The last couple weeks have been filled with love. That's right, love, and a little uncertainty at times, but a whole lot of love. This election has created a path that has made the pitch of the hill we are climbing a little steeper, but there you are, continuing to carry us up. The day after the election, 25 more of you signed up to volunteer with Soft Landing Missoula. In the week that has followed, that number rose over 100 new volunteers. We know there are challenges ahead for our work, but we are also confident in the heart of Missoula to continue it's overwhelming support of our efforts, the strength of our Nation to endure and challenge what lies ahead, and the dedication of the International Rescue Committee to continue to serve refugees as they have for the last 85 years since their inception. Thank you for stopping by our office and sending love letters and phone calls our way. This has been a welcome bright spot this last couple weeks and we must use this support not to get complacent in what we are doing, but to let it reinvigorate us to our purpose and vision.
You can help with this! What ever national challenges for us that lie ahead, we must also face the Montana State Legislature. Over the next few days, we will be working with some AMAZING organizations that we are blessed to call partners to strategize and set a plan in action to show strong support for refugees and immigrants in Montana. There have been multiple anti-refugee/anti-immigrant bills already drafted and we must have a presence at the Capitol come January to have our voices heard. One thing we will be doing is participating in MAC Day at the Legislature on Monday, January 23rd - All day. MAC - Montana Association of Christians, is a well respected organization who participates in the legislature and believes in educating and advocating for Justice and Compassion for all. Every session, they choose a few key issues to focus their energy on, and this year, one of those issues is to champion the cause of Refugees and Immigrants in Montana. We are so grateful for the amazingly insightful and kind guidance they have given your rookie leader (that's me!) and their willingness to stand up for refugees in this tricky political climate. We will board the MAC bus in the morning (a bus with coffee and donuts and training!) and spend the day visiting our representatives in the Capitol. We want to help them fill the bus! There will only be about 50 seats (the cost comes out to about $20 each) so let me know soon if you want to ride with us, as I am sure it will fill up quick! Additional car pooling is also encouraged. This will be my first time participating in the legislature, and I am pretty excited ;) There will be other opportunities to join in our efforts this session and as we strategize and plan, I will be sure to let you know how you can help too!
On a lighter note, we recently co-hosted a fabulous "First Thanksgiving" Celebration with the IRC to introduce this uniquely American holiday to our newest neighbors. It was a smashing success! Not only did we sell out of tickets in days and get to eat one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals I have EVER had (sorry Mom, yours are great too!) thanks to the talent and generosity of Bravo Catering (Seriously guys- they are the BEST and so easy to work with which made the whole experience a breeze!), but our new families had a ton of fun. I can't even remember my favorite part! Maybe it was seeing all of your smiling faces, or having a conversation in English with a young man who only a few months ago would only smile at me, or instigating the first bites of a new food called Pumpkin Pie (folks loved it eventually!) or watching amazing Missoulians sit down on the floor to play with tops they had made for the kiddos- showing them how to make them spin and watching the kids faces LIGHT UP! Like I said, it was a glorious evening. But maybe the coolest thing about that night is that all of the love and support and kindness here in Missoula is not unique. We are seeing story after story of cities and towns living with, and loving, their immigrant and refugee communities come across our desks and newsfeeds every day. Despite, and in many cases, due to the outcome of the election, more and more people across this Nation are standing up for refugees. We will be that community, we will be those people. We will stand tall, persevere, and push forward in our mission to help families fleeing war and terror- and our path will be lit by your kindness.
As we enter this holiday of thanks, it feels amazing to have such a clear vision of all I am thankful for. This is what I GET to live everyday. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family.