We couldn’t have anticipated the impact that this family would have on our own. I think the special bond our families formed took all of us by surprise.
Inviting a refugee family to stay in our home is one of the best experiences Darrin and I have shared in our marriage. While we have always enjoyed building cross-cultural relationships, we couldn’t have anticipated the impact that this family would have on our own. I think the special bond our families formed took all of us by surprise.
The first day the family arrived, we were all a bit nervous. It was our first time hosting through Arrive Ministries. Would the family feel comfortable? Would they like what we cooked? Would they want to spend time with us? Would there be a language barrier? We really wanted them to feel at home. The family had their own question marks, which we learned about weeks later… Whose home would they be sharing? Perhaps a hotel would be easier?
As we talked and learned more about each other over the next few days, everyone relaxed. I felt a warmth and special connection with the mom and teenage daughter. Even with a language barrier, conversation flowed naturally. When things got lost in translation, we’d all share a good laugh.
Darrin also enjoyed taking tea after dinner and spending time with the guys: dad, uncle, teenage son, and 11-year-old son. Their Fifa soccer video gaming soon led to a competitive tournament in our basement. Running up the stairs, the youngest son proudly declared to the rest of us that he was the final champ!
New Year’s meal that our families shared, including dolma, an Iraqi dish made on special occasions. When the family stayed with us, they promised (many times!) to have us over for dolma once they settled into their new home. The mom spent a few days preparing this incredible feast for all of us!
The whole family loved our son as their own…. The entire family cheered Boden on as he took his very first steps; they were nearly as excited as we were.
Like one large family, we cooked, ate, and shared Iraqi tea together nearly every day. We talked about culture and faith, paged through each other’s family photo albums, went for walks, and laughed together as real friends.
Our 15-month-old son, Boden, also gained a loyal playmate in the family’s youngest son. Boden would wait at the top of the stairs for him to come up every morning. And the son woke up extra early on the family’s last day with us to spend more time with Boden. The two were inseparable.
The whole family loved our son as their own. Uncle sang Iraqi children’s songs to Boden in the afternoons.
Mom played Iraqi peekaboo (which Boden still plays to this day) and fed him kleichas (Iraqi cookies) on her lap in the evenings. Dad insisted that Boden join for all of our group outings. And the kids came up with fun distractions anytime Boden cried. The entire family even cheered Boden on as he took his very first steps; they were nearly as excited as we were.
Before leaving, they said that they now feel like they have family in the U.S. This meant so much to us because we felt the same.
Admittedly, I teared up the day the family moved out. Before leaving, they said that they now feel like they have family in the U.S. This meant so much to us because we felt the same. They weren’t just neighbors or friends; they had become family. God had totally redefined and expanded “family” for all of us, and I am still amazed by His goodness in this!
The dad, a man of few words, offered kind encouragement that final day: “This is just the beginning.” And it was! Since then, we have gotten together with the family a few times, celebrated New Year’s together, and communicate almost weekly. We are so grateful to have shared daily life for three weeks with such a special family. And we look forward to making many more memories with our new and dear friends.
I pray as other volunteers open their homes and hearts to our new neighbors, that they, and the families they host, can experience His amazing goodness as well!
Ashely and Darrin Chitwood volunteer with Arrive Ministries by offering their home to host refugees in need of temporary housing.