The Vickery Meadows community is where Melissa and I started our ministry in February of 2003. Our heart was to go where we didn’t see ministry happening and that was Vickery. For those who don’t know about Vickery Meadows, it is about a 4 square mile lower-income area where over 25,000 people live. There are around 100 apartment complexes or condos. When you drive through there, you might think that you are in another country. There are people from all over the world in this place. Hundreds of languages are spoken. It is my favorite place in the world! In 2002, after 3 months of marriage, Melissa and I moved into the Vickery community and lived there for 1.5 years. When we first moved in, we didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, but by living there we got to see what the need was. At the time, Melissa was still in school, and I was mowing lawns our first year of marriage. That first year of marriage was definitely an adventure!
While living there, we started seeing these different looking people from all over the world, but we didn’t know where they were coming from. We finally figured out that they were refugees. What is a refugee? By definition: A refugee is one that flees; a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution. Every war or genocide you have heard about in the last 20 years (Iraq, Afghanistan,Bosnia, Rwanda, Dafur, etc..), many of those people are coming here. Here are the countries that we have worked with: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Columbia, Cuba, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam, Congo, Somalia, Liberia, Togo, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Burma and Nepal. These people are in such great need. These people have suffered hardships that most of us cannot even imagine. They have faced war, murder, starvation, loss of all possessions, rape, genocide, and ethic cleansing. Every family has faced at least one of these. Some families have faced it all. We know countless people who have lost family members. We know children who watched their family members killed in front of them. We know children who have faced starvation. We know a man who lost all of his children and wife and father in a bombing in Afghanistan. We know a man who lost his entire family in Iraq when Saddam gassed the Kurds. We know a man whose wife was raped in front of him. The stories go on and on. These are real stories, and these people have pain that most of us cannot even imagine. These people not only have tremendous physical needs but huge spiritual and emotional needs as well. It’s so difficult for them to adjust to life here. Imagine an African family who has never even seen electricity before, who has lived in a refugee camp in a tent for 15 years, and then comes to America with no English or education and is expected to adjust to our society; and they only have 4 to 6 months to do it. They have to learn English, get a job, learn our transportation system, banking system, and pay bills, etc.. Some have never even seen a toilet before! We can only imagine this. To get an idea of what they go through I would suggest watching the documentary called “God Grew Tired of Us.” It won the academy award. It will give you a great picture of what refugees go through.
Melissa and I and our children are so lucky to get to experience life with refugees. We get to experience so many cultures. My favorite thing is when I am in a refugee’s apartment visiting the family. It feels like I am in another country. I get to be in “other ” countries every day.
Our first family we “adopted” through the resettlement program was an Afghan family. That was nine years ago! They are like our family. We have watched their kids grow up like they are our children. We go to each others houses and visit. We will go to weddings and all special events. They have been to a lake house with us. You haven’t seen anything yet, until you see an Afghan woman riding on a jet ski for the first time! I bet she never thought that one day she would be riding on a jet ski:) We continue to be great friends. They are so grateful to us because of how much we helped them transition into America. They usually thank us with Afghan food. My favorite!
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