Photo by: Robert Bogan | photographybyrobo.com
The term “Coloradan” still feels uncomfortable in my mouth as I slowly try to pronounce each syllable properly. The first time I heard it in a campaign ad I must admit I chuckled. It just sounded funny to me. But I guess I can’t laugh long because that’s what I am now: A Coloradan.
My wife, Rachel, and I recently moved to Denver from the Carolinas. We had been working at two international mission organizations in Charlotte, NC but felt God leading us somewhere new. Little did we know, “somewhere new” was going to be two-thirds of the way across the country.
Little did we know, “somewhere new” was going to be two-thirds of the way across the country.
Now we live at least 4,529 feet higher in altitude, and we’re new in town. We’ve only recently been introduced to green chili, the ice cream formerly known as Edy’s (Dreyer’s), chile rancheros, and snow storms that would shut down the entire city of Charlotte for two days. These things aren’t really that overwhelming (except for the snow), but they are different. It takes time to get used to a new place, new people, and new culture. Thankfully, we have some friends in Denver who connected us with a good church where we found community.
But imagine being a refugee.
You’ve fled your country because of disaster, persecution, or war. You’re not just in a new city; you’re in an entirely new country and culture. All you have if you’re lucky are a few precious belongings. The people here do not speak your home language much and worse—you don’t speak theirs well either.
Will life ever be normal again?
You came to this country in hopes of starting a new life away from the dangers of war. Or maybe you lost everything in a flood, famine, or other natural disaster, and you have to start your whole life over from scratch. How will you rebuild your life in this new country? Do you know anyone who lives here? How will you get a job? How will you find a place to live? Will your new home be safe for your family? Will you even find a new home? Will you find new friends, or will people ignore or avoid you because you don’t fit in? Will people judge you because of where you came from? Will life ever be normal again?
Did you know we have refugee families living in Denver?
As I learn more about the Mission, I keep finding out more about how God is at work in this city. One of those ways He is working is through the Mission’s Family Refugee Services program (FRS).
FRS is helping refugees in Denver who come from all over the world, including Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Iraq. It’s a partnership program with Lutheran Family Services, and it’s an amazing opportunity to share the love of Jesus with people who are essentially orphaned from their home culture.
Jose Kabeya, Family Refugee Services Coordinator for the Mission, says, “[We] assist refugees with their first rent deposit and place them on the path of productivity and self-sufficiency … We seek to prevent refugees from continuing the cycle of homelessness and despair in their new country.”
We seek to prevent refugees from continuing the cycle of homelessness and despair in their new country.
- Jose Kabeya, Denver Rescue Mission
Whether it’s finding a job, building a new community, or just basic language education the Family Refugee Services program seeks out struggling refugee neighbors and helps them acclimate to their new life in the United States. Trained mentors become an encouraging community for refugees who otherwise feel isolated.
As Rachel and I adjust to our new lives in Denver, I want to remember this feeling—the uncertainty of a new place. I want to remember the nervousness of hoping I can connect with a community, hoping I can find someone who understands me. I want to remember the anxiety of looking for a job in a new city. I want to remember how God gave me strength for each challenge, and comfort when I was afraid.
I want to remember what it feels like to be new in town, so when I see it on the face of a neighbor I can reach out my hand and say, “Welcome home.”