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.



Getting poured out in Sydney

The four of us sit at a plain round table. Inside the room is a there is a stillness but it is not quiet. Other tables and chairs surround us but they are empty for now. Peak hour continues on the busy city street visible through the window. A taxi toots its horn, a bus slams on its brakes, the pedestrian crossing makes its’ ‘green man’ noise.

I am one of the women in the room and I’m there to join in prayer for Sydney, for the people in my city who are lost and broken, poor and oppressed, in desperate need of hope. And for God to use His people here in this city to help love people – that they might see Him, know Him, follow Him.

Hope for Sydney is the name of this network and tonight was their third monthly prayer meeting. It was my first meeting with them. I’m told that different people come each time and there’s usually a few more than tonight, but we know it doesn’t matter – God will hear our prayers!

The Hope for Sydney mission:

Connecting volunteers with Sydney’s poor and marginalised in the name of Jesus Christ.

We shared little snippets about our own churches, read from Isaiah 58 and reflected on the picture therein of God’s heart for the restoration of the oppressed.

We prayed for God’s people here in Sydney to be convicted by the Spirit of God’s love and that we would generously pour ourselves out for those in need. And we prayed for Partners like Anglicare, the Salvos, Mission Australia, International Teams and others, who are already engaged in helping the poor and marginalised – from the homeless, to the disabled to the refugee. God loves them all, and as His people we need to share His love with them.

I am excited about this movement of people uniting in prayer, and mobilising toward action. Ever since reading Generous Justice by Timothy Keller, I have been praying and dreaming about how I could be more deeply engaged with reaching out in Sydney, and how I might help others get involved too.

This is just the beginning, but I have a sense of being part of something bigger than my little world, that God is on the move and that change – both within our churches and our communities – is possible – only by His grace and guidance.

A deep social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of service to others, and especially the poor, is the inevitable sign of real faith and a real connection with God. ~ Timothy Keller

go back to where you came from – my humble reflections

I have only just tonight finished watching this three-part series. I had things on last week when the series screened on TV and the public conversation was in full flow.

It is hard to put into words how I feel. Deeply thankful. Undoubtedly blessed beyond reason. More questions than answers.

It is very difficult to comprehend why I should have food enough every day, warmth, flowing water and a comfy bed, let alone safety and hope for the future, when millions every where don’t and never have had enough of these things.

Some truths I must hold on to as I wrestle with this question, and others…

  • God cares deeply about the alien and the refugee. He always has. And always will.
  • This world is broken and humanity’s greatest need is to repent and believe in Jesus.
  • Jesus himself, as well as so many people in the bible, were refugees.
17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19

The footage I watched tonight of Rod and Raye in the Democratic Republic of Congo, got me thinking again of the family from DRC whose asylum application I read a few months ago. I don’t think I’ll ever forget their story and the suffering they endured and the pain with which the husband and father recounted to me what had happened to them, even outside the DRC as they sought refuge. They are waiting for the appeal against refusal of their asylum application to be processed.

There can be no doubt that as a Christian and also as an Australian, that we must respond. To do our best to put ourselves in their shoes. To help. Listen. Speak out. Give. Befriend. Change.

And importantly, PRAY.

Some links, in case you’re interested…

The Go Back Series

Sydney Refugee Team

RIDE for Refugees

ride for refugees!

On Saturday I rode 25km in RIDE for Refugees! I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that far in my life! I wanted to blog about it on Saturday night but I could barely move from the couch!

RIDE for Refugees is a non-competitive fundraising ride to raise money for refugee ministry in Sydney and Melbourne, Malawi, Greece and Austria – that’s where International Teams is involved in refugee ministry.

After sending out a few emails about the RIDE, I was so encouraged that many of my friends and family sponsored me! A substantial donation to our Redfern Riders team from an old school friend helped us reach our target of $600 and by the morning of the I had also reached my personal fundraising goal of $250. The RIDE has raised over $25,000 so far for work with those who have been displaced from their homes.

God blessed us with an absolutely brilliant Spring day. Most of the ride was actually really quite pleasant – and a refreshing way to see a part of Sydney I have never seen before.  There were some serious hills though – might do a bit more training next year so that I don’t have to walk my bike at all!! 🙂 AJ decided at the end of 25km that he wasn’t quite done so did another 25km…impressive work husband!

One of my fave parts of the day was being handed a video camera to go around and interview some riders. I chatted with some guys from Sierra Leone – refugees themselves and a family who were riding in special memory of their grandparents who had arrived in Oz as refugees 60 years ago.

Great work Sydney Refugee Team on organising! Thanks to AJ and Will for being part of Redfern Riders and thanks to those who sponsored me to help make a difference in the lives of refugees. All in all what an awesome day!