This Thursday will mark two weeks at Abbey Lane, our new home. For some reason, “Abbey Lane” conjures up images of a sprawling estate in London, not an apartment complex in a less-than-desirable part of Columbus, Ohio.
Well played, apartment complex builder people. We love how it rolls off our tongues.
I don’t know how long it takes people to feel at home in a new place (I should know, since we’ve moved so many stinking times, but the last time was 7.5 years ago.), but we feel at home here already.
I don’t know the exact percentages, but someone told us this apartment complex is made up of 70% East African refugees (primarily Somali). There are 300+ families who live here, so that’s a pretty high number. The rest (I’m guessing) are African-American with a sprinkling of Caucasians.
I probably don’t need to tell you that I love being a minority.
I probably do need to mention that being one of the only white people in an apartment complex in America is not exactly being a “minority” in the truest sense of the word. We are experiencing exactly zero oppression or racism or persecution because of our skin color and ethnic heritage.
In fact, we are seen by many as heroes for moving here. PLEASE allow me to put that notion to rest FOR GOOD right here and now. We lived in a house for 7+ years. We can no longer afford our house. This is where we can afford to live right now. And while, yes, we believe God has called us to love and bless the immigrant, foreigner, alien, refugee, poor (whatever title you want to use), we also know that we’re going to be blessed here far more than we bless.
Last Sunday (December 29), we (and several other families) delivered gift baskets to the families of the kiddos who come to tutoring on Tuesday nights. We stayed at one home for almost an hour and the other for an hour and a half. We left the 2nd home with an invitation to come back Friday for dinner.
Friday rolled around, we showed up, and we were showered with sambusa, chicken steak (yes, I know we’re vegan–making exceptions in the name of neighborliness), curry rice and salad. And of course, Somali tea (sha), the best tea in the universe. And gifts.
On Saturday, we had three neighbor kiddos over for cake and coloring/doing puzzles/building with blocks. One of the girls left, making sure we’d be at dinner at her place the next evening.
Sunday: more sambusa, goat, curry rice, salad, injera (Ethiopian bread) w/meat, “ice cream.” And more tea. And more gifts.
Learning new words and cultural customs and people’s names and their histories. And several amazing opportunities to share what we believe about certain things. I mean wowza.
I can’t think of a better way to spend our 16th anniversary (Friday) or Nina’s 8th birthday (Sunday) than in the homes of new Somali friends. (Okay, so the time we spent our 14th anniversary and Nina’s 6th bday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but other than that.)
Monday it was too cold to leave our apartment (it was -9 degrees with a windchill of -30, and there’s wind pouring through the windows and ice on the inside of them), but our next-door neighbors (white American believers and our inspiration for moving here) came over for dinner and Settlers (they had us over for dinner last week).
So we’re kind of living a charmed life (apart from the hard stuff that’s going on) and kind of shaking our heads in awe. As I posted on Facebook yesterday, Gabe had a really hard morning. Lots of tears and fears. We all circled around him and prayed for him one by one (all crying) and then Gabe asked the girls how they were feeling.
Ava was too upset to talk. Nina (oh, she’s such an old soul for being 8 and 2 days), sobbing, said she just feels like her life has no purpose. What is her purpose for being here on this earth? She feels lost. She wants things to be normal and happy.
And Livi? She said one word: hopeful. When I asked her why, she said, “because of how far God has already brought us.”
More tears from Gabe this morning, but he’s in the middle of a counseling session via phone right now (I didn’t want him out in the frigid weather and icy streets). AND we got an offer on our house last night! For the exact amount our bank approved! Pray that everything works out quickly and perfectly.
One last thing. We’re now connected online with several of our new friends, so I’m going to need to be sensitive about what I share. If you’d like to receive updates/requests via e-mail periodically, please send me a quick note here.
Thanks, friends. I’m going to try to blog a little more often in 2014. Woohoo!