Today, just a few more things as my thoughts from Monday’s blog continue to tumble around in my brain.
Yes, it is true. As I wrote on Monday: Our Heavenly Father doesn’t allow us to remain satisfied with our own good fortune—He keeps rocking our world so that we will awaken to those around us who need freedom and healing, too. Our call absolutely is to welcome others into freedom and healing as our Father has welcomed us.
But, WOW. It can be hard sometimes. Oh, not the initial welcoming. Honestly, that’s the easy part. I’m talking about the long haul. Sustainable love. I’ll quote Leslie Leyland Fields again here (as I did on Monday) from her book, Crossing the Waters: “I know Jesus’ yoke is light, but sometimes it feels heavy. I have found over the years that the gospel does not always simplify my life or the lives of any of his followers.”
Can’t say it any better myself. Sustainable love—continual welcoming and walking alongside—certainly does not always simplify our life. And, yes, sometimes it feels very, very heavy.
Beatrice and her girls rocked my world a number of years ago. They started attending my church because Beatrice’s mom, Catarina, had come first. As recently resettled refugees from East Africa, they knew no one but her. It was typical, I came to know, that resettlement agencies like World Relief—which helped Catarina and then Beatrice and her girls arrive here—are often unable to get entire families emigrated at the same time. Families come in shifts, waiting without any control for the stringent approval processes—and what often seems like luck—to join relatives who have gone before them.
Beatrice was so happy to be here. And as with many refugees families before her, our church welcomed her and her girls with open arms. We also knew that welcoming her meant loving her for the long haul.
As is unfortunately the case with many women from developing countries, we soon learned of the abuse in Beatrice’s horrible past. She also told us she was pregnant again. To say that navigating the rigors of English classes as a single mom with soon to be three children—the oldest not even in preschool—was difficult, is a gross understatement. Yes, it was very tough for Beatrice. It also made the lives of those of us walking with her anything but simple.
Soon we began to feel a very heavy yoke as we helped shuttle Beatrice and kids to English class, school, doctor’s appointments. We grew in our knowledge of public aid, cash assistance, and pay-by-the-month cell phone plans. When Beatrice fell in with the wrong man, another abusive drunk, we navigated court after court visit in a very unjust system and learned all about restraining orders and official court language translators. The yoke was really heavy now. And that was just for us! For Beatrice and now five little girls, I can’t even imagine.
Now I won’t digress here and begin to talk about all of the competing and extremely complex and complicating circumstances that lead to and result in Beatrice’s experience—and what more each of us can do to “help”—that’s not my “point.”
My point is this: Much different than the greeting or hospitality we might extend to strangers we pass along the way, when it comes to being agents of Jesus to partner with Him in transforming lives, our welcome is only as good as the time we’re willing to invest for the long haul.
Fast forward to today. Literally today. As I write these words. Beatrice just texted that she passed her annual housing inspection! Yes, the photo above is a screenshot of our written celebrations! And today, three of her five beautiful little girls will go back to school with their classmates…all with clean teeth! Today, we are celebrating! BUT…if any of you read all of our texting conversation and are curious about what I was writing next to Beatrice about the “bug man…” well, you can just start a conversation with me in the comment section here. Suffice it to say—fruit may begin to grow when we welcome, but we must be in it to love for the long haul. Celebrations, “bug men,” and all!