As my feet crossed the threshold of the door, I immediately was hit with a wave of heat. The smell of fried eggs rolls and homemade broth filled my nostrils and a sense of home and happiness crept up inside me. I knew right away that this was going to be no ordinary experience.
The main room of the apartment was small with bare walls. The floor was carpet, but a large red plastic mat was spread out for people to sit on. The only thing lighting up the room was a small one-light-bulb lamp in the corner.
Nancy* and Grace*, our friends from the Burmese church, ushered us to sit as we entered the apartment. Slowly the room began to fill with Burmese people who were part of their congregation, most of whom could not speak English. Every person that walked through that doorway would shake our hand while having the most genuine smile on their face. Kids were running around everywhere, yelling, laughing, and playing with balloons and balls. I couldn’t help but sit in awe, enjoying the beautiful chaos that God allowed us to be part of.
Nancy* was born and raised in Burma but she fled with her two brothers about 7 years ago to Malaysia due to political instability and injustice in their home country. They stayed in Malaysia for about 4 years before being given the chance to relocate to the United States with the help of the UN. She remembers being very scared of the police in Malaysia because they would imprison Burmese people with no valid reason. She remembers a story about a man who was living on one of the top floors of a tall building. He heard the police coming so he hid in a box that was set next to the window. Unfortunately, the window was open and he fell to his death.
If you met Nancy* on the street and started talking to her, you probably would never guess the life she lived before coming to America because she always has a big smile on her face. I asked her if she liked being here or if she missed home. She responded by saying, ‘When I was on the plane, I looked out the window and saw all the churches that were here. I immediately knew I would be okay. This could be home. God is so good.’ Her words amazed me.
I will never be able to fully comprehend what this beautiful woman has gone through because growing up here is so different. But I do know one thing. The faith of each person in that room that night was something to be admired and a challenge to look at my own faith.
After we all ate together, Pastor John pulled out his guitar and we all began singing the familiar chorus, ‘Shout to the Lord’. Then, the congregation began praising God with a song in Burmese. There weren’t many of us in that room, but the voices singing were loud, clear, honest, and beautiful. I remember sitting there with my eyes closed and just listening, thinking how this has to be a glimpse of what heaven might be like. God is so good.
*Names were changed for privacy.
Jane is a participant in Siloam’s six-week Community Health Immersion.