“How would you guys feel about moving? ” Those words both excited and frightened me. They were not surprising to hear, as there had been hints that it might happen for a long time, but I was still shocked. Leaving my home of twelve years, where I had gone through school, made friends, and grown up, was not going to be easy. At the same time, however, it represented new opportunities that I didn’t have in the suburbs of Dallas. I imagine that this was what Deo and the Lost Boys of Sudan felt as they journeyed to their new lives in America, but on a much lesser scale.
As difficult as it was to move to rural Northwest lowa, I cannot imagine the difficulty of immigrating to the United States from the war-torn parts of Africa. At the same time, through reading and watching their stories, I was able to relate somewhat because of my own experiences. I have realized as a result that I should be grateful, because compared to their stories, my own move went smoothly. One of the hardest things about moving was leaving everything I knew behind.
I can still remember when I told my best friends that I was moving to lowa; most of them did not believe me at first. The move happened so quickly that I only managed to tell a small portion of the people I knew that I was leaving. What surprised me the most was how easy it was to leave without notice, it is like some of the relationships I made never happened. The Lost Boys and the culture they were a part of should be admired for the commitment these people had to one another.
These men formed bonds that survived starvation, war, and abandonment. Even when some of them were given the opportunity to move to America, the support given to those moving as refugees astonished me. I doubt that many Americans, myself included, can say that they formed closer bonds with so many people. The Lost Boys, in some ways, had it better than me, at least in regard to their relationships. Not only were they moving with some of their friends, but they were able to spend time with everyone that mattered to them before they left.
It makes me sad to think that despite all the advantages Americans have as a society, we still find it extremely difficult to form close relationships. As a result, I think it is extremely important to have at least a couple of close relationships, so hat you have someone to fall back on when times get tough. For me, when moving, this role was filled by a few close friends from Texas that I was able to keep in touch with through technology, as well as my family. The Lost Boys at least had each other, and were able to communicate with their friends in the refugee camp by writing letters.
Deo was by far the worse off, because not only did he have no close relationships in the USA to fall back on, but he had a serious language barrier to overcome. Reading about Deo’s struggles to form relationships has made me realize just how lucky I am for the relationships I ave, and it has helped me to appreciate the power of technology to keep my relationships alive, despite moving across the country. However, despite this ability to keep in touch with friends from Dallas, my move to Orange City would have been unsuccessful had I been unable to form new relationships here.
Forming new relationships helps to take away some of the loneliness of moving, and helps you call your new house a home. Deo’s new friendships in the United States with gave him a solid foundation from which he was able to go to school and branch out to discover all the US has to offer. In the same way, finding even one friend at MOC was imperative to helping me thrive here. Through a couple of people, I was able to meet others. Having just one person to help me navigate the school and town gave me a foundation from which to branch out and meet others.
No matter where you are moving form or to, finding even one friend early on helps make the move go smoothly, and helps you integrate into life in a new place. Another struggle of moving was finding a new church in Orange City. Religion has been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember, and after some searching in Dallas, my family found an amazing church where we could grow in Christ and build godly relationships. This searching did not happen overnight though, it took many years and a number of church changes to find one where we truly felt at home.
Both the Lost Boys and Deo were Christians, and religion was a strong factor in helping them get adjusted to life in the United States. For Deo especially, his interest in a church led to one of the most important relationships in his life. In my experience, a church helps you to form relationships with others and get connected to the community. By finding a church, Deo met Sharron who helped him adjust to life in New York city and became an advocate for him, giving him a voice. It was one of the factors that strongly influenced Deo’s path and later success.
It was one of my worries moving that I would be unable to find a church to call home, especially because most of the churches in Orange City are Reformed, and we did not have that around Dallas. I had no idea what to expect. This turned out to be easier than I had expected, and I can only describe it as an act of God. We struggled for weeks to find a house to move into in Orange City, because there were so few houses for sale and even fewer for rent. Finally, one came up for sale, and we bought it without once stepping inside, simply because we needed a place to stay.
Little did we know, that house was surrounded by kind neighbors who would strive to make us feel welcome. Eventually we learned that not only were they some of the most welcoming people you could find, but they all went to the same church. In fact, one of our neighbors was actually the pastor at First Reformed Church in Orange City. Eventually they invited us to visit their church, and we have been going there ever since. We could have moved into any house, but without even seeing it we chose that one, and it has made all the difference. How unlikely is that?
We have since moved into a different, more permanent, home, but I firmly believe that God placed us in that neighborhood because he was watching over us. In the same way that God brought Deo to that small little church in New York City, he has provided for me in my move to Orange City by surrounding me with good people. Our relationships with each other, and with God, are two of the keys for a successful move. Without people you can lean on and confide in, moving to a new lace, to start a new life, becomes an extremely difficult and lonely task.
I firmly believe, from my own experiences and from the stories of the Lost Boys and Deo, that even the most difficult of moves can be turn out well if you have these. Despite the worst circumstances possible, language barriers, cultural differences, and a complete absence of knowledge about basic technology, these people were able to adapt and thrive in the United States. My own move, from Texas to lowa, was far easier, but even so, the key things that made it go smoothly were no different than those of Deo and the Lost Boys.