The People of the Devon Oasis Center
By Kate Berkey - December 28, 2017
Posted in Partnerships, Global Impact, Stories from NMC, Discipleship
“This woman is one of the hardest working women I know.”
Bob Andrews gestures to the woman who has just walked into the Devon Oasis Center with her two young children. She smiles sheepishly, as if this isn’t the first time she’s heard this compliment. Bob goes on to tell me that this woman provides for both her immediate and extended family. He tells me about the many jobs she has and the long hours she works. He tells me that she can barely rest. Her life is consumed by making sure that her family is taken care of.
She is a refugee, a foreigner in a foreign land. Long gone is her home and the life she called normal. That was torn from her, traded for concrete buildings and sidewalks and thin walls between neighbors. Looking at her, I can’t help but think of the millions like her who long for safety.
We sit together, this mother and I. Bob hands me some phonics flash cards, and tells me to move through them slowly with her. So together, we sound out words like, “cat,” “moon,” and “monkey.” We laugh at words like “dinosaur” and “xylophone,” and her face turns red when she can’t pronounce a few words in a row. Adjusting to a new culture and language is an incredibly difficult task, so I remind her that even though some things seem impossible, she is doing a great job.
She sits quietly in front of the computer, focusing intensely on the blinking cursor. The rest of the room is chaotic, but her eyes squint in concentration. She breaks her focus to tell me that she is in the sixth grade, and she has to write an essay about a book her class is reading.
She trips over her words as she tries to explain what the book is about. It seems like a tough assignment for any sixth grader, but even more difficult for a refugee still getting used to the American school system. She speaks of the loss of hope written in the pages of the book, and I can’t help but wonder if she sees parts of herself in this fictional story. I wonder what her story is. I wonder what she has lost in her short life. I wonder what kind of stories her family could tell.
We don’t talk about that, though. Instead, we talk about run-on and transition sentences. I remind her again to add a period at the end of a sentence. We laugh together when we read a sentence that doesn’t make sense to either of us.
Although my questions about her story are never-ending, I realize that I’m not there to have them answered. I’m there to be someone she can trust. This afternoon she needs someone she can share her ideas with, even if they seem silly. She needs someone to patiently correct her grammar, someone to listen and ask questions as she tries to form thoughts and sentences. She needs someone to remind her that she is smart, even as she struggles.
There are only three girls left at the center at the end of the day. They are usually some of the first to be picked up, but today their aunt is running late. She walks in just before six, cold and out of breath, apologizing profusely. Bob dismisses her apology with a smile and asks how her family is.
Later, she says, “Thank you for all you do, Bob.”
“It is only because of Jesus Christ that we are able to serve you,” Bob says with the deepest sincerity.
And in that moment, the atmosphere shifts. The woman nods and looks down at her phone, fidgeting. “Yes, I know.”
Bob begins to speak gently as he shares the Gospel with her, asking her questions along the way about her own faith. She tells us that she and her family are Catholic. It’s a heritage passed down for generations. She tells us about her daily habits of praying and reading the Bible, habits taught to her by her mother. Through tears, she tells us that her mother, whom she dearly loved, died just a few months ago.
Time seems to slow, as if the Holy Spirit is pausing our rushed and hurried schedules, asking us to listen, to love, and to walk alongside a hurting woman. So we sit, and we listen. We offer kindness and hugs, because living without someone loved so deeply is incredibly difficult. And we offer Jesus, because He is the only One who can help us survive our own darkest hours.
These are the people who find refuge in a small storefront on the corner of Devon and Western Avenue in Chicago. They are refugee mothers and fathers who are trying desperately to earn money for their families. They are people whose world has turned upside down. They are people who are adjusting to a new culture, desperate to learn the language.
They are students who are trying to survive a new and strange education system. They are kids who long to learn, to experience a sense of normalcy. They are students who want someone to take time to care, to listen, to help, to remind them that they are capable of great things even as they struggle.
They are families with complex stories, with hurt and pain. They are people trying to carry on the legacy of those who have gone before them while living in a new and foreign place. They are people trying desperately to remember who they are and where they came from.
These are the people Bob and Lynne Andrews, a regional partner of NMC, seek to point to Jesus every single day. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles. Each has a unique story. Each has hopes and dreams. Some are far from Christ, and some are not. Each get to see the love of Jesus through the words and actions of the Andrews.
These are the people of the Devon Oasis Center.
Be Part of the Story
You can serve the people of the Devon Oasis Center personally! Here are a few ways:
- Donate items: We all know what winter is like in Chicago. Many of the families Bob and Lynne work with need blankets and coats. Contact Bob Andrews (email@example.com) to find out how you can donate these valuable items to a family in need.
- Serve: Each season of the year brings a new way people can serve with the Devon Oasis Center. To find out about current serving opportunities, contact Bob Andrews (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Pray: The work of the Devon Oasis Center is only done through prayer from people who intercede on Bob and Lynne’s behalf. Would you join those who are praying daily for Bob and Lynne and their ministry?