Carrie Unser reflects on what she’s learning while taking part in the community refugee sponsorship program.
Carrie Unser reflects on what she’s learning while taking part in the community refugee sponsorship program and putting justice for refugees into action.
Sometimes in my tiny corner of the world, surrounded by messy kids and a messy house, the idea of placing my feet in the footprints of Jesus’ and doing something – anything - seems totally out of reach.
I remember the first time I heard The Bible Project articulate Jesus’ message of justice. How leaning into the idea of redemption also requires me to act on the idea of justice. That the idea of justice requires me to love my neighbour, and that this means more than shouting a friendly hello over the fence, but to “courageously make other people’s problems, my problems” *. Yikes. Confronting. Unsettling.
When the opportunity to sign-up to the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (CRISP) Program^ came to us as a group, I honestly thought we’d do the sensible thing and say no.
It seemed like too much. There was the paperwork, the dreaded fundraising, the nightmare otherwise known as the rental market, the demand of logistics – making other peoples’ problems my own seemed like a distant memory.
I am very lucky that other group members could see the potential rather than the problems, and courageously and with a deep prayer of surrender and faith, signed us up. And soon, in a moment of simultaneous sheer joy and absolute open-mouth shock we received an email that said we’d been matched with a family. A family of nine who had been living in a refugee camp for the past 12 years. They now had a home.
Their arrival date hurtled towards us, and the fun turned into frustration as we swam against a tidal wave of disappointment in finding accommodation and further setbacks for our family. But God had gone before, and things fell into place.
Our family arrived, settled into their new house, and have begun connecting with their new community. They are joining playgroups. Starting school. It is all new, challenging, and each day comes with a fresh hurdle. As we aim to preserve and honour their culture while supporting them to dive into everyday life in Australia—it is not easy—the learning trajectory of our group is off the charts. Each conversation challenges our assumptions about what it means to be displaced, and how the dignity of this beautiful, resilient family must remain at the centre. This is our attempt at making other peoples’ problems our own. To stand alongside this family and assure them: you have a home. You are welcome here.
One of our group members made a profound reflection, that at the start of this journey we would call our family our refugee friends. But recently, she’d made a conscious effort to simply call them ‘friends’. It felt right. We aren’t us and them anymore. We are neighbours.
God calls us His heirs. No matter where we are born, no matter what our day-to-day looks like, we are made in His image. And He bestowed upon us the ultimate symbol of dignity in His act of reconciliation.
As I discover more groups and churches around Australia becoming involved in welcoming families through the CRISP program, delight fills my heart. Here is our collective church owning our mandate to welcome the stranger (Mt 25: 31-40). That stands with the vulnerable. That breaks down walls. That places emphasis on being active in their community. That does justice.
My house is messier than before. Because now my kids’ favourite game is pretending we’re going to visit our new friends. They do laps around our house yanking things out of cupboards and cramming them into bags – food, blankets, books - anything they can find, replaying the chaos and busyness of those last few days before our family arrived.
During the game, my eldest rushes up to me, looks me straight in the eyes and exclaims excitedly, “Mum, there’s so much more to do!”.
I couldn’t agree more.
^A CRISP supporter group is responsible for assisting refugees with their immediate needs on arrival into Australia, such as local orientation, registering for support services, securing housing, as well as supporting them over the following 12 months to integrate into day-to-day life in a new country.
Carrie Unser is a mum of two girls living on the land of the Yugambeh people. She makes (and eats) a lot of sourdough, spends too much time reading the news, and loves camping.