Monday, July 14, 2014
One of our assignments for Access Training was to interview an immigrant preferably from the area we are going to serve. We were supposed to ask them questions related to what they experienced when they moved here, because we will most likely experience the same things when we move to Malawi. Where and how do we find someone like this in West Michigan? April came across a Facebook page for an organization called Thrive. Thrive assists, equips, and walks along side resettled refugees until they can function and thrive on their own. The 3 month "grace period" for these people to figure out their new way of life isn't nearly enough, so Thrive walks them through a 5 year program. April sent them a message, and it didn't take long for their representative, David, to give us a call. David explained that their church, South Wyoming United Methodist, started this ministry, and now worships with nearly 40 refugees each Sunday. After explaining what we are planning to do, David invited us to worship with them and stay after for classes and fellowship. On June 22 we joined SWUMC for worship. As we walked up to the church that morning, I was frustrated that the woman in front of us was taking her sweet time as she made her way to the door. It would have been rude to pass her, so we slowed down and followed her in. Shortly after entering the building, David came and introduced himself to us and immediately introduced us to a refugee couple, Charles and Monica. Monica happened to be the woman we followed in. They were happy to meet us and began telling us in broken english how they came to America from a refugee camp in Tanzania just North of Malawi. As we shared our story, their faces lit up when we told them about our move to Malawi. When we mentioned that we will be working in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Monica just about started crying, and explained that their daughter and 3 grandchildren live in the camp. They were so excited at the possibility of us finding her, and weren't going to let us leave until we had every last bit of contact information they could think of. This was already way more than completing an assignment. After the church service we were able to meet more people from the camp in Tanzania, and sit in on the refugee youth choir rehearsal. What a great experience. We experienced another part of Africa that day, and it was only 15 minutes from home. We plan to visit them again soon, and are excited to spend time with our new friends. This is a growing ministry with lots of needs. If this sounds interesting to you, let us know. Or you can go to the Thrive Facebook page to learn more.