Saturday I took a trip - not very far from home. As a matter of fact, this trip took me 10 minutes from my apartment to a community that I have begun spending quite a bit of time in. Eight months ago I was introduced to a family that I have come to know and love quite dearly. A family of 6 (Mom, Grandma - "Maria", Mark-21, Ruth-21, Twiz-16, and Zacharia-13). They are a family that has come to know "love" intimately and have lived because of it.
For the past 13 years (all of Zacharia's life) this family has lived in a Refugee camp in Uganda. Before that, they lived in a village as farmers in the Congo. I can't even really share much of what their journey was like prior to coming to the U.S. only 1 year ago because it's a time in their lives they do not and will not speak of. What I do know is that the love they have for one another is what has brought them safely together to survive in American culture.
Over the past year it has been quite a journey - teaching this family that food MUST be refrigerated, tutoring in English so they can find employment, teaching study habits, taking them to doctor's appointments, teaching sanitation and household upkeep, manners, and all else that is encompassed in this very foreign and unique American culture. There have been times of disappointment, frustration, confusion, loneliness, isolation, devastation...but more importantly it has been a time saturated in love.
I am humbled and blessed to be a part of their journey every day I get to spend with them as I sit watching the vulnerable oblivion dance across Maria's eyes when we are sitting in the doctors office and she has no idea what is going on, when Mark downloads English study lessons off of the Internet not because he has to but because he so desperately wants to know how to be understood, and as I see this family living off of pennies going out to purchase a cable dish because they desire nothing more than to remove the isolation and match the homes of their neighbors.
Why are they here? There are here because of hatred that took place and drove them from their native land. They are here because they love one another and would not allow the US government to separate them. They are here because of an amazing woman who stepped up and said "I will teach them!" They are here because there is no where else in the WORLD that wants them. There are here - and yet we don't even know they exist.
As I went to visit on Saturday I was greeted by Maria (75 yrs old) at the door with a "Hello!" - the only word she knows in English. The others came and hugged me before I even made my way to the living room with smiles from ear to ear. After sitting down and talking about school, work, and life - I asked Mark a few questions about what he thought about "love". We had a great conversation and I wish I would have gotten it all on camera - yet they have a tendency to get a bit shy on film (Fearful their English is not spoken correctly).
I read the inside sleeve of a book that said "I don't want to know what you do for a living - I want to know what you ache for". Have we loved deeply enough to really KNOW the desires of others. Have we put sincere actions to our love or are we simply delivering the lip service that Mark spoke of? Love is much more full than the empty words we have made it out to be.