A refugee family from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The highlight of my week was giving a precious Congolese girl a doll. At eleven years of age, she is severely malnourished and spent years waiting to start a new life. She could have ended up anywhere, but she came to Jacksonville with her mother and brother. Her first night in America also happened to be her birthday! After receiving the gift, she smiled and spent the whole time gently brushing the hair of the previously donated doll while looking at it with love. I would pay to have that moment captured on a photo...I still see it in my mind.
It was late and the flight had already been delayed an extra 24 hours of what was a multi-day journey. My wife brought our kids to add to the welcome party. I love allowing my family - especially my children - to interact with refugees. My kids have a knack for making anyone smile - even people who have lost their mommies and daddies and experienced tragedies that none of us could even begin to understand or relate with.
As we began to give them a tour of their new home, other previously settled refugees in the area began to walk in and greet the newcomers. The apartment door remained open for the entirety of our visit. Anyone was welcome to walk in and join us. All were smiling as neighbors naturally fellowshipped with one another. What a community!
As we left, we joined hands in a circle and prayed. I couldn't get past 'thank you Lord'. God used that moment to remind me to focus on the people that need you.
Tonight there are millions of people – millions of refugees - around the world that need us. It’s been said that the United States cannot be the saviors of the world. While that may be true, I think there’s one positive point in this current debate that has not been said enough, if at all: Since the 1970’s the United States Refugee Admissions Program has worked phenomenally well. There have been zero attacks on U.S. soil in over 40 years. Out of over three million refugees, only a small handful has turned out to be people that we should not have let into our nation. That’s quite a success story that we as Americans should celebrate and be proud of.
A picture of me (left) with our [World Relief] case worker pointing at a welcome sign translated into Kinyarwanda. Kinyarwanda is a Bantu language spoken with about 7 million speakers who live mainly in Rwanda, where it is the national language along with French and English, and also in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
I think it’s realistic to admit that nothing is truly 100%. Tomorrow we have no guarantee that there will not be some mass shooting, bombing or attack; either by foreign or domestic enemies to life, liberty or our pursuit of happiness. That is just the reality of the world we live in. We have no control over that when you think about it. However, I recently heard a quote that rang true in my mind: “Evil is not obstructed by borders. It resides in the hearts of men and travels wherever it is welcomed. If we are truly concerned about our security, this must inform our defense.”
Lately, the climate of fear in our country has produced a rhetoric that is almost as frightening as the intolerance many refugees have fled from overseas. We must not allow our virtue as a nation to drain out our rich history of welcoming the persecuted and oppressed. There are some practical things we can all learn from if we take a step back and took a good hard look at the current system.
Myself (center) along with 2 pastors of Anglican Church of the Redeemer – Rick Wallis and Bill Driscoll. They hosted a harvest festival for our refugees at their church over the weekend on Saturday. There were roughly 150 refugees present and the event was put on entirely by church volunteers.
I see noble causes on both sides of this debate. I see Governors and Mayors who want to keep their communities safe. They want to be informed on who is coming and know what the process is. I see intelligence and resettlement agencies who want to continue to do their jobs with high levels of excellence and maintain what has historically been a very successful program and process. What I do not see is any reason that the two cannot be accomplished together.
As we celebrate stories like the one above about this young girl, let us not distinguish between Burmese, Sudanese, Syrian, Cuban or Iraqi; Eritrean, Bhutanese or Afghani. Let us work together to improve what is already working and continue to welcome the stranger and truly say in our hearts as a nation: “e pluribus unum” – Out of many, we are one.
Travis Trice and his wife Jessica
Written by Travis Trice
Travis works in refugee resettlement for World Relief Jacksonville. He has lived in Jacksonville for 7 years. He previously worked as a youth pastor before becoming the Church Mobilizer for World Relief Jacksonville. He has been married to his wife, Jessica for 7 years and they have 2 children together.