Written by: Christi Armstrong (World Relief Spokane Employment Specialist)
It was just one year ago that my life was forever changed. If you had asked me what I knew about the people of Sudan then, my answer would have been very simple and to the point. “They are people who live in the desert. It gets very cold at night. Our church gathered a massive amount of blankets and sent them to the people of Sudan a few years ago. Shipping was crazy expensive!”
That was the extent of my knowledge. I didn’t even know where Sudan was located on the map!
One year ago a group of Sudanese men walked through the door of our classroom and into my heart. They brought with them names, faces, families, and life journeys. Before that day, I, like most Americans, wondered why the government brings these people, these refugees, to the United States. It didn’t make sense that we import people to vie for jobs, overwhelm our already stressed social services system, and add to the overcrowding in our schools.
Now, I number among the sons of my heart Omar, Musa, Abdul, Issa, Mohamed and many others. Now I understand that their life journeys include not just hunger, the cold of the desert nights, and lack of adequate shelter. Their life stories include watching fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters being tortured to death, fleeing into the jungle as soldiers gun down every black man they see and take the women and children to abuse them and throw them away. One of my sons sees fire at night when he tries to sleep. Though no one else sees it, the fire is very real to him. Now, I understand that his broken mind remembers people he loves being doused with gasoline and burned to death.
In 365 days my Western, American mind set has been completely wrecked by these precious people. Do me a favor. When you see someone who is different in the store, or getting on the bus, the server at the restaurant, the one struggling to communicate a need to the sales person or the school teacher, in their broken English, please don’t look away. You are probably in the presence of someone who has been through unspeakable horrors and came to America, hoping. They are very different from me and my white, American family and friends. They have taught me so much about perseverance, loving like this is your last day on earth, and continuing to hope when there seems to be no hope. Please don’t look away.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Emma Lazarus, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty)
Below is a picture of Christi and her Sudanese sons.