Different Ship. Same Course.

Although I have sent out information via our newsletter… Wait. You have a newsletter? Yes, indeed. Why not just the blog? Well, while any psycho can stumble upon this blog, we can see a name for each recipient of the newsletter and have the option to NOT send it to the psychos. I have purposefully procrastinated updating here.

There are so many things I want to say. So many things I want to scream and vent about, yet the Blog Police would veto all of it. In the same way he vetoed all 572 boy names I submitted for Ivan. I would just take a deep breath and accept the Big Fat Negativo. So many things I want to share (because I know you are dying for information), but it would be so very unwise of me to divulge that on such a public platform.

Where do I start after a three-month rebellion? Today? Nothing blog-worthy. Let me tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday was my second week volunteering with a new ministry in Houston. New, meaning it began just three weeks ago and there are only a handful of people heading it up. Maybe I should tell you how I became involved in this ministry, a ministry to refugees. God is all over this thing, the story and the ministry.

In mid-December I met my first friend since our relocation. Is it sad that it took me more than two months to make a friend? It was a first grade Christmas party where both of our daughters are in class. I overheard her explaining to a fellow mom why she travels to Kenya frequently. Kenya is next door to Ethiopia. How convenient, I thought. She and her husband founded a ministry that works with teens who are pregnant either from rape or forced prostitution. Wow. I definitely wanted to know more, but I didn’t want to get into the whole “Ethiopia” story. Despite my excitement, I managed to remain calm and casually engage her in regular conversation. School, kids, the weather, life in The Great Nation of Texas. When she found out I was “Avery’s mom,” she was the one bubbling over with excitement. She’d heard all about Avery (and Ethiopia) from her daughter. “Mom, there’s a new girl in my class named Avery. She moved here from Africa. No, really. Her brothers are from Ethiopia. Mom! She wears paper beads.”

I knew I needed to further stalk my new friend, but how? Was it enough that our daughters were in the same class? Or that both our families’ hearts were tied to Africa? Church! That’s it. In fact, we were looking for a church. So, in January we visited what I hoped to be our future church home. When I happened to run into my new friend (I mean I wasn’t standing in the doorway scanning each face that exited), she seemed genuinely pleased to see me. Score!

She invited me to an informational meeting for a new refugee ministry. They were going to start by teaching some women how to knit, which sounded super lame to me. Do I have blue hair? Or a bedazzled chain on my bifocals? But, she said, “Don’t you knit or crochet? I thought this might be something you’d be interested in.” Dang. How did she know of my mad crochet skills? At the party where we met, she had witnessed me ditching my “party-set-up responsibilities” to sew a finishing button on a crocheted Christmas gift for the teacher. I was caught. Luckily the meeting did not fit in my schedule, but I promised to contact her about it.

A month flew by and I hadn’t made good on my commitment to “contact her,” and now the Valentine party had crept up on us. So, it was either face the music. “Hey, I thought you were going to come help the refugees learn how to knit?” says my new friend, calling me out. And I’d have to make up something, “Yes, well, I crochet (stress the crochet, insinuating it’s an entirely different ballgame than knitting) and think my help would just confuse them.” Or, I could make a pre-emptive strike and just go for a week and let her see the disaster I was capable of causing.

Four of us rode together into Houston, sharing our stories on the way. The gal who began this whole project is a refugee herself, having fled Kazakhstan with her family after a 48-hour notice of their departure. She spent some time in a refugee camp and then was moved by the government to Houston. Explaining our time in Ethiopia to the women in the van was more than easy. It was cathartic. No one was baffled by our having moved there nor by our sudden departure. These women understood the world of missions, living in a third-world country, the corruption in a third-world government and the struggles that come with serving people in a foreign nation.

My life seemed normal. That was nice for a change.

We met in a dirty, smelly common area of the apartment complex. The women took their seats around two long folding tables and pulled out their completed projects for inspection. The room filled with the buzz of two languages foreign to us Americans. Immediately, I was taken back to Korah, the dump in Ethiopia which was the site for the majority of the women we worked with. Here I was, an outsider. Surrounded by beautiful women who cradled their babies as they worked or eyed their children running through the doorway.

I spent a few minutes watching an American woman on a video finish off the knitting, and then I sat at a table, mostly unable to communicate with them, and helped the women finish off their own projects. Turns out, knitting isn’t so terrible.

The women walked into the common meeting room, which was cleaner this week (thank you, Jesus), carrying their first product: a gold neck warmer.
Week 1: teach and practice
Week 2: receive real yarn and begin first real project
Week 3: sew amazing coconut shell button on neck warmer, sell it (for real), and receive yarn for second real project

I can’t explain the experience enough to do it any justice. I watched these women, poor in many ways, transform right in front of me. They realized that they are loved, capable, talented, and responsible. Empowerment. What a beautiful thing.