Priority Areas

Welcoming the stranger

LauraA week ago I was sitting in Stony Point, New York waiting. Waiting for the flight to Glasgow. Waiting to know what my work would be here in Glasgow. Waiting for information about the flat. I sat and I waited, with bags carefully packed, filled will coats and sweaters and pictures from home.

A week ago, I landed on Scottish soil for the very first time. I watched the clouds part as green, rolling hills stretched out beneath the plane. A week ago, I walked through customs with my American passport in hand, a letter from the Church of Scotland explaining that I was indeed most welcome here. Without much ado, that passport was stamped, and I walked out of the airport to be greeted by Lynn (the Scotland site coordinator) and Iona (our Scottish roommate/fellow volunteer).

YAV welcome

After a quick drive, I was welcomed into a flat, with a bedroom of my own, offered the first of many cups of tea and was given an introduction to the beautiful city I get to call home for the next year. In the last week, I’ve been welcomed and greeted warmly by a multitude of congregations and organizations. I’ve been given cake and flowers, and assured that any questions I have will be happily answered. I’ve been guided through a new bus system, walked through a new money system and patiently had things repeated when the Scottish brogue was a little thick. It has been a kind and wonderful welcome, and I am excited for the work this year brings.

However, it is not lost on me that while I settle into my new home, easily crossing from the U.S. to the U.K.,  there are thousands of others desperately seeking asylum. In the same week as our arrival, the British government, along with the rest of the EU has been faced with daunting questions about accepting refugees. These people, moms, dads, and children are fleeing horrific situations in Syria, not with the bulky suitcases I dragged through security, but with precious few possessions. They make their homes in stadiums and tents, waiting for decisions from faraway governments, while I snuggle under a comfy duvet. As I stroll down Glasgow’s streets, soaking in the sunshine, and content in the security the visa issued to me provides, others wait for news about possible relocations. Relocations interestingly, that may bring them to the same neighborhoods where I’ll be working this year.

I do not pretend to understand the political implications of accepting asylum seekers. I offer this post merely as an observation, as someone who has watched the US struggle mightily with immigration questions and now must  watch my new home face serious immigration questions of their own. As we settle into life here and delight in each new experience, I remember those whose crossings were not so simple, whose arrivals were not greeted with sweet welcomes. It is my hope that those in leadership positions will act wisely and that all of us will be mindful of the role we must play in welcoming the strangers in our midst.

Laura Kate Gamble
PCUSA Young Adult Volunteer
(Govan and Linthouse Parish)


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