About this blog: Discussing religion, spirituality and values. About the writers: Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. Janet Marshall is the religion editor for The Free Lance-Star.
Among American Christians, it’s tradition to buy new clothes for Easter. What does this have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? I’m not so sure. I can come up with some pretty creative answers, and I do every year when my husband looks at the checkbook register around Easter time. This year, he was pretty resigned and only had one demand: Our sons are now too old for matching Easter outfits. He’ll be shocked, then, that today I finally learned the lesson of an Old Testament verse I memorized as a teen: Man might look at our outward appearances but the Lord looks at our hearts. The Scripture talks about God choosing a king. But it could work for Easter dresses, too.
This morning, I went to Fredericksburg Baptist Church and saw about nearly 40 African refugee women and their daughters get new Easter outfits. I think my last Easter dress cost $100. These outfits were made out of spare fabric from church women. We cut them up and just sewed hems on two sides (to those of you who are aware of my domestic skills, don’t worry, I didn’t do any of the sewing). Then we measured, cut and hemmed matching material scraps for headwraps. The girls eagerly wrapped their heads and jumped in front of cameras, saying one of their new English phrases, "Take my photo." Even the women wanted their pictures taken in their new finery. They laughed as we Americans tried to figure out how to wear sarongs and headwraps.
Then, while the children learned to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "The Wheels on the Bus" and munched on muffins and drank mango orange juice, a social-work student interviewed the women. They said that while they are so happy to be in America where there is plenty of food, they feel guilty thinking of family back home who still don’t eat. The women cried as they talked about having to leave their children, because if your child is over 18, they don’t automatically get to come with you. I’m a mom, so I cried, too, as the women said the camps will be closed this year, and their children will be sent back to a homeland they’ve never seen. They were born in refugee camps; their parents fled Burundi in the midst of a civil war that hasn’t completely settled. There are still pockets of resistance, and there isn’t enough land or food for the refugees to go back to. These mothers know this, and while they are happy to be in America, thrilled to be trying on new Easter clothes, they don’t sleep at night thinking of their children back in Africa.
After the interview, the girls went back to modeling their new clothes and playing, and the women chatted and smiled. That’s what they do, these refugee women. Their lives have been filled with struggle and pain but they always endure and often smile.