Friends, Meet Basile!

basile blog post
Leadership Foundations

Leadership Foundations

Friends, meet Basile Businge whose warm aura can be felt while working the espresso machine at The Root Cellar’s kitchen in Lewiston, Maine on Wednesdays. Smiling as he serves up delicious lattes, it’s safe to assume that he has been enjoying the opportunity to work in the Common Grounds Cafe.

Basile Businge arrived in the United States around mid-2023 from his home country of Rwanda. At 26 years old, he is now an asylum seeker and in the long phase of waiting for a work authorization, a tedious part of the process. Work authorization can take 6 months to a year to be granted and during that time it is illegal for an asylum seeker to receive any income. 

The cafe is one of many “work” options offered at The Root Cellar in Lewiston for General Assistance (GA) housing voucher recipients. Per the state’s requirement, anyone who receives this voucher must also volunteer the number of hours equal to the voucher’s value at a minimum wage rate. Although they are volunteers, the work experience is valuable in preparation for joining the workforce. On average there is about 50 workers serving in various roles at The Root Cellar during any given week.

Root Cellar volunteers Amy and Aaron Smith met Basile early in 2023 noting his smile, kindness and warmth as one of the first things they noticed, “You could just tell there is the light of Jesus in Basile.” The pair met Basile through Nasser (pictured on the right above), a mutual friend and Basil’s roommate.  Nasser, a fellow Asylum Seeker, has spent much time helping Basile navigate his new home. All together, he and the Smith’s have become a new family for Basile.

Amy has organized a large-scale donation stream from East Auburn Baptist Church to several hundred new arrivals in Lewiston over the past year. Large amounts of items like mattresses, coats, boots and kitchen sets have been distributed. However with Basile, it was apparent that the need was deeper than just materials. It was friendship – and it turned out to be a mutual need for the Smith family. 

The Smiths have adopted 5 children including 3 with disabilities and Amy recalls the first time that Basile came to their home remarking that, “He understood our kids immediately.”

At just the age of 3, Basile contracted the Polio virus, even after being vaccinated. This virus created a deformity in legs and chronic limp. “Because of his disability, he understood our children,” Amy remembers. “He connected immediately with our kids, treated them with kindness. He has real affection and love for them.” 

Growing up with a disability in Rwanda is challenging. “I faced a lot of discrimination,” he recalls. Common milestones for many are blocked for children with disabilities. Access to school is delayed for several years and job access can be impossible. Early interventions or aid is also extremely limited. 

Amy Smith knows this reality well, as several of her children were adopted from other countries. “In many parts of the world, that’s how those who are disabled are treated. Our kids wouldn’t have gotten an education, most likely destined to poverty.” 

Basile has become an extended part of the family at the Smith home. They have much in common, but it is their common faith in Jesus that has deepened the friendship between Basile and the Smiths. 

Basile’s faith goes back to his family, but he has been able to continue growing spiritually since moving to Maine. “The Root Cellar and East Auburn Baptist Church are great examples of American believers. They have strengthened my faith.” In addition he has been able to create other friendships at the church and at The Root Cellar as well Basile remarks, “If I face a challenge, I can reach out for help and we can overcome that challenge together.” This past fall, Basile was baptized at East Auburn Baptist alongside 16 other local believers. 

As of late, Basile has been honing in on his English and plans to get a job helping others like himself once he gains work authorization

When Amy was asked to describe what motivated her and the impact that Basile has had on her family.

“To me, Jesus commanded us to love the stranger – those from other countries. Jesus brings us into his family, so loving someone isn’t just giving them stuff. It means giving relationship and connection. For me – that’s the best part about serving. For our family and Basil, it’s a mutual relationship. We haven’t just embraced Basile. Basile has embraced us.”

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Celia Vigil

Communications Associate

What book, movie, quote, or tv show has most shaped your understanding of leadership or the city?   

A quote that has shaped my understanding of leadership and the city is, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

While the amount of work there is to do to transform cities is great, this quote reminds me that we are freed from having to complete it all, though our obligation to continue remains. We may never see a huge transformation in our lifetime. The work stretches far beyond us. However, this does not make our acts of faithfulness in the day to day less significant, no matter how small they may seem.