The last week has been my hardest one in Clarkston. It held the very thing I was so afraid of, three years ago, when Doug shared his desire for our family to adopt a refugee family. It held failure, brokenness, and deep relational pain.
I mentioned last time I posted that we had met a new friend in a parking lot in one of the apartment complexes in March. He is a refugee from Ethiopia who speaks six languages and who has come to Clarkston via a very long and winding road with his thirteen-year-old son. His wife and their two younger children are still not here yet.
He waits for so much.
When we met him, he was waiting for a job. When we serendipitously ran into him again (same parking lot) in late July, he was waiting for a job…still.
The door opened ten days later for him to work at our children’s school via a temp agency that they use for their facilities staffing. God’s hand was evident in the coming together of the details, and our new friend had a new job. It was a good one – daytime hours, more than minimum wage by a fair bit, and offered us the chance to get to know him better as we drove him to and from work on our way to and from school every day.
Hope is beautiful. It came alive in his countenance. He dreamed big, grateful dreams out loud in sixth language English…
“I tell my son he can be President of the United States!”
“You to come to Africa with my family? I show you my country!”
“How much is car? How much is house?”
“Job is good. Very good. Thank you for job.”
Three weeks of gorgeous hope.
Loss in the face of that much hope is devastating. Sickening. Disgusting.
A week ago, our friend was sick. His cheerleaders and teammates (his boss, my husband) told him the day before he was sick to be sure to call the temp agency if he could not come to work the following day. He did not call. He did not respond to Doug’s texts or calls. He called (finally) at 2:30 pm and communicated what he thought best. His words were received by the staffing agency as a lie. The combination of the late call and the perceived lie were enough to cost him this new job.
All week I have agonized. “What if I had…?” “What if he had…?” “What if the school had…?” “What if Doug had…?” “What if his boss had…?” “What if the agency had…?”
Only one intervention on anyone’s part would have made the difference for him. There was no intervention.
We found out (too late) that his pre-paid phone was out of minutes, which was why Doug’s messages had not gotten through. He told Doug had used his son’s phone to call the agency in the afternoon.
We still don’t know whether the “lie” was a language-barrier misunderstanding, an attempt to deflect blame, or even a culturally different way to approach the hierarchical system of boss and employee. Whatever it was, he used the wrong words to explain his lack of a call. If only he had known…
I met with the school to share his story and convey the fact that Doug and I were on his team – to try to ask for mercy. I was met with a lot of understanding, empathy, and care, but the communication even in that meeting was muddled and confused to the point that it moved the ball forward…none at all. The chapter is closed. Our friend cannot go back.
So the week has been rough.
I’ve spent a lot of time bargaining with God and asking Him “why?” I am sure that our friend has spent so much more time doing the same thing. We are still not sure he really understands how and why this all happened. We are stymied and heartbroken.
Why do I write this story today, on this three-day weekend where those of us who are work-weary sleep in, cook out, do laundry, and meander through 72 hours of government sanctioned rest?
I write to tell you that Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He knows, first hand, the brokenness of our world and He was broken for it. I write to tell you that it’s harder to hold onto the sorrowful Jesus than the one who multiplies food and calms seas, but He’s the same Jesus – just as trustworthy and true. He calls us to enter into the sorrow of the world and to be broken with it, too. I don’t like that part, really, but it’s in His word all over the place. It’s the reality of following Him.
I write to ask you to thank God for the work you have – even though it is so hard sometimes – because work is a gift that so many people (even in your zip code) cannot obtain.
I write because I cannot hold this sadness alone, and I selfishly ask you to hold a bit of it, too. I write because I ask you to pray for our friend, his wife, and his three children. I write to ask whether you know of a job our friend could have…you just might.
I am praying for him, his family, and you and your family as well!!! “May the Joy of the Lord be your Strength”! Your ministry there is wonderful, and we will continue to lift you in prayer to our awesome God whose timing is often not what we want and sometimes his ways are hard. Thank you for your courage to share your struggles, your perseverance, and your wisdom to ask for prayer! We love you all!!
That made me cry. I am praying for him. I have struggled with the same “sorrowful Jesus” this week. Not understanding how the world works sometimes. Remembering that as badly as the world treats us, Jesus was treated worse.
I also have to share with you something I read this week that helped me tremendously. We often buy into the myth that there is some alternate reality that would have happened “if only we had…”. Like the “Sliding Doors” movie. But there is no alternate reality. What happened is reality because God is sovereign. We can learn from our mistakes. We can repent of our sin. But there is no “if only”.
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I’m proud that you are engaging in difficult situations like this, Karen. If Jesus was about anything, he was certainly about sitting in the massive mess of life with us.