Six weeks ago, my dad dropped me off at the beautiful Mennonite Voluntary Service home in the neighborhood of Rosedale in Kansas City. Within five minutes, the entire staff of Rainbow Mennonite Church, my down-the-street host congregation, had arrived to say hello, help me carry my bags up the stairs, and assure me that friendly faces, fiery sermons, warm meals, hymn-sings, and all the Sunday coffee and donuts I could ever want would always be just a block away. I felt an immediate sense of relief and welcome that hasn't left since. Rainbow Mennonite has indeed proven to be the most generous and warmly welcoming community I could have hoped for. I'm looking forward to our church symposium at the end of the month, called "The Ongoing White Supremacy of Our Everyday Lives." It will be an opportunity for Rainbow to examine its own conscience regarding racial bias with the long-term goal of inviting the neighborhood and congregations similar to us into the conversation.
Today begins my fifth week of work at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS). Recently, I was the KC "local" at the Kansas City International Airport to welcome a group of 11 Congolese refugees to the United States. "You may not realize it now," my supervisor, Steve Weitkamp, told me, "but you will never forget this experience." From what I can tell, he's right. My co-worker and I drove out to the airport with the 20-year-old son of the matriarch of the arriving family. Whether it had been months or years since he'd last seen his mother, we didn't know. Within minutes of finding the gate, 10 more Congolese men had arrived to wait with us. When they suddenly stood up, clapping and waving, we looked up to see a group of several women and many small children walking dazedly out of the restricted section toward us. I feel the tears welling up just thinking about it; their smiles were electric, and the men were waving their hands in the air and cheering, hugging their sisters and kissing their babies. It was an intimate moment of beautiful reunion that I was privileged to witness. It was clear that my job was nothing more than to step back. This family was in good hands, and, I think, resting in the hands of God at that moment.
Since then, I have also had the privilege to teach this family in two community orientation classes: one about the social services available to them, and one about safety, rights, and laws in the United States. I teach two classes per week on these subjects, communicating through Kiswahili interpreters to groups of six to 18 clients at a time. I love teaching these classes, and constantly thinking about ways that I can improve and make them more applicable and welcoming. I also adore my R&P (refugee reception and placement) team, who are hilarious, compassionate, and the hardest-working people I know. They are almost all former refugees themselves. I am learning so much from each of them, and having so much fun in the process. I honestly look forward to going to work every day ... is this supposed to happen in my first job out of college?? (Fun fact: My new nickname is "Sarah Teacher" – there are three other Sarahs who work at JVS!)
In the next month, I am looking forward to sharing life with my three new housemates who moved in last week! I'm unreasonably excited for pretty much everything I see ahead, and I am just $330 away from my fundraising goal of $3,000. If you would like to contribute, you can do so at my MobileCause page.