A photo inside of the Phoenix Hostel we stayed at during the week
Last week our class journeyed on an ASB trip to Phoenix, Arizona to serve the refugee population. Through our partnership with Catholic Charities and The Welcome to America Project, we were granted the privilege of participating in home visits with newly resettled refugee families. By listening to the stories of their lives and exchanging our cultures with each other, the week served as a testament to the power of human interaction.
During our second home visit of the week, we brought a brand new crib and stroller to a family from the Congo whose eldest daughter had given birth to a baby boy just one week prior to our visit. They had recently arrived to the US this past January after seeking refuge from their home country for nearly 6 years. From the minute we walked into their home, I felt an instant sense of belonging and openness. The family welcomed us into their living room and through our amazing translator, Ntimpa, we were able to listen to their stories and answer any questions that they had for us.
After about an hour of talking to each of the family members and listening to the details of their lives back at home and their journey to the United States, something that stood out to me was their enormous appreciation towards the people of Phoenix for being so welcoming to them. When we asked them if they felt welcome upon arrival, they gushed that they are so thankful that America has welcomed them with open arms.
In light of the recent political climate (i.e. the executive ban), I’ve so often been disheartened by the potential perception of the United States as a place unwelcoming to outsiders. To hear that we as a nation have served as a beacon of safety for this family was enlightening and inspiring that in this one instance, we may be doing something right.
Before we parted ways with the family, we demonstrated the basic functions of the crib and stroller and had them practice with the baby to ensure that they understood the instructions. As we started saying our goodbyes, the mother of household told Ntimpa that she would like to pray for us before we left. In the span of the 2 minutes that followed, I was transported into another dimension of human interaction that I’ll never forget for as long as I live.
Everyone in the room paused and bowed their heads as the woman began to pray for us in Swahili in such a passionate and affecting manner that swept the room as a palpable presence. In the moment, it was like she was speaking a universal language of human connection that every person in the room understood.
As Ntimpa translated her prayer, we learned she was expressing her gratitude for us visiting them and bringing them gifts that they never could have imagined. She admitted that they had nothing to give us in return, but as their little baby boy grows up, they promised to tell him the story of our visit, how he was blessed by us, and how she hopes that God blesses us. Across a room filled with differing races, nationalities, religions, languages spoken, and past experiences, I felt the true power of human connection.
As individuals we have the opportunity to add value to our own lives and others’ lives through the way we engage with each other. Connection can take multiples forms whether it serves as a source of healing or as a point of learning. As I reflect on the experiences we gained on the trip interacting with multiple refugee families, agency workers, and even employees of the hostel we stayed at, I realize that we are all so capable of creating engagement among each other as long as we take the time to do it.
We are wired to connect.
It’s human nature that we all flow along with this innate quality to build upon these interactions with others and ultimately experience the fueling power of human connection.
– KB ☮♥
Our group standing on top of South Mountain on the last day of our trip.