In my blood you will find the ancestry of refugees (Irish), immigrants (Norwegians), slaves, and native Americans (Cherokee). My husband is full-bloodied Sierra Leonean who moved here as a teenager with his family during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Our children are first generation Americans. We are all here because we wanted or needed to be here at some point in our family’s history. Why not celebrate? Why not share this truth and be proud? Why not invite others over here if they need help just like our ancestors did?
My family is so lucky to live in a town with such a rich history of opening it’s doors to people escaping religious persecution. It’s a mid-sized town of about 530,000 residents in the county and about 60,000 living in the downtown area – the most diverse part of this county’s population.
Lancaster has taken in more refugees per capita than anywhere else in the U.S! When you walk the streets downtown you see people of all shades and languages and religions. You also see lots of mixed families (like ours), which took me by surprise when we moved here from Southern California 5 years ago.
A few days ago Lancaster’s liveliest music venue opened its doors to Church World Service to raise money for their efforts in bringing more refugees to Lancaster. They say it brought in 1000 people, but I swear it was more. We were packed like sardines, cheering and shouting and singing and laughing. It was a beautiful celebration of diversity in small town America, and I am so proud to have been a part of it.
Music is truly the Universal Language. We heard music from around the world and sang along. Even if we didn’t understand all the words we understood the meaning behind the songs that were shared because the music FELT good. It felt like “I love you”. It felt like “God is good”. It felt like “home”.
In the video below there’s a quick shot of me from the concert at around 7:40, but the main heroes of this story are the refugees who have gone through hell to get here. Welcome home.