This week at CBFBlog we are celebrating World Refugee Day with a series of posts from Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel from around the world who work and minister with refugees. If you have not already, check out Part 1 of this series which provides a little background info on World Refugee Day and its history.
Today’s post is by Marc and Kim Wyatt. The Wyatts were commissioned as CBF field personnel in 1996 and served for many years in Canada, where they worked with refugees, immigrants, international students, the diplomatic community and others from approximately 200 people groups. Read more about the Wyatts and their ministry with refugees in the February/March 2013 issue of fellowship! magazine.
We weren’t very deep in our work with Matthew House Toronto, a special ministry dedicated to refugees in Canada’s largest city, when Mohamed came into our lives. He was a young 23 year-old son of an eastern European diplomat who suddenly found himself in harm’s way because of his father’s political views. Full of life experiences, educated and well-traveled, our new friend Mohamed became a regular visitor in our home, especially when Kim would cook something southern.
Our children, Rebecca, now a senior at Meredith University, and Jon Marc, a rising freshmen at Gardner-Webb University, were seven and four respectively when Mohamed was promoted to “uncle” in the Wyatt home.
We love to tell the story of when Mohamed got his first job as a roofer. He would come over to our place after work sometimes just covered from head-to-toe in black tar. We would ask him to strip down and enter through the garage and go straight to the shower before joining us for supper. It was a wonderful time for our developing friendship!
Mohamed began attending church with us and reading the Bible with Marc. Within a few month, Mohamed gave his life to Christ and was baptized in the east Toronto church where we worshiped.
Needless to say, Mohamed’s enthusiasm for life and now Christ carried us into many new relationships with other refugees and immigrants that he befriended. God blessed us in so many ways through Mohamed!
We lost touch with our friend when his wife joined him following Canada’s acceptance of his refugee claim. Mohamed became a Canadian, went off to university in Ottawa and for all we knew was continuing in his faith and maturity as a young adult.
Several years passed until we saw Mohamed again. After relocating to Canada’s national capital city in 2007, we reconnected. Mohamed was now firmly in a career. He and his wife owned a house, two cars and had a child on the way. They were living the Canadian dream!
After a couple of visits, Mohamed informed Marc that he had opened his mind to other philosophies and was no longer interested in talking about our faith. It hurt to hear those words but we tried to take it in stride and adjust to Mohamed’s new outlook.
Suffice it to say, the times our families spent together began to be spaced out until finally we lost touch with Mohamed again.
Following many years in Canada, our team has asked us to relocate to the Pacific southwest. We have successfully transitioned ministries we led to Canadian leadership and have been busy saying our goodbyes, selling our possessions and making ready for our June departure.
Last week, Mohamed came to see us out of the blue. He had heard we were leaving Canada and wanted to see us.
Mohamed’s visit was awkward yet wonderful.
We sat on the porch swing and reacquainted ourselves. Mohamed and his wife now have a four year-old daughter. They live in a large beautiful house in the suburbs. Mohamed drives a new black Mercedes and make a lot of money.
In every way, Mohamed’s colleagues and neighbors see him as successful. But he told me that he need to see us again because he wanted to rebuild the friendship that he believes had been damaged because of his youthful formative opinions.
Mohamed and his wife hosted us for dinner recently. Their house is quite remarkable. They were surprised at how much our children have grown. It was so sweet to watch their daughter drag our kids around the house, playing and jumping and singing all the way.
Our time together was very special. I asked Mohamed if he and his family would like to go to church with us again.
Mohamed said yes.
As we were leaving, Mohamed and his wife and daughter took our hands. We formed a circle and he asked us to pray for them and to bless their home.
As we got in our car to head home, we remembered something that a wise missionary said to us when we began our ministry among refugees. She said:
“Marc and Kim, you will meet them as refugees, but they are people, just like you, men and women, who want the same things and hope for the same future as you. Respect their need for time to settle, to find their new normal again. There will come a time when they don’t want the title of ‘refugee’ anymore. When that day comes your friendship may end. But if it continues know that the same Lord who brought them into your life will continue to bless you both as his grace and spirit guide you to be his family, the family of God.”