February has been a strange mix of racing and waiting. We've been at countless meetings and appointments, visits with housing authorities, dental clinics, schools, learning centers, errands. We have filled out mountains of paperwork. (Have I mentioned MOUNTAINS?????) And then we are told to wait.
"Our" Shahzaman family (as Selden and I have come to know them in our hearts!) are a family of people so amazing and so real and so strong, I don't even know where to begin to describe all I love about them. But I'll give it a whirl. There is so much to say about each of these people I love, so it will take a few days, and I'll talk about them one at a time, ok?
Wazhma is so tender-hearted and so funny. One day she and I were driving to the human service office to inquire about her Refugee Assistance, and we made it toward Bangor, and then she asked me something about documents, which I said she needs to have with her. So we turn around, drive back to the hotel where they're still living (Lord bring them a home soon, please, in Jesus' name, and thank you in advance for this answered prayer). She shows me what she has for papers, while we're in the parking lot, only to find out she had what we needed and was asking about some documents for her upcoming hair apprenticeship. So we sat in the car and laughed, because so often we don't understand each other, and all we can do is just laugh and hug (and then go to Mc Donald's for a caramel frappe - her favorite). So after hugging - and getting a frappe - we began our drive back to human services.
Wazhma said to me while we were driving, "I think one day I go to India, because I think there are very big (meaning "many") hungry children there. And hungry children is no good." I agreed with her. She continued, "Is there very big ("many") Christian people in India?" I told her, "No, very small ("few") but very big other religions there." She told me, "I think we will go and be very big Christians. And we feed hungry children there."
I swallowed hard.
A few evenings before this, Wazhma and I were walking through WalMart at about 7:30 with her mom, gathering some groceries for their family. I hadn't wanted to go. I was tired. (And I really don't love WalMart, no offense.) We walked up and down the aisles, and Wazhma and I were talking a little, examining food items and trying to determine what they were equivalent to in Ukraine. Her stomach growled, and she patted it and said, "I hungry!" I asked her if she'd eaten at all, and she said, "No today."
Conviction washed over me, hot and hard to bear. I ate three times that day. And I didn't feel like being at WalMart, and my friend Wazhma had not eaten anything and was hungry. Lord, forgive me....
And my sister-friend Wazhma, who herself (despite my valiant efforts to make sure they have ample food and trips to the store and meals and everything) is sometimes hungry, has a heart that hurts for the hungry bellies of little ones in India. Have I told you how much I love this woman?
One day, after a day packed with errands and meetings and school visits, Wazhma and I went to the Brewer Library, so I could get books for Sagie and she could get some for Roma, who is 7. Wazhma wants to help him with his alphabet and his English. At the desk, I told the librarian that Wazhma needs a card, that yes, she is a Brewer resident, and Wazhma shuffled through her various documents to find the necessary photo ID. "What is her address?" I was asked. After giving the address at the Inn, I was told, "Oh, we don't give cards to people at the Inn. We've had problems with that before." "What!?" I was stunned. "Can she use your card?" I was asked. "She is a Brewer resident," I told them, "and she would like her own card. She has 5 siblings in school here in Brewer, and she wants to read to her little brother, who's in Mrs. Raymond's first grade class, so he can learn his letters." "Can she use your card, then?" I was asked again.
I cried. I stood at the desk in the Brewer library and I actually cried. (I am not a crier-in-public, ok?) Then I said, without pausing for air, and with tears rolling and voice shaking, "She is a refugee, and she came to this country and was in a Muslim housing project even though she's a Christian, and her family is now in Maine, and she is my friend. I've known them for a couple years, and she is not going to steal your books or not return them. She lives in Brewer. The five kids are in school here, and they're not just going to up and leave with these books. Can she PLEASE have a card of her own? This is SO undignified! She has NOTHING of her own now, and all she wants is a library card, so she can read to her little brother!" I wiped my eyes. Shelley, a librarian who I've known for years came over and smiled at us, and she took a library card out and issued it to Wazhma (I am a big fan of Shelley). Wazhma and I left with our stacks of books.
In the parking lot we walked, arms around each other's shoulders, to the van. "Maybe this is a very bad day!" she said, and we squeezed each other and laughed. "Yes," I said, "but tomorrow a good day." She agreed, and we laughed a little more. Sometimes that's all you can do after crying in the library.
Wazhma is stunning. Beauty personified. And to see her heart.... Oh my goodness. The story her life has been up to this point is something I am still learning of in bits and pieces, through her broken English and her emphatic gestures and expressions. But the message always comes through. She has seen a lot of hard places. She has lived through more fear and hurt and loss than I will probably ever know in my whole lifetime, and she is still tender-hearted, warm, open. Quick to laugh. Filled with hope even when weary from the long months of waiting for something that feels like roots being put down in this new country. And it is not easy.
Today, will you pray with me specifically for my sweet friend Wazhma? She is hoping to start apprenticing at The L Factor with my childhood buddy Gina, and I am praying that all her documents can be perfectly provided so this can start soon. I'm praying for her future here to be blessed. And I am praying for her to be in a permanent home very soon. Bangor Baptist is still accepting donations to help pay their ever-growing hotel debt, and if you are moved in your heart to give a gift of any amount toward this, it is tax-deductible and is greatly appreciated and can be sent to: