A Happy, Hopeful, Hard New Year

As 2020 came to its finality, Casa Alterna at Atlanta Friends Meeting was full. A mom and three children from Southeast Asia, plus two single women – one from East Asia and the other from Eurasia marked the end of a challenging year side-by-side and alongside us.

We closed this challenging year with gratitude and celebration. The women were thankful that 2020 marked the end to violent and exploitive relationships. Additionally, just this week two of these women were liberated from Irwin County Detention Center, the cruelest immigration detention center in America.

This week two of these women were liberated from Irwin County Detention Center, the cruelest immigration detention center in America.

But December 31 was a day for gratitude and celebration, so we celebrated.

Some of our guests made homemade pizzas. For some of our guests it was their first time making this popular dish from scratch. Everyone enjoyed the meal and there was enough leftover for New Year’s Day lunch (or some had pizza for breakfast).

New Year’s Eve some of us gathered in a large room and watched a family-friendly film via projector and screen. Later that night all of us slept or watched out the windows to the booms, crackles, and flashes of fireworks under a canopy of hope.

Hope will be an invaluable companion for these women in 2021. Already one has left us to reside for a few months at a sister ministry that has welcomed refugees and immigrants for over 40 years. Another will leave for the northeast tomorrow where she will have to fend for herself in a major city without any documents. There, a shelter that will take her in but we’ve heard disconcerting reports about this facility. Why our government detained her without due process for so many months to then release her without any documentation is a frustrating enigma.

Our guests who left on this rainy New Year’s Day requested to take a stuffed animal with her. She is almost 50 years old. (Photo courtesy of pixabay.com.)

The traumas our guests have endured are merciless. How will they move from this place of respite and find the long-term emotional, physical, and spiritual sustenance they need and deserve?

Economic hardships face so many in the world right now. Imagine a post-COVID economy for a single mom or for single women that have fled all forms of violence and who now find themselves in a distant country, a foreign culture and without strong systems of support. My empathic self can sense the overwhelming nature of such a precarious future.

But New Year’s Eve we genuinely celebrated. Across cultures and across four different languages, we celebrated.

On New Year’s Eve the resilient women and children remembered, and reminded us, of the grit and grace that has carried each of them (and us) through hardships of the past.

On New Year’s Eve the resilient women and children remembered, and reminded us, of the grit and grace that has carried each them (and us) through hardships of the past.

On New Year’s Eve all of us rested in the company of one another’s fellowship and in this friendly place of refuge. While some were setting off fireworks to illuminate the dark sky, our guests held us in a light that no eye can see, but one that dispels the darkness of the soul. It is now my privilege to hold these women and children in that same Light.

On New Year’s Eve all of us rested in the company of one another’s fellowship and in this friendly place of refuge.

On New Year’s Eve we resolved, each in our own way, to face 2021 with courage and ferocity.

On New Year’s Eve we resolved, each in our own way, to face 2021 with courage and ferocity.

On behalf of all our guests and us, we thank every single person who has volunteered, donated, encouraged, and held us and our guests in the Light. In 2021 we resolve to continue to prove that love crosses borders. For us, 2020 has not been “a year we’d rather forget.” On the contrary, out of the rubble of this dystopian year a new vision was breathed into life – Casa Alterna @ Atlanta Friends Meeting was born and for that we are eternally grateful.

Thank you, 2020. Welcome, 2021. Happy New Year, everyone!

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