By Sister JoAnn Mark, ASC
As the Greyhound bus pulled out of the Wichita Transit Station at 4 a.m., Sister Diana Rawlings and I realized we were seeing the close of the asylum ministry at the Wichita Center.
A piece of my heart has gone with each of the six families when they left, but I feel a special loss with Didier, Sandra, Beni and Mark leaving us. They had been with us since January of 2019. During that time, Mark was born and celebrated his first birthday, and Beni celebrated both his third and fourth birthdays.
Since August of 2018 when our first family arrived, I have learned much about the Congolese culture; unrest in the Congo; the goodness, faith and strength of the Congolese; the suffering people will endure in order to come to the United States; the desire of immigrants to work and to learn English; the love they have for family and how cousins are called sisters and brothers; the difficulty of honest communication when you do not speak the language or know the culture; and on and on. I have also learned more about the generosity of our sisters living at the Wichita Center and of sisters from other congregations.
I have had to attend immigration court and prepare legal papers for asylum applications, and work permits. A part of these experiences had been my growing frustration with the U.S. government and the unrealistic expectations it places on those who come seeking to escape rape, horrible mistreatment and death for themselves and their families. However, we have been greatly blessed by pro bono legal services and discounted medical services available in Wichita.
I cannot possibly list all of my learnings and all the joy I have experienced in interacting with the children and their parents. Nor can I thank all the persons and organizations that assisted us in this ministry. None of us could have done this alone.
Sisters and staff tutored children, drove families to appointments, played with the kids, helped families practice their English, taught the kids how to ride bikes and attended school functions.
In all, 27 people received care from the Adorers.
The Monza family left so that Didier could pursue a job in the eastern U.S. The family spent a few hours visiting some of the sisters in the Wichita Center before leaving. Sisters enjoyed witnessing the antics of 4-year-old Beni and the walking skills of 13-month-old Mark Gregory, whose name is an amalgam of mine and former Wichita Center Director Greg Lohkamp.
Didier told the sisters:
“This family (the sisters) did everything for my family. I will continue to be your family. If you come to visit, you will have a place to stay. I don’t want to leave Wichita, to leave this family, but I must go because of my family and work and school. From my heart, I like this family very much. I thank God for you. My God bless all of you, protect all of you. I thank you for everything.”
(Editor’s note: Sister JoAnn Mark wrote this reflection after Didier, Sandra, Beni and Mark left Wichita in October 2020. She hears from them regularly. Didier and Sandra have work permits good for two years. Their court date to determine their request for asylum is in 2022.)