New Friends, New Life

On January 30, 2019, Minnesota received temperatures approaching -30 degrees on what turned out to be the coldest day of winter. That same night, Arrive Ministries welcomed Lah, his pregnant wife, Tra, and their three-year old daughter, Lian, who had spent the majority of their lives in a Karen refugee camp in Thailand.

A Refugee Life Ministries team from Church of the Redeemer joined Arrive Ministries staff and Lah’s aunt at the airport to receive this family. Despite the cold temperatures, this team persevered, intent not to miss offering smiles and friendship from the start.

In the months that have followed, I have watched this friendship grow. RLM Teams are asked to commit to visiting the family three to four times a month, and this team has been faithful to that commitment. In doing so, the friendship has expanded to not just the nuclear family of three, but to the aunt and her four children as well. The team has expressed their joy at “getting two families” out of their connection, sharing how much they have learned and been transformed by the hospitality and kindness shown them by these families.

Some ways the team has been able to grow their relationship is by helping with resettlement appointments, having dinner and game nights with both Karen families, inviting the families into their homes and visiting them at theirs. The team leaders found a Karen-English picture book that they read with Lian, who they tell me gets more vibrant and excited every time they see her and has taken to calling them “Pee Pee” and “Pu Pu” (the Karen names for grandma and grandpa).

The women on the team had a baby shower, with Karen food, games, and practical gifts for the little one. I watched the young mom, who likely had no idea what a baby shower was until she arrived, gradually grasp what was happening and well up with tears of gratitude. Through her aunt’s interpretation, Tra shared, “I have never been surprised in my whole life and I am so happy. I wish I could say ‘thank you’ to everyone here, but my English is not good. I am so thankful.” It was also at the shower that she asked the team leaders to select a name for her and Lah’s baby. What an incredible honor that speaks to the depth of this friendship.

In addition to loving the family socially and physically, the team has been intentional to love them spiritually. As this family is Christian, they have joined the team at their church on numerous occasions and Lah has attended men’s Bible study. The team prays for and with this family regularly – for financial stability, their adjustment to life in Minnesota, and for the health of Tra during her pregnancy and the baby.

Shortly after the baby shower, I received this communication from the team leader: “In early May, Tra had a baby boy. Cris and I named him Solomon Kyawin, with the middle name from his paternal grandfather who died in the Burmese war. And he is beautiful and Lian is amazing. Tra exudes peace and contentment and Lah has seemingly grown in stature since he is now a father of two.”

Watching this progression of relationship, I am reminded of 1 Thessalonians 2:8, a verse we recite often, “We were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so very dear to us.”

That cold Wednesday night in January when most of us were thinking about putting on multiple layers and our cars starting, Our Great God, in His providence, had this connection in mind. He is constantly at work, bringing families to our communities, and raising up churches to welcome them with His love.

written by Wendy Meyering, Director of Refugee Life Ministries