Dear Volunteer,

 

Thank you for putting miles on your truck to haul furniture and other basic items around the Fox Valley, transporting items to apartment set-ups, sometimes only to find that a couch won’t fit through a doorway and you have to haul it back to storage. Thank you for straining your muscles to carry heavy furniture and boxes up and down flights of stairs at the end of a long work day, when maybe relaxing on your couch sounds way more appealing. Thank you for unpacking boxes, washing dusty dishes and putting them away, hanging shower curtains, putting together bed frames and making beds all with the utmost care all so that a newly arrived family can feel welcome and at home the moment they walk in the door.

 

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to literally “welcome the stranger”. You drove to the airport at the end of another long work day to pick up a stranger from the airport, occasionally the flight was delayed and you waited for hours. But when they finally arrived you had your best smile on and your most welcoming attitude as you assisted them in gathering their luggage (or sometimes helped them report lost luggage at the counter). You spent an awkward car ride, silenced by language barriers, transporting a new family to their home. You showed them around their modest apartment, unable to answer their most pressing questions. Sometimes, after it all, you didn’t get home until after 12am and maybe you had to be up at 4:30 AM for your own family and work.

 

Thank you for showing up to sit at the front desk and be the first friendly face our clients see as they walk through the doors; for working through the discomfort of not always being able to communicate with a walk-in but continuing to smile and always asking “What can I do for you? How can I help you?” anyway. Thank you for building rapport with the individuals who walk through the door and eventually treating them like old friends when you see them walk through those office doors.

 

Thank you for being there in the small, every day moments of life, like sharing a cup of tea and for celebrating accomplishments, such as treating clients to dinner when they get their first job or throwing a baby shower for a refugee woman when you discover she is expecting. Thank you for dropping everything to help a client find another service provider’s office when you notice us trying (to not avail) to give directions. Thank you for taking a seemingly meaningless trip to the park so children can run off steam and parents can feel peace.  And then for inviting newly arrived refugees to your Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations and dinners, teaching them about Christmas trees, snowmen, and Santa, and laughing when it doesn't’t make sense. Not only do you teach newcomers about your traditions and invite them to worship with you but you take the time to find and attend their worship services with them, even in spite of uncertainty, not knowing what to expect. You teach them about the newness of America and also find ways to invest in the familiar of their cultures and past as well, like donating sewing machines, which encourages newcomers to pursue their dreams and comforts them with something familiar, or taking the time to go through old photographs; allowing them to share their wedding photos with you.

 

Thank you for seeing a need and filling it, and sticking it out through the challenges and uncertainties. You started an annual Fishing Day, helping newcomers receive free fishing licenses and equipment and inviting refugees new to the area to join together in community, fish and just have fun. You started an entire nonprofit designed to help newcomers learn to drive, with limited resources and assistance.  Thank you for stepping into a unique need and spending your Sunday afternoons teaching a single mother how to drive; for patiently sticking it out even when progress is slow, limited, or unseen and when language barriers make teaching ‘rules of the road’ seem impossible. You spend your evenings teaching another single mother driving education in her home, while she also cares for her child. Then you help a family fill out their taxes and set up a meeting at the local university so a father can learn how to enroll in school and further his education. Thank you for your patience, for loading up boxes and furniture and moving it all to a second apartment for a refugee family, sometimes after you have already been a part of that first set up. Thank you for helping a family explore opportunities and resources for purchasing their own home and for encouraging them in this amazing feat.

 

Thank you for loving so well and being such a true friend that you were asked to be the best man in a former refugee’s wedding. Thank you for welcoming so well that you were invited into the delivery room to welcome again, but this time, the newest addition to the family.

 

Thank you for being such a true testament to God’s calling for the world and for displaying hospitality in ways that will leave a life-long impact. Thank you, for being love in action.