Friday, April 24, 2009

A refugee story . . .

Just when I think I have grown accustomed to the rhythms of this life in Georgia, a woman pours out her heart and shakes me from my serenity.

Today I was working with the bead class in the auditorium and several women in the sewing room. As the day drew to a close, only a single elderly lady and I remained. We are friends now, after many weeks of working together in The Refugee Sewing Society. We were chatting in Swahili about our families, about America, about this and that. Then I asked a single question. "Did you live in Somalia many years?"

Suddenly she began to talk with great animation and emotion as she acted out a story complete with sound effects. I followed, trying to understand Swahili phrases I had forgotten or never knew. I asked many questions, wanting to know exactly what had happened to her. Here is what she said.

I was asleep in my house with my husband and children. Soldiers came into our village. The Shufta -- AK47-toting renegades --began to burn houses and shoot people. I yelled to my children, "Run! Run!" They ran into the brush outside the village. The Shufta dragged my father from his house and shot him. With my own eyes, I saw them shoot my father! Yes, with my own eyes! Then they took me from my house and tore off all my clothes. Three of them raped me.

Dead people lay all around me. I crawled on my hands and knees through the dead people. I was badly injured, so I could not stand up. I had no clothes. Finally, I took some clothes from a dead person and put them on. At last I found my children and my husband. We went to Kenya and stayed in Kakuma Refugee Camp on the border of Somalia. I was very sick and in much pain.My daughter and her family flew together with me to Omaha, Nebraska. It's very cold there! I went to the doctor. He saw my bad injuries. He gave me some medicine, but I told him that the real wound is in my heart and in my spirit. I can never heal there. I cry a lot, and my children ask me, "Mama, why are you crying?" But I can't tell them what happened to me.

Now we live in an apartment in Georgia. My husband is still in Kenya in the refugee camp. I want him to come to America, but he can't. His papers are not right.

This is what I want to know -- Why? Why did this happen to me? For what reason? I always ask God why! Why? Why? But I do not hear the answer.

As she finished speaking, I put my arms around her and held her. I don't have the answers to her questions. I can't heal the wounds in her heart and spirit. But I do know Someone who can. Please pray for my friend.As I was leaving, another Somali friend came into the room. She wanted to say good-bye to me, because her family is moving to Arizona. We hugged and then parted, and she looked into my eyes and spoke a Swahili proverb. "Two mountains cannot come together. But two people can come together." Amen.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


On Tuesday, Kelly and I went out to visit families, as we always do. We stopped at the home of a family where the husband is a leader in the Burundi community. We had information that needed to get out, and we knew he would do a great job of spreading the news.

Then we went to see Alice . . . Actually, we were in that home to help the parents understand what had happened to their Medicaid. Our refugee friends have trouble understanding that when they get jobs, some of their benefits end. They don't know they can purchase insurance through their employer. So we try to assist.

There are many forms to fill out. While mom peeled potatoes, dad held onto his files of cherished documents. I eventually gave up trying to reach caseworkers and government agencies by phone. Thank goodness Kelly took over. Eventually we got it sorted out, and they will send in the documents to make sure they continue to receive Food Stamps and other assistance. We made a detour to the apartment where the young single woman in one of our families is now living. She has done a great job fixing up her new home. Kelly and I admired the ceiling hanging she had made. We have seen these in other homes, but this was our first close look.Our friend showed us how she created the hanging. She's skilled at crochet. Take a look at the beauty in this sofa doily she made.
Please keep our friends in your prayers. They are so often confused, exhausted, and sick. I struggle to contain my frustration when I see a young mother who has worked all night at a chicken factory. Where once she was lively and focused, now she is scarecrow-thin and can barely hold her eyes open. But refugees are survivors. They have endured much more than we can ever imagine. And they plow on into their new lives in America -- enriching us even as we care for them.

Little Alice helps me put everything into perspective. Bring on the juice! Run around the room! Crawl on the missionaries! Yes, Alice, life is good!

Family fun!

Sunday was Tim's birthday. Andrei made another of his spectacular cakes. This one was a tennis racket honoring Tim's long involvement in that sport.

Thanks to the loving help of two special friends, Andrei has a new job! He works at the Honeybaked Ham restaurant at Stone Mountain. He wanted to use his discounts to help his dad have a fun day.
We rode the train around the mountain.
We also visited the museum and watched a film about how the Confederate generals' images were carved into the granite.
We enjoyed going out together as a family. How thankful we are for another year of good health and joyful service for Tim. As the British say, "Many happy returns of the day!"

To market, to market . . .

