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  • Ellen Hoitsma

Sunny Apartment

By the time I arrived in Greektown with a carload of boxes and lamps from Lesli’s Drumcastle apartment, her door was open and the moving van full of their furniture and more boxes was on its way.

It had been a four year journey, from our small group meetings at Good Shepherd to discern whether our parish community could even begin to support a refugee family, to this moment of independence. Once that answer was a clear affirmative, God led us to Lesli, a brave young asylee from Honduras with two school-age children, whose engaging infant, Gretchen had held and cuddled at Asylee Women’s Enterprise. Many of us attended training sessions to learn about the challenges facing refugees and enlisted a financial commitment from our vestry. A parish family helped Lesli enroll the children at Stoneleigh Elementary and provided space and meals and friendship for the family of four until Lesli’s apartment was available. We collected furniture and household basics Lesli needed to make a home, provided transportation to doctor appointments, legal counsel and support meetings at AWE, and learned how to be English and math tutors.

We extended our financial support for a second year. We had experienced second-hand the long and frustrating path of waiting for a work permit, the joy of landing a job in food service at Goucher College. We began to understand the tough reality, even as a family adjusts to a new climate and culture, of political setbacks in the path toward citizenship.

Our circle of support widened as Lesli and her family took part in the life of our church, attending services, Sunday School, events. Lesli even taught us--in English--how to make delicious tortillas in the church kitchen in a meal shared with 40 or so parishioners. We celebrated birthdays and milestones. Soon, Axel and Sherlyn’s became the translators for their mother, and they jabbered with visitors and friends in English.

As the school year of 2019-20 approached, Lesli made a decision that was right for her family. She would move to Highlandtown, to a neighborhood with decent schools as well as a large Spanish-speaking community, near their doctors and dentist.

I climbed the steep stairs to Lesli’s new second floor apartment and was immediately struck by a square of blue sky view above me. The light poured in from a large living room skylight, bathing this dear family’s new home in hope. I felt a lump in my throat, but this felt right.

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