Twenty (!) years ago we moved to England. So I know what it's like to be an "alien in a foreign land."
Despite the fact that I cried for the first month of moving there because change challenges me, it wasn't exactly a hardship. After all, we already knew the language (grin), were familiar with some of the traditional foods (my grandmother was a British war bride) and I attended an American Community School which minimized the differences in my high school education. Enhanced it, in fact. (See the bottom of this post for some fun differences we experienced across the pond.)
My mom saw it as a 2.5 year vacation. I think coming back and readjusting to life state-side proved the bigger challenge.
But what if that move was not really our desire and to a country where the language, customs, people, everything, were completely foreign to us? I think I might have cried longer than one month.
So the plight of the refugee is especially close to my heart. And knowing God chose this status for His Son in His tender years makes it all the more dear.
Because it's hard to imagine leaving a country you love, mostly like displaced because of war. Or trying to navigate multiple airports without a guide. Or arriving in your new country where the language barrier makes every. day. harder. And receiving a whirlwind tour of your new home and encountering a stove, a fridge, a light switch for the first time.
And over the course of the next few months, trying to learn English, get a job, find childcare, get around without a car, decipher the piles of paperwork arriving at your door and try to navigate the establishments that are just part of the American scenery...schools, grocery stores, banks, post offices, libraries, restaurants, not to mention the laws and customs spoken and unspoken.
It's exhausting and overwhelming just typing it.
But there is hope for these families because of refugee mentor training programs. Dave and I are signed up to attend one later this month. We're hoping to join the other couples in our church who mentor refugee families, helping them to transition to North American life. And a quick online search or inquiry at your local city government could reveal a similar program available in your area if you have a refugee population settling there.
Jesus was a refugee. He still is. And the good news is that He's in my own backyard.
Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9 NIV 1984)
Life in England: A Snapshot of Differences
- The door handles are placed much higher on the door, perhaps to prevent children from opening the ones they should not touch? (my theory)
- I don't know if this still is true, but twenty years ago, the stores closed by 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. - planning required!
- The fridges were smaller requiring frequent trips to the store - the focus was on fresh
- If we desired it, we could have had our milk delivered in bottles daily
- The parking spaces were much narrower, but the cars were smaller too
- They served ice cream in the movie theater
- Cadbury (chocolate) vending machines were in the tube (subway) stations.
- "Mind the gap" was not an advertisement for the chain store - it was a caution for tube travelers to mind the space between the platform and the tube
- Ploughman's lunches are standard offerings in pubs - usually consisting of bread, cheese and fruit
- I miss, miss, miss the roundabouts - they make so much more sense than stop signs!
- You couldn't turn left on red (equivalent to us turning right on red. the whole driving on the other side of the road thing)
- Peanut butter was not such a big deal there (gasp!). Marmite (yeast extract) was. What would I do now without the PBJ standby for the kid's lunches?
- They had unique flavors for their crisps (chips) like prawn cocktail.
- To my delight, most black candy was flavored black currant, not black licorice