KAREN‘S STORY | SOMETIMES SAYING ’YES’ CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Sometimes when an opportunity is put in front of you, a ‘yes’ is just a ‘yes’. But sometimes, a ‘yes’ turns into something more.
Five years ago, Karen and her Vineland life group said ‘yes’ to being assigned to a farm. Initially, she found herself making the occasional visit or being part of a BBQ. Through those first contacts with these new strangers in her life, she saw a practical need that she could meet: transportation. She realized that many who are here working on the farms are in need of a ride to church, to the pharmacy, or to medical appointments; it was while driving to these places, that Karen saw her initial ‘yes’ turn into friendships. There was time for conversation, for trust to be established, and for connections to be made. She was approached to coordinate a transportation system, linking in other drivers, and she found herself getting to know more men than those at the one farm assigned to her life group.
Through that first ‘yes’, Karen has opened herself up to so much more joy than she ever would have imagined. She talks about these new brothers and father figures with a smile on her face, and it is clear to me that she doesn’t take lightly the honour of hearing their stories, of joining with them in worship, or of praying for their families.
In January of this year, another opportunity presented itself to Karen and a few others in our community – they said ‘yes’ to the chance to travel to Jamaica and visit some of the friends who spend so much of the year in Canada. For the summer months, she spends her time as part of the Southridge team committed to helping these men feel at home here; introducing them to Canadian culture, welcoming them into their families, serving them North American food, and taking them to see local sights like Niagara Falls. She talks about the unexpected role reversal that she experienced while she was in Jamaica; those that had been hosted here, becoming the hosts as they shared the beauty of their country with the Canadian visitors. They were immersed in the beauty of the Jamaican sights such as Lover’s Leap, and the views of sprawling sugar cane fields and yam farms. They took in ocean scenery and enjoyed the warm weather as they travelled around the island making visits.
It is these visits that Karen raves about the most when we chat; the lengths that people went to in order to make meetings happen, the way that so many homes were opened with overflowing hospitality, the delicious meals that were prepared. When she starts listing the local delicacies that they experienced, it’s hard to keep my mouth from watering; ackee & saltfish, callaloo, jerk chicken, festivals, and breadfruit.
But mostly it was the people; reconnecting with old friends and having the opportunity to meet their families. Karen starts listing name after name, story after story, and the amazement at being able to finally put real live faces to the names of loved ones that she has been praying for over the years. She tells me about Marcus, who had minor surgery here during the 2017 summer season, and how she was able to see the changed person he is after recovering. She talks about the gratitude that was expressed by his family for the care he received when he was in Canada. It’s a life that most of us will never understand: being separated from your spouse for so many months each year, knowing that he is working hard to provide, but unable to help when he is sick. Knowing that Karen and her team are here to be that family support is a comfort to those back home who are otherwise just left to worry.
I ask her if things have changed since her trip, and she opens the texting app on her phone and starts to scroll. Bonds that were already strong have just become stronger, and she shows me family photos that have been sent, and messages about the upcoming season.
The beauty in hearing Karen tell her story, is that somewhere between that first ‘yes’, and today, she has experienced the truth that family is more than our blood relatives. These hardworking men who come to Niagara each summer may be leaving one family at home, but are hopefully feeling at home with their second families here.
Sometimes a ‘yes’ is just a ‘yes’. Sometimes it’s the stepping stone to so much more.