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Friendships break down barriers

The 2001 Tampa incident made my husband Geoff and me aware that Australia was dealing unjustly with powerless people fleeing torture, trauma and terror in their own countries.

My own personal faith in a loving and compassionate God told me that it was just plain wrong to treat anyone like this.

In 2002, through Buddies Refugee Support Group on the Sunshine Coast, we got to know three asylum seeker families: an Afghani Hazara family, a young Pakistani woman, and a Vietnamese couple.

Geoff and I went through some very fast learning curves as we listened to their harrowing stories.

All are now wonderful Australian citizens, loving this country, and contributing greatly to it.

The first time the Afghani family came to stay overnight, Geoff and I knew nothing, and were nervous – as was the family.

We were their first experience of an Australian home and a beach.

One thing we simply hadn’t realised was that to invite people like this family into your home starts a continuing and developing relationship.

We quickly became “family”, and our lives have been hugely enriched in the process.

In 2007 this family came to our church and the father and 11-year-old spoke of their lives.

Our congregation supported the school-aged children of this family for all educational costs for over two years.

It was wonderful for all involved.

My faith certainly shaped my support for asylum seekers and I am thankful for that. But these asylum seekers also shaped my faith, challenging me to rethink, prioritise, and appreciate.

There is certainly no doubt at all in our hearts that God is giving us this quite amazing and often humbling opportunity.