Sunday, 23 June, about 8pm.
I was making pizza in the kitchen and working on a few photo blogs that will now come later due to coming surprises. Stephen had run to the store for a Coke and soda water.
We were taking a date night, something we’re trying to do more regularly, but were running behind schedule. I had let some of the girls come in to play with the magnets in the afternoon, and it turned into quite the party. One of my little favorites had a shirt quite covered with holes, so I offered to sew it up for her. She ended up in my shirt while I tried to hand-sew a large portion of a shirt in record time, all while magnets covered the floor and a few kids feasted on yogurt and raisins. While we had loads of fun, our pizza dinner was just going into to the oven about 8:30pm.
I heard the usual, “Kelli! Stephen!” at the door. There are three or four kids that usually come to our house later in the evenings to play, but when I came around the corner I could see four little girls faces that weren’t the usuals. I grabbed the cards anyway and went to the door, only to find a large pile of blankets and mats on the porch. I was now in view of about fifteen children and mothers, all with blankets and mats and pillows and bags in hand.
One of the girls speaks decent-ish English, so I asked if everything was okay. She said no, and gave me a motion of someone banging on something, saying, “Boom, boom, boom.” I asked if it was a father, thinking maybe someone had drank too much and started hitting things or people. “No father,” she said, “Police…no, not police…”
Then a Karen man showed up to translate. Quietly he said, “The [insert word I don’t understand] are coming, and they are afraid. Can they sleep here for one night?”
The word he had used was the vocabulary I know for “adopted.” I assumed that I remembered it wrong or it was a pronunciation difficulty. Either way, I didn’t really feel like there were many options to be had. When women and children show up at your door afraid, looking for a place to stay, there are very few Bible verses that will tell you to turn them away, if any.
So I let them in. It was a bit like a flood of people and blankets.
I called Stephen to tell him that some of our neighbors were joining us for the night. When he came into the kitchen he informed me, “This isn’t what I imagined from your call. This is a lot of people.”
By now most kids are happily playing on the floor, but quite a few adults are still coming in and out. Dinner is ready, and we are about to eat when Stephen comes in, “I think we need to get more information. One of the women just asked me if we had a gun. When I said no, she asked if I had a bow and arrow. What is going on?”
We walked out to the Karen family that usually translates for us. Due to the fact that this entire conversation isn’t within my typical conversation vocabulary, my understanding was broken. However, I gathered this:
The soldiers (a word very close to the word for “adopted”) were coming tonight because of something that happened to one man. There is some confusion on if he was hurt or killed, and who he was. For some reason the soldiers, not the police, were coming. The men and boys had all already left, and the women and children were fearful to stay in their homes alone. It was only one side of the neighborhood, the other side that is in more substantial houses, were not fearful. The Karen family we know very well was not fearful, seemingly out of stubbornness, and they would be sleeping in their home. It was for one night, and we were to lock the gate and door, turn out the lights, and it would be no problem.
There were about twelve bicycles in our driveway and about thirty pairs of shoes outside the door. When we asked if we should pull those inside or hide them, they looked at us like that would be ridiculous. It seemed to me that the “soldiers” might know exactly where to find everyone from the vacant homes…
At this point, we were slightly more fearful, but felt like we should still continue the same way. So we went to have dinner on our kitchen floor, where Stephen said, “This is more people than I anticipated on our date, but the pizza is great!”
We locked the gate and doors, and said our goodnights. We counted twenty-six people all lined out on the floor.
And then we prayed. We really didn’t know to expect, and there were definitely some fears. However, there were twenty-six fearful women and children seeking safety in our home, and we simply prayed that they would find that–safety, peace; and even on a ridiculously hard tile floor, we prayed they would have a better night sleep than ever before.
Monday, 24 June, 5:30am.
After waking multiple times in the night with no significant drama, we heard everyone leaving. The sun had barely started to rise, and they exited quickly. We told them they could stay longer, but smiled and let them choose, returning to find a little more sleep.
Then I remembered that we had locked the gate. So even if they made it out of our house, could they get out of the gate?
Stephen went outside to find all twenty-six people standing in our driveway, not sure what to do next. If we had been on top of our game at the break of dawn, it would have been a great photo.
Stephen opened the gate, and yet again there was a flood of folks returning to their homes. And again, a great photo op if we weren’t so far from being on top of our game.
And then we went to the office, admittedly recognizing our life is chaos and we can’t expect or hope for anything different.