Thursday we rode the buses with our new friends from their apartments back to Lipscomb University to show them a little bit of our lives and to play tennis with them.
It was great to see how they had gained more confidence in just a short period of time with how the bus system operates and conversing with new and strange people.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have,” Hanna Victorsson. “It is amazing how the refugees are able to smile, laugh, and be excited about life despite what they are going through.
“The amount of love they showed towards each other, and us as a team, and their willingness to learn about their new life and us kept amazing me. Their ability to see light in a hopeless situation is truly inspirational.”
Arriving on campus with the sun shining, there was an over-arching warmth that surrounded the environment that we were in. The joy and smiles that radiated from all of the refugees faces as they explored the campus was something that we all appreciated.
“These people helped me to understand that I have to appreciate everything that I have in my life, that my family is safe, that I can come back to my country whenever I want to, that I can get a good education, and that I can play a sport that I love,” Kate Kandyba said. “The refugees encourage me to live in the present and enjoy every moment of my life.”
It reminded us of how fortunate we are to be free and to have the opportunity to attend school while playing a sport that we have all grown up loving. There was no translator with us today to overcome the language barrier, however with some persistence and the help of Google translator we were able to communicate and learn more about the refugee’s backgrounds.
“Although I have grown up in a completely different part of the world and speak a different language, a smile and body language will always be a universal method of communication,” Kathryn Evans said. “Even when verbal conversation is difficult I find it amazing that we can understand one another with various gestures. These don’t change from one part of the world to another, which makes me feel that we are not as different from one another. “
It was incredible to hit balls with our new friends as the sport provided a common ground for us to gain a better understanding of one another.
“Everyone was from a different culture and background including our team and yet we came together so easily through the connection of tennis,” Dani Kinnen said. “Seeing them in an unfamiliar environment at Lipscomb, but appearing so care free and content was rewarding.”
You could sense that they were grateful for being able to be out in the sun and in a safe environment. This really rubbed off onto each member of our team, because we realized that God has a path planned for us and each day will provide something unique and sometimes challenging that we need to embrace and face with a positive attitude.
“It was incredible to see how happy little things can make people,” Melissa Kromer said. “You could see in their faces how much they enjoyed being able to hit some tennis balls and have some fun without worrying about anything else that might go on in their lives right now. We often take these little things for granted and do not realize how blessed we are.”
As an overall reflection of the time we had spent together with the refugees and each new person that we had met along the way, it was clear that each individual has faced different obstacles in their lives and we should therefore seek to show them the love of Jesus.
“The experience was extremely humbling,” Hannah Gamage said. “It made me realize how much I’ve been given for very little effort and how lucky I am to be in such good health and in a country where I don’t have to worry about my safety when I go to bed. I am so glad to have met these incredible people and wish them all the best in the future. “
You may not know somebody’s background but by showing them love and kindness you will be able to find a common ground that can help to bring joy and relief.
“Working with the refugees really amplified my thoughts on how you must always be nice to people you meet,” Thabile Tshatedi. “You never know how you can make someone’s day by just a smile.”
Lorena Djuknic stressed the experiences of the week have made the team closer and also increased their faith on many levels.
“It is about experiences like this that make us better people and stronger believers,” Djuknic said. “This week we worked together as a team to help others and to show them the best of our city.
“We tend to believe that we change lives, but yet our hearts were changed through this experience. Together we became stronger and closer to God by putting others first. This truly was a beautiful experience where we got to be a part of the glorious work of God.”