some pretty amazing humans (episode 1)

8 11 2015

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Something interesting has been happening lately. 

We have had a chance to start listening to people’s stories.  And we are amazed at how people really just want to talk and be heard. 

We are getting details on some amazing stores, and I would love to share about some of these remarkable humans that live on this planet.

Last week, after one of the really busy youth conference meetings in Östersund, we went down for some fika (coffee and a sandwich or cake, with lots of chatting).  In a very crowded basement, with lots of discussing and communicating, my eyes were drawn to a young lady sitting crumpled into a chair.   Her beanie pulled low with a particular tilt reminded me of so many of my African sisters I have met in the past.  I just love greeting people from my birth-continent, and looking for points of similarity. 

Straight away we found one of those points: Afrikaans language!  Angie*  said she came from Namibia, which neighbours on South Africa and several people are fluent in Afrikaans.  Deon and I are the only Afrikaans speakers for hundreds of kilometres… this was going to be fun! 

What is so obvious, when you begin listening, is that not many people do seem to want to hear these stories.  There are treasures of bravery, persistence and tenacity just waiting to be heard. 

Angie is originally from DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo.  War has ravaged her country since 1996, with an estimated 5,4 million people killed so far. 

She and her family escaped to refugee camps in northern Namibia, where they lived for fifteen years. (She last saw her father in early childhood in Namibia, and has no idea where he is).   Last year, the camps were closed down and the UNHCR allocated various refugees to various countries.  There was not much choice at all in which country they would go to, how long they had to prepare, and how well prepared they were for their new homes. 

So Angie and her family climbed off the ‘plane in the middle of November in Sweden, wearing T-shirts and flip flops.  They were assigned to a new home: in a little town in rural Sweden.  Incoming asylum seekers are given very basic supplies:  One blanket each, one plastic plate and set of cutlery each, one pot per family.   Angie’s family were caught up in a misunderstanding regarding getting furniture from a local Second Hand store:  They are still paying off a debt for furniture. 

These details were shared not to gain sympathy, but as an African sister who might understand how foreign different ways of thinking are, and how very strange it is to come into this world from an African camp. 

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We laughed together at missing typical Southern African foods (biltong! boerewors!)  and spoke a little about school and her family situation. 

This amazing young lady really misses Netball.  She just missed qualifying for the national Namibian team (That takes remarkable skill:  Netball is a game of great speed and agility, and the girls from the tribes where she grew up are known for their extraordinary skill).  Now she would love to play football (soccer) more often, but because the town she lives in is so small, there is no real competition and opportunity for her to stretch those skills.  (I am guessing she would put a lot of good players to shame too!) 

At 16 years of age, being removed from familiar circles of friends and stability is regarded as incredibly stressful.  Instead of seeking ways to be sorry for herself, Angie is looking for ways to help others.  She is working with a lady in her church to begin a group teaching sewing and cookery skills to newly- arrived migrants. 

Angie switched easily from English to Afrikaans, and is making great progress in Swedish (I did not want to be put to further shame when she admitted to speaking Otshiwarongo.  I am sure she speaks a few other languages too!) .  Clearly, this young lady is very intelligent, and her brains would be beneficial anywhere! 

She suggested she might want to study to be a teacher one day (yeah!  good choice!) but would far prefer to teach in Africa than in Sweden:  in her words “Having kids call me by my first name? No! Uh uh!”.  

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Fitting into places that just do not feel like home is not easy. 

Obviously more and more people are having to adjust to this kind of situation.  It does help to keep things in their real perspective,  the eternal one. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,… (Eph 2:19, 20)  

 

Angie has made a difference to me, just after one conversation.  Her past may not be fantastic, but she has a future just out of this world! 

 

*  Name changed in case there may be some rules of Asylum, Protection or other rights that I may have overstepped.  Want to keep my African sister and her family safe! 

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