Editor's Note: We will occasionally publish reflections from our work across the world. In these articles, you'll see Servant Partners mission in action. The publications of Servant Partners Press reflect that mission.
In just a couple of days my wife Zoe and I will be returning to the United States for what our organization calls our "season of reflection," a few months away after finishing our first two years or so living overseas, building relationships with African refugees in a large Arab city.
It'll be a time of processing and reflecting, of reconnecting with people, of resting, of learning and preparing, and having a baby. We have so many good stories, and writing these down it strikes me that a lot of them are the result of taking the time to live right in the community and getting to know people and learning the language well rather than just diving into running some program or another.
I'm grateful for that, and I'm especially grateful to all of you who have supported us with prayers and finances to free us up to take this time to learn first.
- It's amazing the doors that are opened by knowing a language and culture well. A few weeks ago, I visited a community association in our neighborhood for people of the country the refugees are from. I had seen it before but never entered. As soon as I came in and they heard me speaking their own dialect of Arabic, they were amazed and everyone wanted to talk to me. Then, they were really shocked to find out that I knew how to play the specific card game people from their country play (I've played it many times with refugees in the tea shops) and invited me to join. I was instantly accepted into their group. It felt like I had a super power! I was introduced to so many new people, all from tribes I didn't previously have connections to, and many of them could be important contacts for future community development work (significantly, many of them are not transient refugees but have chosen to live here for the long-term, and others have connections in the business world or the embassy).
- Zoe and I recently had a small community meeting of refugees, discussing community issues. It was sort of a test run for what we want to do with many more people this winter after we come back here. It was encouraging because community members were willing to come talk about how they could improve their community and also because our Arabic was good enough to facilitate the meeting (though we still have a very long way to go!).
- I was encouraged to have had several people recently tell me "you know everyone!", and someone recently said that about me to Zoe also. While it's far from true, it's still is a nice result of living here for more than two years and intentionally trying to get to know people.