Written by Cheryl Lyda
It is 9 pm, and I’m at the new Eisenhower Airport waiting for an arrival. While I have often waited for the arrival of a flight in order to welcome friends and family, this is a different sort of welcome. I am here, along with Edgar a caseworker from IRC, a refugee resettlement organization in Wichita. We are waiting to welcome a family of four from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are the last arrivals off the plane and easy to spot with their traditional clothing and their two little girls, ages one and two. The mother and father seem very unsure and nervous, not to mention just plain tired. The two year old clings to mom’s skirts, while the one year is peacefully sleeping on mom’s chest with a large scarf wrapped around them both.
After loading their luggage in our cars, Edgar and I drive them to their apartment we had prepared the day before. A warm meal of chicken and rice is waiting, but first an orientation to American ovens, stove, smoke detectors, microwaves, etc. is given. Fortunately, Edgar speaks their native tongue. When we leave them alone in their new home I am overwhelmed by what they have to learn, adjust to and how alone they must feel. A few days later I saw the family again at the IRC office where I do volunteer work. They greeted me with warm hugs and even the two year old smiled shyly and waved at me. I’m in awe of their resilience but that is probably a lesson well learned after years in a refugee camp.
This is only one of many stories of some of the newest members of the Wichita community. As I get to know more of these families and learn their stories, I am amazed at what they have overcome and how determined they are to make a fresh start in the United States. On December 5, at 1:30 pm, Grace, along with Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, is providing a holiday meal in our Great Room for the families IRC serves. If you would like to be involved, please check the bulletin board to sign up to help or to provide a dessert or salad. If you’d like to learn more about IRC or the Wichita refugee community I’d love to chat with you.Share