Minneapolis home makes world of difference

“You have to ask yourself, where are you falling on these issues? Are you able to sleep at night? You have to think, ‘what can I do?’ and how are you living your values out loud?”

Beth Brown

Minneapolis house is home to refugeesBeth Brown sits on a small, yet stylish, sofa and looks out her window to a large blue and green colonial style home she absolutely loves.

It’s hers, actually, but she doesn’t live there. She rents the house out at a break-even rate each month to a family of Somali refugees. She offered the house just as staff from Catholic Charities’ New American Services program had been struggling to find a landlord who would rent to the family of 10.

“This was a really, really wonderful opportunity,” said Marie Schuetze, a case aide for New American Services. “We don’t get offers like that.”

Spaces large enough to accommodate large families are hard to come by and landlords can be hesitant about renting to those who do not speak English.

For Beth, it was the right thing to do.

When she is in town, Beth lives behind the house in a living space she built above the garage. Looking at that big house Beth reflects upon a pastor who visited her college class at Bethel College years ago.

“She talked about a wealthy family who got a new piano and wanted to donate their old piano. Why would you give your castoff—the stuff you don’t want—to the church that is supposed to be your second home? I gave my new piano, the better house. I miss that house, but I can do something like that.”

Some lessons stick.

“You have to ask yourself, where are you falling on these issues? Are you able to sleep at night?” she said. “You have to think, ‘what can I do?’ and how are you living your values out loud?”

Suad Gele and her nine children—the oldest 16-years-old and the youngest 11-months old—came to Minnesota on a cold December night. They had been living in a Kenyan refugee camp, driven away from their home in Somalia due to civil war.

Beth’s house, with hardwood floors throughout, a porch that calls for long talks and windows that let the natural light stream in, is Suad’s home sweet home in America.

Suad is learning to navigate life in Minnesota and manage it all without the help of her husband who remains in Kenya. Suad would sell tea on the street back in Nairobi, but job prospects are challenging here in America where she is taking care of her children and has yet to learn English.

“At this moment, I’m not working. I have little kids to take care of. I am a mom, just raising my kids,” she said. “Praise to God for bringing me to this country and keeping us safe.”

While she doesn’t have big dreams for herself, Suad is at peace knowing her children will have a better life in America.

“My kids have a better place to live and they have a chance for a better education,” she said with a smile. “I’m thankful to be here.”

Beth also is optimistic for the children who call her house home.

“If you want to ban people, I’m going to embrace them,” she said. “I have great hope that these children will acculturate. Just by virtue of being in the United States, they will experience freedom and liberty they didn’t have before.”

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