Posted by Kaylee K on Friday, June 2, 2017 Under: Response
"Welcome." A single word that can transform an experience.

When we arrived at the For Refugees offices on Tuesday a sign awaited us, “Welcome John & Kaylee”. In this one act, the organization that is hosting us this summer in London made it clear: we want you here; you have a place.

And I felt that. Not just in the sign. But also in the smiles that greeted us. In the words shared. In the attitudes of hospitality. And in the considerate acts such as a teammate showing us around the office and the neighborhood to ensure we knew how to find what we needed, and then the whole team taking us out for lunch to celebrate our arrival.

As a foreigner here for the summer, this gracious welcome really impacted me. I didn’t have to feel like the “other”…the American imposing my ways or fulfilling any predetermined stereotypes. We were just John and Kaylee, new colleagues this team is interested in working with, teaching, and learning from. And this set the stage for the week that followed as we learned about each other, helped each other and appreciated both our differences and our similarities.

This got me thinking about the experience of refugees and asylum seekers in our world today. Sadly, there are few places where there is a welcome sign or a welcoming community. Even in the church there is often fear and misunderstanding. Yet, I have also seen beautiful examples of “Welcome!” expressed to newly arrived refugees. I’ve gotten to be a part of teams waiting at the airport for a family that has traveled on multiple planes to from Africa to arrive in Austin, TX – a city they’d never seen before where people speak a language very different from their own. But a small team from our church and the resettlement agency was there. We had signs of welcome, we had broad smiles of excitement that we had the privilege to be the ones to greet them upon arrival, and we had a meal waiting to re-energize their weary travel-drained bodies. I know this made an impact. A few months after the first family arrived, on our outing to get him soccer shoes, their youngest son asked me, “Were you one of the people at the airport when we arrived?” When I told him I was, he just smiled a broad smile.

The organization hosting us this summer, For Refugees, also works with churches that are willing to welcome refugees into their communities. They are part of a sponsorship program that has the potential to bring refugees arriving in the U.K. directly into caring communities. What an impact this could have on how these refugees feel about their new home country and on their children as they see that this community wants them to be here. What bridges might be built? What peace might be waged by this simple act of welcome?

I’m very grateful that this organization has welcomed John and I with such open arms and hearts. I cannot imagine arriving into a situation of anger and hatred. So much can be accomplished with this intentional act of welcome. And I’m truly humbled that we get to work with this team this summer to assess opportunities to welcome unaccompanied refugee and asylum-seeking children here and across Europe.

I guess it is time for me to learn the word for “Welcome” in a lot of languages!! 

In : Response 

Tags: church  refugees  "asylum seekers"  "unaccompanied refugee children" 

Blog Authors

John and Kaylee Kolditz Kaylee founded Refugee Connect in 2008. John joined the work in 2011 as we investigated the refugee situation in Europe. But our faith and cross-cultural journeys have been a work-in-progress for many years. Much of this blog reflects that. ************************************************ We met in Austin, TX, while volunteering at a serving event at Gateway Church and have been married since 2002. Marriage, parenting and ministry all require a great deal of intentionality, humility and true reliance on God for strength, wisdom, and grace. It is a journey we are grateful to be on together. Ultimately, what matters to us is building into meaningful relationships in ways that, to the best of our ability and by God's grace, demonstrate the love and hope Jesus freely offers to us all. ************************************************ We bring both business and ministry backgrounds into our current work. John started a business in his 20's and helped build several other businesses. He has also served with churches in a variety of roles including as an assistant pastor, director of community development, and missions board member. Kaylee left her marketing career to become the global missions director for our home church in Austin, TX, then founded a local refugee ministry, and became TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in order to prepare for our work overseas. We have led short-term teams domestically and internationally, and served with a variety of cross-cultural ministries. In 2008, we sensed a call to build into the church in Europe, which was also around the time when God broke Kaylee’s heart for refugees. Since then, God has continued to weave together this heart for refugees, desire to serve alongside the church, and focus on His call to Europe.

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