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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

A Temporary Home

I know, we haven’t been sharing too many details about our work in our updates. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’ve likely seen the boys starting school, our trips to the beach, and some of the food that we’ve had the pleasure to try while we’ve been here. It’s true: we love living in France, and it certainly has a lot to offer in terms of food and good times. The people of Calais are very friendly, and we’ve started to fit in just a little bit.

There’s a reason we haven’t shared many specifics about our work. The fact is, the people we help house are extremely vulnerable. They have traveled thousands of miles and suffered extreme atrocities, only to be stonewalled at the British border. They are now homeless and have to work with what can only be described as the Mafia in order to cross the English Channel in secret. Needless to say, much of this is considered illegal under both French and British law.

While we cannot encourage people to cross the Channel or provide any sort of aid to them in their attempts to cross, what we can provide is a safe space to feel at home while they are stranded in Calais. We have already had the opportunity to interact with many wonderful, strong people as they both give and receive hospitality at the Maria Skobtsova House (MSH).

That said, we are necessarily conscientious about protecting their identities, both to save them from trouble and to protect ourselves from any sort of retribution. However, we can provide glimpses into what life is like at MSH.

For a time, there were several families staying at MSH, including a couple of very young children. They came from a variety of cultures: Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq. But they had one thing in common. They are refugees seeking a better life for their children and grandchildren in a foreign land. Many times, the only way for us to communicate with the people in the house is to use a translator app. Most often this works well, but sometimes it can create some funny situations, such as when a woman told Alex that she wanted to take her clothes off before going to the beach!

The women at MSH take turns cooking, and I joked with another volunteer that it’s my favorite restaurant in Calais. The food and fellowship are always wonderful, despite the communication barrier. Often, there are many people in the kitchen preparing the food, and I feel like I’m intruding whenever I enter. I once had to sort through a large amount of tomatoes that we had received as a donation while two little girls and three women were in the kitchen behind me. I felt like I was in the way.

No matter where people come from or how long they stay, we try to make it clear to them that while they are there the house is their home. As a result, there is constant activity, cleaning, cooking, playing, and I have hardly had to wash dishes or do any cleaning myself, because one of the women always orders me not to. I wish our house were as clean!

Again, we can’t share too many specifics about the individuals in the house, but I hope this gives you an idea of just how important MSH is to the people who live there. We have had the opportunity to receive hospitality from them as much as we’ve given it. It never ceases to amaze me just how high-spirited people who have been through so much hardship can be. We constantly pray for them and give them what little we can. But the house truly does belong to the guests who live there, no matter for how long.

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