“Well, I’ve never actually met a refugee,” the lawyer confessed. “I mean almost everyone who is processed in another country goes through a nonprofit organization. So I am more familiar with immigrants who have asylum status.”
“Hmm, I think my friend is a genuine refugee.” I mused. It was a strange thought. This friend, she came here five years ago from Iraq because her daughter was born with an enormous brain tumor. She had no hope of surviving until the Ray Tye Foundation fully funded her trip over here and all her medical treatment. My church and a nearby mosque agreed to work together to get her housing and transportation. One day, I volunteered to drive her and her daughter to the hospital.
As I drove around trying to orchestrate a meeting place using nonverbal communication I was a mess of nerves. I had heard that the tumor had completely disfigured the little girl. The doctors had to remove large portions of her facial bones. I could never have imagined that despite these disfigurements the little girl would be so lovely. Her inner beauty totally transformed her painfully wounded exterior. Her smile from behind a mask of gauze and bandaging was absolutely illuminating. She had the sweetest laugh.
Days before her death I sat at her bedside and grieved for her mother and everyone who had loved this little one so dearly. The next week I couldn’t bring myself to attend the service. So, I lost touch with my friend.
This weekend I found her again. She was figuring out green card stuff at a mutual friend’s house. I stopped by on a whim.
Everything had changed and nothing had changed. Her English was markedly better. Her smile was as bright as ever. Her daughter was gone; I now had a boy and a girl of my own.
I wanted to talk about her little girl. I wanted to remember all the things about her that made her so special. I wanted to say that my admiration for her only grew now that I was a mom. But language has a way of failing to transfer the full weight of the heart. I offered to help with her green card. I offered to call some lawyers, to find someone who could help a refugee. Then I remembered, we are all sojourners until we find our home in God.