Home has always been a weird word for me. I’ve grown up in the same house I now sit in to write this, but I’ve nonetheless called many places home. Summer camp. Haiti. Most recently, and most dearly, Mexico. There have been times I’ve been hesitant to call Shelbyville home simply because I feel so strongly that I belong elsewhere. I do call it home now, and I certainly have a purpose while I’m here, but that doesn’t mean I’m not excited to spend five months in a whole new home.
Clarkston is a unique city. Encompassing 1.4 square miles not far from Atlanta, GA, this well-connected city with a small-town feel is known throughout the country as a place of open diversity and culture. It is somewhat of a landing pad for refugees. Its affordable housing and readily available public transportation make it a great place for those new to our country to get settled before moving off to greater success. Because of this transitionary nature, it’s difficult to pin down the exact makeup of its population. Many people from Syria, Burma, Vietnam, Liberia, Somalia, Ethiopia, and a variety of other countries call this little community (now roughly 13,000 strong) home, with foreign-born individuals comprising about 50% of the population, not to mention second and third generation immigrants.
People of all kinds are welcome in Clarkston. While there was trouble convincing residents to accept their new neighbors back in the 1980s when resettlement programs identified Clarkston as a good fit for refugees, today it is a hub of inclusion and a place to celebrate the beauty of many of the cultures of our big world. Over 110 dialects are spoken by its people, and I can only imagine the varied foods and traditions of my neighbors-to-be are as interesting as they are beautiful.
Clarkston is a town of hope. It’s a town of rebirth and rediscovery. It’s a fresh start for the oppressed, and it’s an opportunity for us to share the name of Christ with those whose previous governments would have killed them for uttering it. I’m grateful for the chance to live amongst them and share this joy I’ve found. Just a little more than a month to go!