The Youth on a Mission group offers this reflection on the graces of their time in Chicago while being at Cabrini Retreat Center in Des Plaines, IL:
In a week where ICE raids loomed and harmful rhetoric about immigrants seemed heightened, one of the most meaningful moments of our trip was the opportunity to welcome a refugee family being re-settled. Through Exodus World Service, we arrived at the refugee family’s apartment before them and spent the afternoon getting it all set up: beds made, shower curtain hung, furniture assembled, pantry stocked. When the six refugees arrived, we cheered and greeted them with warmth and excitement. For our youth to be able to say things like “we are so glad you’re here!” and “our country is better with you as our neighbors!” meant a great deal to us, and helped us live into the country we long for.
Exodus staff ended our day with dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant where we celebrated the birthday of one of our youth participants who is from Ethiopia.
The Youth on a Mission group includes youth and chaperones from many different countries – which reflects the make-up of our faith community in Virginia. Each night our group gathered to pray and reflect on the experience of the day.
We spent the week exploring big conversations of our time, learning what it means to educate ourselves and respond to the needs of the world as the Gospel propels us to. We engaged in interfaith dialogue, visited Viator and Bethany Houses of Hospitality (which provide compassionate accompaniment to young men and women seeking refugee status in the United States.)
At Bethany House we participated in an active bystander training which prepares individuals to not only witness a situation, but to speak up or step in to shift away from a negative or threatening focus.
We wish to extend our thanks to all the wonderful people we met and especially to the Missionary Sisters and staff who said “welcome!” in so many ways to us during our stay.