John Taylor, CVV 12
John is Vincentian at heart—and he’s clearly still practiced in Theological Reflection! Native to Ft. Worth, TX, John has had many jobs since CVV. His current position as a case manager for refugee resettlement brings him to a very similar role he held at the African Community Center in Denver. John’s wacky sense of humor and love of God are two of his most striking features (next to his curly hair!).
Today´s Gospel was about how one man told Jesus that he would follow him and about the two other men whom Jesus asked to follow him. They all failed to follow him. One bit that I can´t forget about the homily I heard this morning is how God asks us to leave everything behind in order to follow him. Jesus himself did not even have a home. We are pilgrims and immigrants in a foreign land longing for our eternal home. And so, I think about my service to refugees at World Relief, a refugee resettlement agency in Fort Worth, Texas.
Samantha and I knock on the door of a refuge in north Fort Worth in the burning red heat of the afternoon, and I can´t wait to escape this drowning humidity we´re bathing in. La Prima (the cousin) answers the door and I introduce Samantha and myself to Prima as the case workers here to enroll Soledad in the Refugee Cash Assistance Employment program. Prima is a petite middle- aged woman with dark brown trimmed glasses and a worn smile. My job is to interpret today, and I´m a bit nervous because Prima speaks excellent English and Spanish which means I can´t ´wing it´ through my words. Prima, Soledad, Samantha, and I make our way to the dining room table to do this enrollment.
Prima asks us if we want anything to drink, and we decline the offer. I can´t tell you just how hospitable our clients are with us when I feel like we are invading their privacy.
I remember the first refugees´ apartment that I ever visited. It was during CVV 5 years ago when I was volunteering with the African Community Center. My mentor Megan and I walked into a Bhutanese family´s apartment and were immediately offered chai tea and cookies. I was amazed by their generosity, especially when we knew they had so little to offer and I wanted them to not waste it on us. But, I found out quickly, this is part of their culture. This is a part of many of the cultures of the refugees and it is beautiful and screams charity.
Prima tells us that she has been here for 17 years and that she has given refuge to countless Cuban people who are starting a new life here in the USA.
Samantha starts the interview and I do my best to keep up with her words as I translate them into Spanish for Soledad. Soledad is a Cuban woman with red dyed hair and brown eyes. When Samantha asks about her family, she makes mention of her two children and husband who remain back at home in Cuba. All I can think of is how gut-wrenching it must be to live apart from her children and her husband. Why? To have a better life for her and for her family; namely, by getting a job and sending some money back home so her family can survive.
Over and over, Soledad emphatically tells us that she is motivated and ready to start working and not a doubt remains in my mind of her resolve. Samantha and I admit that it takes about 5 or 6 months for our Cuban clients to get their EAD (Employment Authorization Document) or government permission to work. Prima consoles her and encourages her to take advantage of this down time in order to learn English and to explore the city and make friends.
We´re finally done with the enrollment, and Prima grabs a bag off of the kitchen counter and hands it to me saying, ´please give this to Gina´ (the public benefits case worker who previously visited her). ´It´s for her allergies. She was suffering so much. I used to suffer so much from asthma 2 years ago, but after I started taking this I haven´t had one problem.´
As we leave, Prima´s 20 year old son enters and introduces himself to us. Prima tells us to come back anytime, even just to hang out.
Have you ever felt someone´s tender love when you spent time with him or her? It´s so peaceful and reassuring. Christ is alive and well in the poor, in the excluded, the marginalized, and in the refugee. All in all, I´m blessed to spend my days with Jesus.
*Names changed to protect privacy of individuals in this reflection.