In the front yard of Sarah’s, hidden behind the bushes, stands a simple metal post that has begun to tarnish after several years of Minnesota weather. While it doesn’t look like much at first, a closer inspection reveals phrases inscribed on its
sides in different languages: “Puisse la Paix régner dans le Monde” in French, “Ka udo dili Na uwa” in Igbo, “Dunidu nabad ha ku waarto” in Somali, and many more. Each translates to roughly the same phrase in English: “May peacemaking prevail on Earth today.”
The post holds a certain significance for Sarah’s—residents translated the phrase into their home languages to include on its surface many years ago, making it an incredibly important and personal symbol for the people here. And the small monument has stood as a reminder of this mantra ever since, which appears in more places than just on the pole. “May peacemaking prevail on Earth today,” is a phrase embedded in the email signature of every staff member at Sarah’s and echoed across much of the program’s messaging. But peacemaking is more than just a word that gets tossed around in our publicity efforts—it is at the very core of our everyday work and service.
This simple yet profound sentence is one of several mantras that the community at Sarah’s embraces in day-to-day life, both inside and outside of Sarah’s home. Another one of Sarah’s mantras, for example, is, “One lesson at a time. One woman at a time. One day at a time.” According to Erin Bontrager, one of the home coordinators at Sarah’s, this intersects with, “May peacemaking prevail on Earth today,” in that both guide how staff and residents approach conversations with each other. The function of Sarah’s first and foremost is to be a safe place, she says, and the mantras provide the people there a shared framework constructed from mutual respect.
Both staff and residents benefit from grounding all interactions in compassion and a nonjudgmental mindset, Erin says. The staff at Sarah’s approach their conversations with others from a trauma-informed perspective and recognize that everyone has a life story that they can only see a small part of. They engage in active listening and seek to fully understand residents without assuming their positionalities or intentions.
Jess Buns, a home attendant at Sarah’s, emphasizes that it is a peaceful home for women who have left situations that are anything but peaceful. They say they do what they can to ensure the women are comfortable, setting aside their own worries or troubles. Staff are dedicated to making themselves approachable so that residents can come to them for anything they need—even if what they need is as simple as food, toothpaste, or a sweater. Little gestures like that can go a long way for a resident experiencing hardship, Jess says. The goal of every aspect of a staff member’s job is to bring peace to residents’ lives, from small acts such as making sure a resident has food and clothing to larger duties like connecting a resident to the social services they need to succeed.
It is revolutionary to have a house that has safety and peace as its primary function, Erin says. These two elements of a home are the cornerstone from which the women at Sarah’s can begin to rebuild their lives. Indeed, Sarah’s helps immigrant women achieve lasting stability by supporting them as they work toward their long-term goals. This begins with ensuring their basic daily needs are met, and ends with steps that allow residents to move on from Sarah’s, such as securing housing and employment.
This is how Sarah’s plays an active role in fostering peace in our immigrant community. After all, our mantra declares that peacemaking shall prevail, turning peace into an action, not just a state or virtue. Peacemaking is intentional. It is a way of being that Sarah’s chooses to embrace with the goal of living up to its name and acting as an oasis for women, a refuge from the stormy outside world. We invite all of you to join us in our efforts. Choose kindness and understanding. Show compassion and love. Be a peacemaker.