Of my experiences with refugees, one of the most definitive was waiting in the emergency room with one of our friends. I received a text late in the morning that she headed to the ER, but we knew neither what hospital she was in nor her condition. After maybe an hour of trying to get in touch with her, we finally discovered—to our great relief—where she was. Apparently, she experienced so much pain the night before that she could not sleep. I headed to the hospital, and prayed that I would locate her quickly.
I found her half asleep in the waiting room. Her pain and exhaustion were palpable, and I could only sit beside her and hope to be a calming presence in the midst of doctors and nurses moving from one patient to the next. When the doctor arrived, I reminded her (repeatedly) to slow down her rapid fire speech, and we occasionally resorted to the cumbersome process of speaking through a translator on the phone. As this went on, more friends arrived to provide relief, laughter, dinner breaks, and additional voices of comfort and advice. Finally, our friend was cleared to return home. By the time we reached our cars, I had been there about 10 hours: most of that time spent waiting.
Getting into work the next day, I told my friend what had transpired the night before. He took on a thoughtful expression, and said
“You know, people usually wait like that for family.”
My thoughts began to swirl. I was reminded of the few times I waited like that before, and realized it had always been for relatives. I recalled other visits in which I stayed for short—sometimes even prescribed—amounts of time. As the day passed, I ruminated on the fact that Christ calls us into a new family, and out of this comes our own surprise when we act in a way that, previously, was reserved for only the closest of kin.
I discovered that I did not wait with her out of some professional sense of responsibility; I waited with her because she is my sister in Christ. I did not wait because there was something worth waiting for, but because she is someone worth waiting with.
As we continue in this Advent season, I am more and more convinced that waiting is a great deal of how we become family. Yes, we have conversations, shared interests, sometimes even a shared mission. These are all important, but when we wait with one another we share in a sacred space that is as irreplaceable as it is transformational. When we wait with one another, we show we care enough to give our very being for the sake of someone else. When we wait with one another, we find our family in Christ.
Russell LaGrone is a native Houstonian, Perkins School of Theology graduate, and United Methodist deacon. In October 2013, his life was changed through an encounter with the Holy Spirit at FAM's Community Night. In February 2014, he and his wife Erin Randolph moved into the FAM Intentional Christian Community and never looked back. Now, they are thrilled to move into the Near Northside by January 2018 to experience how God is at work in the lives of their neighbors, and to see where God takes them next.