The Kindness of Strangers by Deacon Deborah Goldfeder
There are many things about the Lui Refugee Project that have surprised me. I expected people in the Diocese of Missouri to be generous and you are. Episcopalians in Missouri have come through in donating time, talents and money (not to mention shoes!) The Saints of Historic All Saints, St. L. have stepped up and are helping to sort the bags of shoes, soap, salves, and other stuff into manageable piles. It has been heartening to see this outpouring of love for our brothers and sisters who find themselves refugees from their homes. Words of thanks seem so inadequate in times like these. The Rev. Sosthen and his wife, Veronica have seen the photographs of these collections on Facebook and they are very grateful for all of you.
The folks who have blown me out of the water are like the people of the SAJE Ministry (senior outreach in South County) who have learned of this project and have come to exercises with bags of shoes. They aren’t Episcopalians and have never met a Sudanese person in their lives. There are people in a knitting group in Mid Missouri who have sent a check to support the project. Friends of mine in Virginia and Pennsylvania have contributed and people on the Companion Diocese Committee tell me their friends are doing the same. The Rev. Chris Cobb’s home church (not Episcopal) have made a very generous donation. It amazes us all!
Some people can’t resist asking me what on earth I could be doing with forty-two tubs of Vaseline and twenty-five pair of identical shoes. When I told them, they inevitably asked how they might help. A man selling Post-Dispatch subscriptions outside Wal-Mart gave me a partially used gift card and three dollars—enough to buy a pair of shoes—and was going to contribute online when he got home. People’s hearts are moved when they hear of the suffering of the Moru people who are refugees.
The patience and generosity of the people at the Kirkwood Wal-Mart have been nothing short of outstanding. They have handled crazy orders and helped load a fifteen-foot truck with a forklift. They have been patient beyond belief but one person stands out to me. She was a checker and was supposed to have been going on break when the manager asked her to check me out. I had seventy pair of shoes in my cart and some other things. I expected that she would not be happy at her assignment but she surprised me. I told her about the problem with Jiggers and how we were trying to help our friends. She asked for my phone number and said she was going to her church mission committee to see if they could help. A week later she told me that they were, indeed, going to contribute! Her church is Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church located just blocks from Historic All Saints in St. Louis.
This is a monumental project and at times it seems overwhelming but then something like that happens. Nothing is impossible if God is in it! All our denominational differences fall away and what I see is a foretaste of heaven, right here in North St. Louis.