In the 1930s my Yaya (grandmother) was sent out on a ship from Cyprus when she was about 10 years old. Accompanied with her mother and siblings, they fled tensions and trouble in the region to make a better life in Australia. Her father joined the family several years later.
I remember Yaya telling me how she lived in Bunbury, WA, and was married off to my Papou when she was 17. He was around 31. Having a few young children by the time she was 21, she would go down to the river each day, cut masses of reeds, and come back weaving baskets to sell. Papou was a bad husband and father, contributing very little and using most of any money they had on drinking and gambling. Yaya told me once that she managed to saved hundreds of pounds through her baskets, cooking, crocheting and other creative and resourceful methods which she used to buy a house in Port Pirie, SA after the family had moved there.
Yaya was always cooking, always welcoming people to her home, always knitting clothes for family and friends and always selling things she made to raise money for charity. She kept chickens and grew lots of vegetables in her backyard– even peanuts and cotton!
In so many ways her life was tough, and yet she triumphed. She was a devout Greek Orthodox Christian and my only experience of church for the first 19 years of my life was Yaya taking me to church a few times. It was, literally, all Greek to me, but I remember those visits vividly. She prayed for her family and even close to death she would attend worship, though she was frail and very ill.
I offer this personal family reflection as this week in Australia is Refugee Week. Maybe you know, maybe you missed it. But it has given me cause to pause and be thankful that Australia has offered hope to so many people over hundreds of years who have fled dangerous and difficult places in the hope of a better life. My Yaya was one of them. I loved her and she made a deep and lasting impact on my life.
Paul Pallot is starting a new series at NC and 10am over the next few weeks on the Prophet Micah. Many will know this verse:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (6:8)
May our church, and our nation continue to act justly and welcome those who need refuge and fresh hope for the future.