Crossing The Road - Week 2
A Good Neighbor doesn’t stay on his side of the street or even his own city sometimes.
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”-Luke 10:33-37
FULL DISCLOSURE - I have changed names and left some details vague because I don’t want to cause any dangers for him. *(They are real)*
I have never been on a blind date. However, after meeting with my refugee neighbor for the first time, I can imagine the nervous anxiety experienced.
The week before I met my refugee neighbor, an Exodous representative called me to ask me a few detailing questions. Do a I prefer someone who already speaks English or does it not matter? Did I want to engage in conversations or help with ESL? Did I want to meet with a refugee in Chicago or Dekalb? After all the details were worked out I was matched with a refugee neighbor in Chicago. On the day of our first meeting a representative from Exodus met me in Chicago and introduced me to my new refugee neighbor Omid. We went up to his apartment and got to know each other briefly with the representative there to help break the ice.
My first impression of Omid was friendly and personable. He welcomed me with a handshake and refreshments. He made us some Safron tea and served a variety of nuts and raisins. Hospitality is a big deal in Afghan culture. And as I understand it Saffron is a key ingredient in their teas. We sat in his one room apartment and had a good first conversation and visit.
He did most of the talking. Which, for a guy who considers himself to be a bit of an introvert, was welcomed. His accent is very thick and it is difficult at times to understand, but he does pretty well (It is getting easier with each visit to understand him). We talked about our families and how he came to be in Chicago. We actually have several things in common. We are approximately the same age and we both lost our fathers at the age of four. He really has a fascinating story to tell.
Omid is a pilot and a Lt. Colonel in the Afghan army (or was). He worked for the American special forces flying reconnaissance missions. When the Taliban retook Afghanistan last year they started targeting Afghan natives that worked with the Americans. Pilots were high on their list of targets. Omid was especially wanted, because when he fled the country to the UAE (United Arab Emerites) he took the spy plane he flew with him. And it seems the Taliban wanted it.
One of the more interesting things in our relationship is hearing about the culture he comes from. His culture, Islam, is very family oriented. The bigger the better. They are allowed to have up-to four wives at a time, but they must be able to love and care for all of them equally.
Omid is married to one wife with 7 children, 4 boys & 3 girls ranging from 7 to 21. And he is always worried about them. Their lives are in danger, because of him. His oldest son is the most at risk. Now his family has had to move from their home near Kabul. They are staying near relatives trying to get to a border country. Unfortunately, they have to go through the embassy to get visas and that can be dangerous, too. Pakistan is the only border country left with an embassy inside of Afghanistan. They have no home, no money (except for what he is able to send to them from his job here), no security or safety. He has been away from them for over a year now. And will likely be several years before he sees them all again.
Once he got to the UAE he started a long vetting process from every US governmental agency with a say. Once he was cleared of being a potential terrorist he received his invitation to the US. From there he was taken to Virginia via a plane ticket given to him that he has to payback. Here he had all of his documentation taken care of and waited for a host city to become available. In this case, it was Chicago.
Join me next week as I examine mine and Omid’s quest to try and navigate big city life in Chicago. Also, I will try and answer some questions about how his life here is different than in Afghanistan.
Until then, be a blessing and be blessed.