in to your heart, normal is over.  Wouldn’t have it any other way.

4 thoughts on “Reflections from the kitchen (refugee resettlement)

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts- refugee resettlement is such a challenging but rewarding process… I am sure your hospitality is much appreciated!

  2. what a blessing this family was to me last week! I honestly think that watching the girls’ faces light up at touching a starfish might be one of my favorite sights in a long time. teresa, you and rich are extremely inspiring in your generosity to this family. thank you!

  3. Teresa, Teresa!
    I remember a hundred years ago Shelly telling me that one of the gifts of the Spirit was Hospitality. You and your family seem to have been all born with the gift! So happy that the family was able to stay in the Seattle area and around such support you all offer there. I am anxious to return home and plug in with all of my awesome and wonderful brothers and sisters. I love you dearly.

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