I started out thinking I could rescue the refugees from their hellish situations in the camps. I am now convinced that wisdom simply lies in being with them wherever they are. I came to this understanding rather slowly, and not without difficulty.
The six weeks that Nhai Bee’s family spent at our motherhouse opened my eyes to a larger world, one I was now eager to explore. And so I made arrangements to set off for Thailand for a year’s immersion in a refugee camp.
When I first set out, I might as well have been Indiana Jones. Each day was sheer adventure. I’d never been out of the United States before, and now here I was flying off to Bangkok. My initial calling to this ministry had been through a dream in which it was clear that the refugees would be teaching me many things, above all “a new way of loving,” but I’m afraid I lost sight of that humble perspective shortly after the plane left the San Francisco Airport.
The plane was heading to Thailand in order to pick up a full load of Southeast Asian refugees destined for permanent resettlement in the United States. In the company of nine seasoned refugee workers, I managed to transform myself, within the space of a 22-hour flight, into a grand emissary of mercy, an agent of God who would do great things, able to leap tall oceans in a single bound, sent to rescue beleaguered exiles.