By Lauren Roberts
Imagine feeling like a stranger in a foreign place full of people who don’t look like you and speak another language. You may want to isolate yourself because of the fear of what it might be like if you stepped out into that unfamiliar world. In Clarkston, Ga, 1,500 refugees a year are welcomed into the city, relearning how to live in a completely different culture. Some even seclude themselves in their houses out of fear and still, a longing for relationship remains.
I had the honor of talking with Amanda Peters, the Operations Manager of Nomadic Thrift, a mobile thrift store in Clarkston, which exists in hope of being a place where refugees can come to find friendship and good quality clothing items. The thrift operation runs out of the parking lot of Parc 1000 Apartments. Nomadic Thrift is a project under the umbrella of Envision Atlanta, which is a non-profit that “identifies and develops missional leaders who innovate, establish, and strengthen communities of faith in key urban environments” (www.weareenvision.com).
The mobile thrift store carries quality clothing, shoes, belts, scarves and more. When refugee families seek shelter elsewhere, they have to leave quickly, leaving behind many things they love, things like their homes and many times their loved ones. This can also include things like a favorite item of some kind, something familiar that can symbolize comfort and individuality. It seems like something small but it’s those little things that can mean so much to us. Now they can come to Nomadic Thrift and find new favorite items, not something necessarily given, but something they choose and purchase for themselves. The most expensive thing in the store is $2. Sometimes, little kids come and purchase an item for their mothers. Their faces light up because they worked hard to buy something that has value. Amanda, the Operations Manager of the store said, “Of course we could just give these items away but it’s that ownership of, ‘this is mine and I earned it and mom I give it to you because I love you.’” Offering choice is a powerful thing and in the ways Nomadic Thrift is able, they want to be a reminder that every person has dignity.
Amanda met a sweet woman through the thrift store and she had the most welcoming personality. She greeted her in Swahili and the woman’s face lit up. “Sometimes, just knowing their language makes all the difference,” Amanda said. Since the day they met, they have been meeting and one day they were having coffee together. The woman took a drink of the coffee and said, “Ughh, no sleep!” They laughed and carried on with conversation. Such fun conversations are the evidence of blooming relationships happening because of this mobile thrift store. She said, “Even getting to know her has been worth it.”
When in a different country there are unfamiliar foods, language, customs, and currency. Every day you decide, ‘Do I want to go outside today? This is scary and I don’t know the language.’ Amanda said, “When you go somewhere new, what you long for is someone who has been there before and can show you the ropes.” That is where Nomadic Thrift desires to be that bridge that can draw people out of their homes and into life-giving relationships, showing refugees the ropes in Atlanta. The hope for the thrift store is that it can be this place of meeting. There are many different resources in Clarkston for refugees and the mobile thrift store is becoming a place where people can make those connections. They hope to create partnerships with different apartment complex managers to grow into other parking lots to reach more people.
Nomadic Thrift can really use your help! Please pray for God to provide opportunities to serve more people in Clarkston and eventually the greater Metro Atlanta area. Please also consider how you can get involved. There are always opportunities to jump in and serve, shop and donate! We are accepting thrift store donations at the end of October.
The mobile store needs $6,000 to remodel a bus they have been given. They plan to run their mobile thrift store out of the bus! Some other items they need for the bus include a 4000-watt generator, a 12 volt RV A/C, an inverter and electric awnings. You can also visit their social media pages @nomadicthriftco to follow their adventure. If you can help in any way, it will be greatly appreciated! They do accept financial donations. If interested, please visit https://www.envisionatlanta.org/donations/. Enter the amount you would like to donate and in the comment section write ‘Nomadic Thrift.’ Please help Nomadic Thrift continue to preserve the dignity of all peoples!