“Can I come visit your house?”
My heart took a leap when I glanced down and saw my friend’s message on the phone screen. Did she want to come to my house?
The text went on to say that she had missed us seeing each other over the Thanksgiving holiday and she knew I had moved, so she now wanted to come see my new apartment.
This was the first time any of my friends had wanted to come visit our home. I had had one Afghan friend come over to cook together at my old apartment. And there had been a few evenings when another friend from Myanmar had come so we could practice reading together away from the clingy arms of her three- and one-year-old sons. But now this friend was asking to come over?
My mind was torn between total excitement and nervousness. The excitement was because I had been praying for God to make very clear which refugee ladies to spend more time with and share Jesus stories with. I had asked Him to give me a sign, and what’s more clear than a sweet friend texting you, “Can I come to your house asap?”
But on the other hand, having a friend in your house can be a bit nerve-wracking (if you’re like me) because you start to think you have to have the perfect tea and cookies, a clean living room, everything “just right.” I have become very comfortable going into my refugee friends’ homes and I never expect them to have perfect living rooms, but having them come visit me made the Type A in me freak out a bit.
But I also knew this was my sign from God. So I texted back “of course!” and we set up a time for the following day for her to come visit. And when she came, we had the best time! We sat in the living room for almost two hours, chatting over cookies and water -- after all my worries, she wasn’t even in the mood for tea, and bottled water was plenty (oh, the irony). And our conversation went deep. Before I knew it, we started sharing our stories.
She shared how she followed her husband from Myanmar to Malaysia when he had to flee for political persecution reasons. They lived and worked there for years. That’s where her daughter was born, and she shared how hard it was to work up until labor and then be at home in a one-room apartment with a newborn and no one to help her -- no mother, no female friend, no one with any experience to share. Then their family came to America and her son was born here. Again, no friends to help out. She told how that has been a theme in her life: she has to figure it all out alone. And while she loves America and is thankful to be here, she longs for her family back in Myanmar and the community she was raised with in her village. My heart was wrung as I heard her say, “America is good, but it is lonely.”
I wonder, “How can we be family to people like my friend?”
Perhaps it is through being available to be known. Through visiting and being there when she needs a friend to go along to the local college to help her sign up for classes. Or inviting her and her kids to go on a local hike on days when her husband has to work one of his 16-hour days and she has no one to explore with. And most importantly, I believe it is in opening our homes. Because when we open our homes, we become vulnerable like our refugee friends and neighbors. We dare to share our messy homes and lives with them, and let them know that we are also lonely sometimes. Beneath the busy surface, we are often isolated, too. And perhaps, as we open our homes and our hearts to true friendship, we can point them to the One who fills the loneliness in our hearts, and then we can truly become family in Christ.