This past weekend, The Refugee Sewing Society held two market events at Clarkston Community Center. The ladies worked hard all week to prepare and tag their products.How do you like this apron? While honing skills -- measuring, sewing straight seams, gathering fabric -- students created pretty aprons with patchwork pockets.
They take joy in arranging and preparing for market days.
We have a "Winter Clearance Special" going on. Each handknit or crocheted cap is only $5! What a great deal!
Market bags are always strong sellers. The women have adapted the original pattern to meet the demands of their consumers. Now the bags are deeper and the straps are longer -- easier to carry lots of groceries by hanging your bag on your shoulder. Only $10 -- a real bargain for a great "green" product!
Doll caps are gorgeous. This one has a rose on top. Cute!
Friday night the ladies arrived in their finery. It was great fun to see them dressed up and looking so pretty.
Several women brought their children and friends. I enjoyed meeting the extended families of my students.I love the Bhutanese wedding necklaces our women wear when they dress up. Aren't they gorgeous -- the women AND the necklaces!As you can see, market days are serious business for our refugee friends . . . but they're a lot of fun, too!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

. . . In with the NEW!

What a blessed -- and busy -- Easter week we had!Each day this week, I was able to keep the sewing room open. Our faithful students came and stayed . . . and stayed. One night we all left at 9:00 p.m.Tika's giggles always make me smile! She gets a kick out of everything, including her black patchwork squares. Nar is very shy. She does beautiful work. Each woman is different and special to us.
This was a week of NEW things everywhere!

A NEW look! Our volunteer, Amazing Amy, spurred a complete makeover of our sewing room. We were given a storage room inside the Community Center, and Amy put a lock on our door.
Then she transformed our very large mess into . . . neatness . . . organization . . .
beauty . . . practicality . . . and order. Thanks, Amy!
NEW babies! Did I mention our baby boom? Meet Angela Terry and her proud mom. Angela's middle name honors Terry Earl, a volunteer who has loved and cared for this family of four during their transition to American life.And here's baby Yusuf again. He was born on Monday, and his mom and dad dropped by for a visit on Friday! Rightfully proud and happy parents.
NEW house! We moved into our new house with a vision of hospitality ministry. Tim feels that God wants to use the home as a way to reach into our community with love and service. After church today, Easter Sunday, a large group of young adults who work with refugees came for a lunch of spaghetti and/or green chile stew. Italian and New Mexican food -- perfect fare for people who work in an international community.

Hey, there, pretty Annie!
Clockwise around the table, meet Annie, Zach, Mary Beth, Kelly, Andrei, Stephen, and Brian.
After lunch, Tim set up a game of tennis/pingpong/badminton on our concrete pad in the back yard.
I mustn't forget to mention Andrei's Easter cake, complete with "Peeps" -- a big hit with the crowd!
Happy Easter and many blessings for a new season of worship and praise to our risen Savior!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baby boom!

We have a new baby! I love many things about working with refugees. One of my greatest joys is the abundance of newborns. Say hello to Yusuf!Yusuf's mother is a member of The Refugee Sewing Society. She's a beautiful Somali Muslim woman who has both a tender heart and a fierce courage. Yusuf is her seventh child. The first died shortly after birth, and she rightly counts him among her children.

Some time in the past few days, Yusuf decided to turn himself around into a breech position. Doctors were preparing for a c-section when Yusuf managed to get himself born the natural way.

His mom smiled when she said, "The doctors were going to do surgery and I was ready. But God knew more than we did. He already had a plan for this baby." Amen to that!

Here's Lachhi's daughter -- born in January. The first little American for this Bhutanese family.Last November we welcomed baby Jessica, whose mom is from Burundi.We thank God for all these healthy newborns. But today was just for Yusuf. Yusuf and his very happy mother!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I am so happy!

My dear Somali friend is safe and well in Maine. Her husband called me tonight and gave the phone to each of the children -- one by one. He said that my friend has cried and cried about leaving me, just as I have cried over her. Every time she looks at pictures I gave them, she says, "Oh, Cathy! Cathy!"

My heart has felt so empty this past week. I really thought I would never hear from my friends or see them again. But bless AT&T and T Mobile, we are back in touch!

The husband in this family decided to move on March 20. They left on the 25th. They live with a relative who has been in Maine for at least a year. As with so many refugees, they are in search of a better life -- a good job, a home of their own, relatives nearby.

As we were ending our conversation, my friend's husband said, "We will never forget you, Cathy. You are our mother."

And they are my children and grandchildren.

Thank You, Lord!


Amy has done an awesome job guiding and supporting our bead group. She began volunteering at The Refugee Sewing Society by bringing snacks. She still brings snacks, but she has taught herself how to create beautiful beaded necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Man Bista (above) learned jewelry making in her refugee camp in Nepal. She has just gotten a job in housekeeping at a local hotel. I hate to see her talents unused. Maybe God will see fit to let her keep working with us. I hope so!Amy brings American style and taste to the classes. Man brings expertise in beading techniques. She also speaks Nepali and Hindi, so communication is no problem for her. The proud and smiling faces of women in the bead class reveal how well this is working out. We're all learning a lot, but we know God is overseeing all we do.You could not ask for a sweeter, more loving group of women!Thanks, Amy and Man!

And all our faithful readers -- please keep our women in your daily prayers. We're seeing such exciting things these days. The Lord is at work!