It was last fall, and my first time welcoming a new refugee as a Resettlement Case Manager. I was nervously waiting at the airport for a 24-year old Karen* woman arriving from Thailand.
Questions raced through my brain:
⦁ How long has she been apart from her family?
⦁ How would she adjust to her new home in Minnesota?
⦁ Would she bond with her new neighbor friend?
Arriving All Alone
She arrived all alone, and my heart broke as I learned more of what she’d left behind.
“I was wondering why people were smiling at me. In my country, we don’t smile at one another.”
But, I was amazed at her resilience and enjoyed our growing relationship.
I was surprised to learn that she left her mother and father behind in the Thai refugee camp. Because she’s an adult, they were not able to come with her. She arrived in Minnesota as the hope for her family, and perhaps one day her parents will be approved to join her. Instead of being reunited with close family, she lived with a houseful of extended relatives, none of whom she had ever met before. It was hard for me to imagine all that she was feeling as she settled into her new place.
Getting Used to a New Culture
We met frequently in those early weeks, including getting together for a cultural orientation. During that discussion, I mentioned how Americans will often greet you with a smile.
“…that friendship was helping with her integration and growth.”
She looked directly at me and said, “I was wondering why people were smiling at me. In my country, we don’t smile at one another.”
While it was a minor point, I felt we had crossed an important milestone in her understanding of American culture.
After 3-months, she started asking more and more questions (in English!) and seemed increasingly happy. We had also connected her with a new neighbor from a local church, and that friendship was helping with her integration and growth.
Feeling at Ease with the Transition
It was time to close her resettlement case and work with other refugee arrivals. While it can be hard to move on, it’s reassuring to know that this young woman is connected to new friends through Arrive Ministries and is on the path to independent living.
After all, that’s why we’re here – to welcome refugees and to facilitate life transformation for both them and the church.
We depend on volunteers and donors just like you to facilitate this transformation. While there’s quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding new refugee arrivals, our purpose remains unchanged and we work tirelessly every day to see this mutual transformation occur.
As we approach the end of our fiscal year on March 31st, will you consider supporting Arrive Ministries financially? Your new, increased and recurring donations ensure that people in transition, like my Karen friend, are welcomed, loved and supported.
Thank you for your continued support.
Reception & Placement Case Manager
*The Karen are an ethnic group from Burma who fled because of persecution, living as refugees mostly in Thailand. Most Karen in Minnesota are Christians.