It’s with a heavy heart and sense of real disappointment that Britt and I have to let you, our friends, know that previous plans to serve asylum seekers in the home we moved into purposely for are now no longer able to go ahead.
In May we stumbled across an old disused Catholic Convent in our neighborhood and instantly fell in love with it. We imagined all the possibilities that existed in a house with 10 rooms to serve those in need of a home and a community. At the same time my wife was offered a job working with asylum seekers in a Community Detention program aimed at providing safe and humane alternatives to detention centers and offshore processing for families and children. It seemed the perfect fit. And so we readied the house, prepared the rooms, made the relevant connections to local service providers and along the way received countless offers of help and assistance in the form of furniture, appliances, time and energy from you guys, our friends and families.
Well after months of waiting in a state of limbo, thanks largely to morally questionable changes in Australia’s policy towards asylum seekers and a complete lack of commitment or clarity from the bureaucrats involved, we have finally had to pull the plug.
What’s worst about all of this is not what we’ve lost personally – although it is considerable as it includes our house, Britt’s job and the last 5 months we’ve spent with all of you preparing and praying for this – but what it means for those we never got to help.
We had an opportunity as a community and as a nation, to welcome at least some of those who have had to flee the unspeakable violence, persecution and upheaval that goes with jumping on a boat, and to instead provide for them some resemblance of normality and peace. Instead of being thrown in a detention center behind barb wires or shipped off to a tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean ‘out of sight and out of mind’ often for years on end, they could have lived with us. We wanted this not because of our own political reasons or what we stood to gain but simply to be able say to these people, “We know what you’ve been through and we want to welcome you and help you.” We know many of you want the same. And yet now, because of political expediency and baffling bureaucratic decision making, this opportunity has been lost.
To be honest, we are not sure what we’re going to do next. We’re still figuring that out but we’re not anxious or concerned, after all we have the security of knowing we’ll land on our feet, living as we do in the ‘lucky country’ where we have more than enough to take care of our needs and pursue our next set of goals. I just wish the same could be said for the asylum seekers we are now unable to help.
But then again, doesn’t this entire situation just typify the plight of the asylum seeker and the refugee?
They are people who have lost everything, including any sense of security or certainty. They are the ones nobody seems to want or know what to do with. And now our country has a policy of ‘deterrence’, which basically equates to making the prospect of coming to Australia, seem so bad for these people, that it would appear better off to stay put and take their chances in a country where their lives and livelihoods are at risk.
One thing is for sure, we are not going to let this experience in any way dampen or discourage our steadfast commitment to helping those most poorly treated and ignored by our society.
When you throw your lot in with those living on the edges you’ve got to expect your own lives to get a bit messy. We don’t resist this but rather embrace it and we’re incredibly confident that this is how it’s meant to be when we follow Jesus, a guy who himself admitted his own homelessness and sacrifices were all just part and parcel in serving those He loved.
Our hope is that despite not having to been able to ‘physically’ house the asylum seekers that our actions have humbly helped to inspire others that there is an alternative to the way we currently treat asylum seekers and that another way is possible based on love, compassion and an attitude of ‘welcoming’ rather than ‘deterring’.
Thanks for all your love and support.
Matt and Britt
Ps. Keep up the fight by getting on board with Welcome to Australia, a phenomenal campaign engaged in powerful actions to change this country’s conversation on asylum seekers and refugees.
A note for those who have donated goods to the house: We are still trying to ensure the house is available for refugees in the community potentially through another service provider. We will let you know as soon as we find out. However, if you would like any of your donated furniture or goods back, we understand. Please email Britt at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will organize this.