When Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Marc and Kim Wyatt first met Thomas and his wife Nunu, they only had one thing on their mind—getting the awkward, unwieldy sofa up three flights of stairs. So when Thomas and Nunu offered an extra hand, the Wyatts didn’t think twice. The group made short work of the sofa and swiftly arrived at their destination, a fourth-floor apartment that the Wyatts and their Raleigh-based resettlement ministry, Welcome House, had just prepared for a newly-immigrated family.
Welcome House, a community dedicated to holistic ministry with displaced peoples, had formed together with another ally in seeking wholeness for immigrants and refugees in North Carolina. Thomas and Nunu withdrew to their own apartment just across the hall, only to emerge with a 24-pack of bottled water for the moving crew and a simple question: How else can we help?
The couple knew too well the sudden heartbreak and struggle of fleeing their home and seeking refuge in the United States. In their home country of Myanmar, a 17-year-old ceasefire had collapsed between the Kachin Independence Army and government soldiers, igniting widespread violence, rape and torture among civilians. One day, Kachin State police kidnapped Thomas from his farm and attempted to enslave him; but Thomas escaped and fled to Malaysia with his family. The United Nations Refugee Agency arranged for Thomas, Nunu and their two daughters to resettle in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they quickly encountered a different battle.
“When we arrived here, nobody welcomed us,” Nunu said.
“If we needed something, we asked; but they just don’t care. My two daughters were really sick and I asked, ‘Can I get this medicine? Can I get this? Can I see a doctor?’ but they told me to leave it and they would be better after two or three days. But they could not sleep and had a very high fever. We knew the agency, but they just give the phone number to call; but we didn’t even have a phone. That was a really, really difficult time.”
Nunu and Thomas emerged from their first months in the U.S. stronger and acutely tuned in to the wholeness of their immigrant neighbors. Since that first case of bottled water, the two have helped Welcome House prepare apartments, provide transportation, gather groceries and partner alongside families and individuals seeking resettlement in the U.S.
As they form together with CBF field personnel, churches and non-profit partners, Nunu and Thomas not only serve passionately from their own experience as refugees, but have become indispensable to the Wyatts in initiating relationships with immigrant families already living in the Research Triangle.
Thomas, a pastor himself, says he misses his church in Myanmar, but is deeply grateful for the opportunity to help Marc Wyatt set up apartments for newcomers after they emerge from more urgent care. In between, he works as a cook in a hotel restaurant and says he has learned to communicate well with his English-speaking neighbors in Raleigh. When they aren’t working their own jobs, however, Thomas and Nunu partner alongside local congregations and other volunteers to help new immigrants access everything from healthcare to groceries to English lessons. Refugees need a lot of friends, Thomas says, and we must open our hearts to them like a sister or brother.
“Helping is like breaking down walls,” Thomas said.
“I help as much as I can because, when we came to America, we got nothing, had nobody. We need to treat them very kind, very open-hearted so that they can share their feelings and let us know what they need. We want them to have no fear in telling us what to do and how to do it. Mostly, they need to feel like they are at home and we have to be like their brother or sister, so that they will feel safe.”
With support from the CBF Offering for Global Missions, Thomas, Nunu, the Wyatts and partner congregations continue to form together with displaced peoples seeking refuge in the Research Triangle of North Carolina. Together, they are cultivating beloved community.
You can change the world through the love of Jesus Christ by supporting the Offering for Global Missions. The Offering is the primary source of support ensuring the long-term presence of CBF field personnel like the Wyatts serving around the world.
When you give, you help care for and support refugees like Thomas and Nunu, you share the Gospel and create Beloved Community. Give today at www.cbf.net/give.
Watch a video story below about Nunu and Thomas and learn more about CBF field personnel serving around the world here.