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Why We Welcome: The Prayers We Pray

Written by Isoken Aiwerioba, Director of Operations for World Relief Chicagoland

Suffer not the little children – a former colleague once told me how he had spent over 19 years in a refugee camp from when he was very young. He said though he spoke the language of his host country, he always felt like an outsider. Yet, he did not feel any kinship with where he originally came from because he left it when he was still but a child.

In the story of refugees, does anyone wonder how the children feel? What struggles they have with their identity as they straddle between where they came from and where they are, sometimes for many years. The stories told about refugee camps are often about a no man’s land with people struggling to create law and order in a place often abandoned and resented by the natives. As year turns into year, does the welcome from neighbors slowly grow cold? Do the smiles start to fade as promises seem further and further away. Can one continue to rejoice with the person who has gotten the call to leave the camp?

No one knows when that call will come, or when you will receive that letter that you have been approved and will be moving to your forever place. What does this do to the spirits of the little ones? In childhood, dreams are dreamt, and fairy tales are believed so strongly: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, your dad as a superhero. This is before reality knocks most of that out. In a refugee camp, however, do the children even dare to dream? Is their innocence stolen from them? Do they have the right or even the freedom to hope? We pray that the children left in the camps would KNOW LIFE OUTSIDE THE CAMP.

When they finally make it here to the U.S., another identity crisis takes place. The longer they have been from their original home, the greater the struggle to answer the question, “Who am I?”

We continue to pray for them as we welcome them. We walk alongside them sometimes in total silence, ready to answer when curiosity finally overcomes the fear and words are spoken.

Welcome to the U.S; Welcome to World Relief; Welcome home.

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