Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks in a Hurting World

Last week was hard for those of us who share our lives with refugees. By week’s end my heart felt bruised. Despite phone calls and letters and appeals to our government officials, the United States Congress passed an anti refugee bill. I don’t know why this was such a shock to me, since social media beat the anti refugee drum loudly.

The negative comments from my social media friends surprised me. And hurt. To the many people calling for stricter background checks I wanted to ask, do you know what the laws already require for refugees currently entering the United States? Because existing laws are stringent, and I think if more of us knew what is already required, we wouldn't be so afraid. Current Security Screening Process

Still, it has been my experience that the hard days do pass and good days return. We went to church last weekend, bringing two overfilled carloads of New Americans-refugees. Kevin and I were crawled all over and hugged by a myriad of small children. When my sweet friend, three year old Agisaro, climbed onto my lap and snuggled in, the hurt around my heart started loosening. She soon wandered back to her mom and four year old Simbi who was sitting beside me leaned up and whispered, “Sawna, I want on your lap.” I felt the hurt crumble away even more.

After church we gave away over thirty coats our friends from near and far had sent to keep our newer friends warm this winter. For some this will be their first Idaho winter, their first experience with snow and ice.

Kevin spent Monday afternoon cleaning the gutters of our house. He enlisted the help of thirteen year old New American, Justin and offered to pay him for his labor. Justin’s mom said, “No. Don’t pay him, because you don’t pay family to help you.” And all the remaining hurt fell away from my heart. How could I stay in a place of hurt when I am loved so well?

Tuesday we had Thanksgiving dinner for our Bible study kids. Thirteen noisy, giggling, refugee kids around the table. Some have been here four or five years. Our newest arrived just two months ago. We went around the table and shared what we are most thankful for this year. Half of these children said, “I’m grateful to be alive and that my family is alive.” Have you ever heard a ten year old speak those words? They are not easy words to hear.

This Thanksgiving we will be sixteen around our table. Caleb and Claire arrived home safely yesterday, in spite of the snow, and I breathed a sigh of relief. My sweet Rebecca will be my cooking partner in the kitchen. Friends and family will fill the benches. When two year old David does something outrageously cute, his mom and I will share a look, and I will get to see that sparkling smile in her eyes that I never saw when I first met her. America has been good to her family. Kevin will sit at the head of the table and lead us in a prayer that will likely make me cry, because how in the world did all these people come into my life and stick?

I know holidays are hard for some. I’m so sorry. I wish I could invite you all into my home and share this life - this love with you. For a long time, I wasn’t brave enough to let people inside my little world, inside my little family. For a long time it was just us four, Kevin, Shawna, Caleb, Rebecca. It was sweet, but sometimes it was lonely.

I’m so glad Africa came to Boise. If you don’t know any New Americans, any refugees, I hope you’ll meet some. I hope you’ll let them bless you with their friendship and love. 

This Thanksgiving there are no Americans more thankful than the newest ones. And maybe me.

Psalm 146:5-9
Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
executing justice for the exploited
and giving food to the hungry.
The Lord frees prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are oppressed.[b]
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects foreigners
and helps the fatherless and the widow,
but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.


  1. This is absolutely beautiful, Shawna! It makes me wish that our town had jobs that could support refugees so that we could join in the fun and community.

  2. You are doing a great work! We live in a very transient community with a lot of people moving in and out for university studies. We always open our home to those without family at Thanksgiving time. Last year we had 7 different countries represented around our table. It was a beautiful time together! Blessings on you as you continue to you move in this direction of helping the refugees. ~ Rachel (Your neighbor at Inspire Me Monday)

    1. Oh, thank you Rachel. I do love having friends and new friends in my home. Thank you for encouraging me.