a party and a story

Last week Adam and I went to a very unique party. A party to celebrate the fact that a family who once lived in fear for their lives can now call Australia home. Last year their initial application for residency in Australia was rejected, but on 26 March this year, I got a message to say it had been approved!

the story

refugees in Africa

The Sydney Refugee Team was working with this family last year. Their lawyer was doing a reasonable job but B* and his wife S* were very distressed and simply couldn’t understand why the government had refused them. They were scared and confused. So even though my knowledge of refugee law was limited, my boss Janice graciously let me don my lawyer’s hat and I listened to B’s story.

B recounted parts of his and his wife’s childhood, of growing up in a culture where violence, discrimination, poverty and corruption were sadly, normal. Like many refugees, their story was complex and fragmented. I asked, “Did that happen before or after this?” at various points. I too was confused, but at the same time filled with compassion for this man and his family. I was starting to pull the pieces together – it seemed that their case was really valid, but their story was muddled.

For him, the events had just happened. But I explained that he needed to tell his story to the tribunal in the order the events had occurred. I don’t think he’d even heard of chronological order, let alone understood it. I was struck by this vast African/Australian storytelling difference.

How does one talk about such traumatic events in an orderly way? If this couple couldn’t write and tell their story in a clear, consistent order, enabling our legal system to recognise them as refugees, there was a risk that they might be rejected again.

I also read to him the definition of a refugee according to the United Nations. He said in his culture persecution equated only to being killed. He didn’t know that other forms of harm and discrimination are also considered persecution.

B and S were able to rewrite their application, face the tribunal process and then wait the many months for the outcome with help and support from Sally and the SRT. The team truly walked with this family on this difficult chapter of their journey.

the party

At the party B* was almost the first person to greet us – he emerged from the loud African music and dancing – and hugged me, saying, “Naomi! It’s good to see you. Thank you. Remember that day! Thank you for helping us. Thank you.” He turned to Adam and embraced him – automatic friends. I was so glad to help them in a small way! Oh and I almost forgot to mention that they came to faith in Jesus in the midst of their trials!

helping refugees

Adam and I before RIDE 2010

I’m getting a team together to do RIDE for Refugees on Saturday 18 August in Sydney. I want to help people like B and S and others around the world facing uncertainty, fearing for their lives, fighting for survival and desperately seeking a place to truly call home. Want to join my team (leave a comment on this post) or register your own (go to the website)?

Today is World Refugee Day. Every refugee has a story, but few have a choice in what happens next…how will you help write a different chapter for a refugee today?

*Names withheld to protect their privacy.



the joy of helping

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that, despite not really wanting to, I chose to help my husband make his music video. Here’s the finished product…

No regrets. I am so glad I chose to help. Aside from being the right decision to support my husband, it was fun pulling a tiny wooden car all over Petersham. If for nothing else than the variety of responses from passers-by (cats included!) from people volunteering to model, to people who pretended we weren’t there and forced us to do re-takes!

I’m so proud of my husband. And pretty honoured that the song he picked for his first music video is the one that’s about us.

Hooray for helping!

how can I help you?

If you read my blog regularly you would know that I something I have been reflecting on a lot and am passionate about, is helping people. Especially those who really need it.

I am really blessed to have a mentor. She is a wise mother of three, who recently became a grandma and loves to disciple young women. We meet up once a month over lunch and chat through some of the things I am wrestling with, struggling in, or just thinking through.

As I shared about my growing heart for justice and helping the disadvantaged, my mentor said – “so you’re helping people at the legal centre and you’re helping people through your job at International Teams, but that’s not enough for you is it?” She’s right. It’s not. So she has challenged me reflect on – “what do I mean by help?”

As I was driving down the M4 last weekend singing worship songs and on a high after an amazing couple of days at Hillsong Colour Your World Conference, I felt moved to simply start asking those around me who may be in need or just struggling with life…

How can I help you?

It seems simple. Obvious even. But even with my desire to help, for a while I have been stuck in a mindset of waiting for a need or a person or people group to really grab me and inspire me towards helping. I think this approach is wrong. I suspect that if I was to keep waiting that I might just end up spending a lot of time ‘on the couch’ and not actually out there doing anything.

I also keep thinking that I have to go out and ‘find’ the people who need my help. My mentor suggested that I first needed to look at those already around me. At church, in my family, friends, others I know through my International Teams connections. Of course!

So first steps…I felt moved to reconnect one-on-one with someone I’ve known for a long time, who is a relatively new sister in Christ.  She is keen to catch up in the next few weeks.

There are a bunch of other questions I am pondering, like…

– what am I already doing that helps others? Can I do more?

– sometimes people will ask for help that I cannot (for one reason or another) give – how will I deal with this?

– do I want to help people using my profession as a Solicitor OR through the church or International Teams or other opportunities?

– sometimes people will just want to be listened to. I know this may be incredibly valuable but am I ok with offering my ears but nothing practical?

I don’t have the answers yet – this is all part of the journey. Though I will keep you posted as I reflect on these questions and start to ask the critical one of others.