Before coming out to Germany, I understood my main role here at Friedenshaus to be language instruction. And, to be fair, the German government has been very diligent in encouraging (i.e, forcing) refugees to take language classes. When workers from other countries came to Germany to help rebuild after WWII, integration and language learning were not priorities. Therefore, many of those immigrants (who chose to stay) never learned the language and always felt like outsiders. Learning German is the key to successful integration. But, Friedenshaus has always tried to be about relationship building. And that’s where Fayze fits in.
Fayze is an “older” (probably about our age J) single woman from Gaza, with no immediate family in Germany or back home. She has been living in one of the temporary camps here in Ludwigshafen. Through some friends, she had heard about Friedenshaus sewing circle, which she visited and thoroughly enjoyed. After this she attended a few language classes but soon realized that this would be too much for her. She will probably be one of those refugees who will always need language assistance and help from fellow Arabic speakers. She never attended school and therefore, formal classes will not work. For Fayze, our weekly sewing evenings have offered a night out, an opportunity to connect with other Arabic speakers and a place to feel needed. Having worked as a seamstress back in Gaza, here was a place she could find success.
And we need Fayze! She has been a valuable asset to our sewing circle. After all the squares of fabric have been cut and arranged, Marla has been pleased to hand over the strips to Fayze and watch the thread fly. She is efficient and confident – a joy to watch! Last week when she came with friends for a language class, she dismissed herself and came to sit in the upstairs foyer. Marla showed Fayze our stained ironing board cover and motioning to the board asked if she could make a new cover. Fayze’s face lit up and 20 minutes later we had a new cover. Life is not perfect and it won’t be easy for Fayze here in Germany. But we hope that Friedenshaus can continue to be a place where she feels safe, valued and at home.
Since our time at Friedenshaus is coming to a close, we are planning a few “last” events this weekend. Saturday will be our last potluck meal with Friedenshaus. We are planning a BBQ party at a nearby park. And on Sunday, we will be providing a lunch for our church family after the service as a thank you for everything they’ve done for us during our stay here.
German Word of the Week: ‘genial’ (ingenious or inspired). This word came up a few times during our visit with friends near Kassel last weekend. Our one friend is a big FC Bayern soccer fan and used this to describe a goal during a game we were watching. Another time it came up as a description of his favourite ice cream. It seems to be one of those multi-purpose words that can be used anytime you are excited about something.