I’ve so enjoyed getting to know the refugee family we were assigned through World Relief. It has taught me firsthand how any person who is refugee is unique and not just a number. It has also been fun helping someone learn about American culture. One of the most rewarding things was when one of their teenage kids recently got a job at Cookout and I was able to be part of that process – he was quite excited. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know the others on our Good Neighbor Team.
Judson Van Wyk
This was my greeting the other day as I walked into Reality Ministries. My good friend Sidney was ragging on me for getting emotional at my last “Tuesday Night Live” gathering a couple evenings before, since I was about to move away from Durham after graduating from divinity school.
TNL, as we call it, is a weekly time when teens and adults with and without intellectual/developmental disabilities gather together at the Reality Center to eat, laugh, sing, and celebrate their mutual belovedness in Christ. It is one of the very few places I have encountered where the condition for belonging truly is mere presence—though, perhaps I shouldn’t say “mere.” Because during the past three years of volunteering and interning at Reality, I have begun to learn that “mere” presence is one of the greatest gifts we are able to receive or to give.
Certainly, there are some particular things to learn and consider in relationships with folks who have intellectual or sensory disabilities. But I—and anyone around Reality—would be the first to tell you: I am no “professional.” I do not bring some sort of “expertise,” “ability,” or “technique” that makes me as an intern exceptionally “useful.” I—like every other participant, volunteer, and staff person at Reality—merely show up. The miracle of Reality is that my “showing up” (and everyone else’s) is received by others as a gift genuinely worth celebrating. In the midst of a world (and sometimes in the church) where we are constantly defined and hierarchically categorized by what we do, this is a radical thing.
So, yes, I got a little emotional at my last TNL the other night. Sidney may give me a hard time, but during my time at Reality he (and many others) gave me a gift that remains one of the most valuable of all—he gave me the gift of a friend. I pray that through All Saints Church’s involvement with Reality Ministries, many of you would have the blessing of learning to receive others—and yourself—as a gift too.
John 15:15 – “…I have called you friends.”
Teri Adelman: It has been a real blessing to work with the Najjar family as they transition to the United States. Even before I met them, I couldn’t help thinking about what they must be feeling as they left their country behind to find a safe place to live. Upon meeting them (even with the language barrier…) I found a warm and friendly young couple with 3 young children who were very thankful for everything we had done in setting up their apartment, but more so, they were extremely appreciative that people were there to greet them and establish a friendship with them.
There have been many good times we have already spent with the Najjar family such as taking them to eat at Aladdin’s Eatery in Briar Creek and having them (and our Good Neighbor Team) to a potluck dinner at our home , but dearest to my heart was the day I spent with Ahmad last week to take him to buy car insurance and get his driver’s license. Getting the insurance was relatively easy….a few phone calls and a short time in the insurance office. I then took him to practice driving in a parking lot to make sure he was familiar with the vocabulary and location of turn signals, hazard lights, etc., in my car. He did great and said he was ready to take his road test. The DMV was another experience altogether (think about the sloths in Zootopia, if you’ve seen it) and you get the picture! We sat for 2 hours waiting to be called in to talk to the DMV officer. Once in front of him, Ahmad gave him his State Department issued papers and very slowly the officer did his entries into the computer. At one point, he got up and went into a back room for about 10 minutes and Ahmad asked me what was wrong and told me his heart was beating very fast. I reassured him it would be okay (although I wasn’t exactly sure!) The officer reappeared and told us we would have to get back in the road test line and that it would be only a few minutes. At this point, Ahmad was quite tense, so we went outside to wait. I again assured him it would be okay and not to worry. After 30 minutes passed, the officer reappeared and said that he was ready to give the road test. As Ahmad drove off, I think I was more nervous that he was!! They returned with the officer smiling and Ahmad giving me the “thumbs up” signal – he had obtained his license! The following evening the Najjar family invited us to their home to share a meal. It was a middle-eastern feast – all homemade by Amal! They expressed their thanks to us verbally and with an exquisite meal. Getting to know this family, seeing the challenges they face daily, and building a relationship of mutual trust and respect have been an amazing blessing to me!