Participant insight: Learning through service and grief
The only information I had about being a refugee was basically what I saw on TV. Situations like the Syrian civil conflict and the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh as examples were all so distant to me. But that changed when Della Lamb Community Service (DLCS) — the resettlement agency I serve with — welcomed over 300 Afghan evacuees.
As overwhelming as it is, it presented a big opportunity to really serve, provide hope, help them arrive and thrive and be a guide. Being part of IVEP and working with DLCS has given me the opportunity to serve, add value and work with people from different parts of the world. The experience is unique because each person I meet and serve struggles with individual resettlement experiences, trauma, senses of loss and expectations. All these manifest themselves in challenging ways, but the joy of it all is patiently working with them through it; working to see others happy, thriving, self-sufficient and solving their own problems as they arise and putting smiles on people’s faces.
Every morning when I leave the house, I see it as not just work, but a chance to serve. It’s not just an opportunity, it’s a call. I draw strength from the fact that I put a smile on people’s faces, I help make light their burdens in tandem with MCC’s motto “relief, development and peace in the name of Christ” through which I am graced with this dearly appreciated opportunity.
Three days after our IVEP mid-term retreat and ten days after my birthday, I received news my dad had passed. This shook me greatly and coupled with the fact that I was far from home and away from biological family, it was difficult.
It was not easy finding someone to talk with, someone I could pour it all out to. But in the unlikeliest of ways, God used my supervisor, Danilo, greatly to help me ease the burden and walk me through it. This happened in the most casual of ways I could ever imagine, like going out for coffee, recounting times spent together and just saying “Hey Daniel, how you doing today? Need anything? Need more time off? Wanna talk?’’ Also, materials from Andrea Geiser Leaman (IVEP USA and YAMEN coordinator) brought tremendous help. The Kolstos, my hosts, are amazing. Welcoming a total stranger into their home, making me part of the family and helping me navigate the new experience.
Amidst the loss and grief, I found sitting at my desk and carrying out my responsibilities fulfilling. Someone needed to be there for the people I am to serve — in one way it helped me get through most of it. God has been present and guiding me through moments of grief and the IVEP journey. The scripture Joshua 1:5 “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you” has been conspicuous and evident through the year. In these past months, I have met people with touching stories, I’ve met people who have lost so much and I’ve seen a simple act of kindness bring joy and happiness to people. It is fulfilling and it is a reward in itself.
It is never desirable to be away from family in whatever circumstance but being a part of IVEP and getting to do what I do has been, is and will continue to be worth it.
Header photo caption: Daniel Otoide, an IVEPer from Nigeria working at his desk at Della Lamb Community Services (DLCS) in Kansas City, Missouri. DLCS photo/Ashley Foster