BustedHalo has a great story up on a Catholic Volunteer’s experience working with refugees last year. Full disclosure: I was one of her support people. Her experience can teach us all a thing or two about what they face when they come here and how we are called to welcome the stranger.

Early on in my work with refugees, a woman from Burma came to get assistance applying for her two daughters and husband to join her in the United States. She told me she was very sad without her family. It made her sick to her stomach, and she thought she made a mistake leaving without them. The woman was about the age of my mother, and her older daughter was only a year younger than me. She could apply for her husband and younger daughter, but not the older daughter since, without permanent residency, you cannot apply for a child who is 21 or older.

I thought of my own mother and how it is to be away from her. I live a 13-hour car drive away from home and I know what it’s like to be alone in a new city, but not in the way a refugee is alone in a new city. Though I could relate to this woman, my desire to be closer to my family must be small compared to hers. And unlike her, it was my choice to move away from my family.

Ariana, playing with student volunteers from UB
Read the entire article and learn. Here in Buffalo we are taking on the President’s interfaith service challenge and our focus is on Refugees in a Post 9/11 world. We met a number of children who are housed at Vive la Casa which is the largest refugee shelter in the United States. Their stories, a fraction of what their families have faced are indeed harrowing. Arianna, a 5 year old who befriended me and made me answer a lot of questions (How old do you think I am? What do you think my sister’s name is?) told me that she misses her dad who is in Uganda. “But I’m Canadian! I was born there. But my two sisters were born here and my Mom and Dad were born in Uganda!” I can’t imagine the immigration nightmare that her family must go through and the fact that they now live at Vive makes me wonder how soon it will ever get figured out so that they might all be together again.

Today, let us pray for refugees, who flee their land in haste to find safety on our shores. May we care for them as our own and lovingly bring them peace.