Rosie Sexton reflects upon the experience of new beginnings and handling change.
When we came to the UK, it was the fourth country we had moved to as a family in seven years. It was both exciting and daunting, starting all over again. There was so much loss, and yet it was an adventure and one that we had chosen.
We had no home of our own, so we invaded my long-suffering parents’ neat and tidy house, looked for schools, a church, new community, and tried to understand this place where we should have felt at home, as I was supposedly English, but where as a family we were in fact strangers. The children’s accents gave them away, but those soon faded. Were we starting to fit in? Having family here eased the process of figuring out how life worked, but I did get strange looks from the cashier for not knowing how to pay for my groceries at the till.
We had chosen our move to the UK, but others don’t have this luxury. Many of the refugees I meet through the English classes I run in Norwich have a very different story to tell.
Suzan recounted how becoming a Christian had had catastrophic consequences. She lost her job and her home, her family rejected her, and she had to flee her country following imprisonment and torture. When she arrived in the UK, she had none of the support I had. No family or friends, she didn’t speak or look English and her future was on hold until others decided if they believed her story or not.
All of us face new beginnings at many points in our lives, some big and some smaller. Some are full of hope of a fresh start full and of positive change, but for others, things are not easy. Some changes we choose and others are forced upon us.
What makes the difference when we face change? For us, moving here, it was the support of family, both immediate and wider, it was people who were open to getting to know us, taking time to let us join in with their already busy lives.
Also, as Christians, it is knowing that God walks through both the joys and pain with us. Even in the darkest valleys, the loneliest times, prayers are heard, even if not answered in our way and timing. We know the truth of Emmanuel, God with us.
We can also choose how we respond to new beginnings. As John Newton said, “His love in times past forbids me to think he’ll leave me at last in troubles to sink.” As so often mentioned in the psalms and repeated to me by refugees who have had difficult new beginnings, by reflecting on God’s faithfulness, guiding and answered prayers, we can face the uncertain future with confidence and gratitude.
As Augustine said, God alone is the place of peace that cannot be disturbed, and he will not withhold himself from your love unless you withhold your love from him.
Rosie Sexton is the founder and Director of English+, a Christian charity seeking to help newcomers to Norfolk feel welcome and integrate, helping to make a more positive new beginning.
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