What All Refugees Have in Common

My new friend and Arabic translator.
My new friend and Arabic translator.

I sit in my car on an unseasonably warm day in November, and I’m across the street from CWS. Church World Service. They work with partners to give hope, opportunity, and relief to refugees and immigrants relocated to central Pennsylvania. I sit there across the street from their office and stare at the golden leaves. The days are shorter now. The darkness comes early.

I walk across the street and into the lobby, into the chaos of people trying to find their way in a new place. There are people from every country you could imagine there, some speaking to each other in languages I don’t understand, some waiting quietly, pensively. One man talks on the phone, urgently, looking at a small piece of paper and reading numbers into the receiver. I spot my friend, the man who will interpret for me, and he smiles. He stands up. We shake hands. It is good to see him again.

We aren’t there long before my friend from CWS comes out to retrieve us. We follow her through a maze of offices and hallways, corridors and meeting rooms. She tells us of their expansion plans. She is clearly excited for what it means for CWS, the extra space, the added capacity. We sit in a conference room, on a sofa, and we wait.

I can’t tell you the details of the story I hear, not yet, but trust me when I say you cannot sit on a sofa with a refugee from a war-torn country and walk out into that fall day unchanged. If you would take the time to listen to their stories, these beautiful, strong, persevering people, you would see there are common things to be found in all of them. Not the details – those are always different, always varied. The common things you find are these.

They always look older than they are.

There is a kind of softness worn into their eyes, a sadness that tells you they have seen many things, and a glint like light on metal.

There is a strength and determination somewhere around the shoulders, a bent-but-not-broken arch in their spine.

There is a childlike eagerness to make new friends – sometimes you have to work to see it, but it’s there.

I thank the man before we begin our meeting for the courage it must take for him to share his story in a strange country, when he does not know what this story-telling might lead to. I thank him for his willingness to explore the possibility of writing a book with me. I tell him not to get his hopes up – book writing and publishing are no sure thing, and it may very well be that nothing will come of our time together.

My translator tells the man what I say. The man smiles and nods and answers in Arabic. My translator nods, smiles also, then turns to me.

“He says, It is impossible for nothing to come of this. He is glad you are willing to hear his story, and no matter what happens, you are friends now. That is all that matters.”

Indeed. If only I were so quick to call people “friend.”

Maybe, in times such as this, listening to each other is the first and most important step.

Like Breath Over Still Water: The Arrival of a Baby


I drive the truck faster, weaving past cars on the city streets. I nearly pull out in front of someone and hit my brakes. We are 35 minutes from the birth center, and Maile’s labor has started. I stop at a red light just as another contraction builds inside her.

This is our sixth child. I know in an intimate way the process my wife’s body goes through when the baby has decided to come. For example: Maile hums through her contractions. It’s quiet at first, barely a breath, but as the contractions get stronger and closer together her voice swells into a loud kind of almost-singing. It’s a prehistoric chant, something in her DNA. But as we sit at the red light, and the contraction swells, that particular pressure transforms her humming into a guttural grunt. I also know what that means.

“Do you have to push?” I ask, looking over at her. This is not a good time to push. We are too far away.

Her lips are pursed and white around the edges. She’s still exhaling the remnants of the last contraction. She nods.

“I wanted to that time.”

The traffic is slow. We hit every light red. Another contraction comes in, tides back out. Another. All those people we pass in their cars, living their normal evenings. Going out to eat. Going home from work. Talking with friends on their phones. Can’t they see there is a miracle in our truck, barely waiting to break forth?

“Play that song again,” Maile whispers. The song is “Born” by Over the Rhine.

I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh though my tears
I was born to love
I’m gonna learn to love without fear

“You should probably drive faster,” she says in a flat, calm voice, but there is a trace of urgency, like a small, red thread on a white carpet.

Pour me a glass of wine
Talk deep into the night
Who knows what we’ll find

I look both ways and pull hesitantly through the red light, then drive the rest of the highway in the center lane, my four-ways flashing. We are 20 minutes from the birth center. But we are finally out of the city. We are fleeing into the country shadows, the sun setting behind us.

* * * * *

This I’ve also seen: when Maile begins labor, when the contractions start to come closer together, she withdraws inside of herself. There is a labyrinth she follows to the deepest parts, and when she’s there, when she’s in active labor, I can’t find her anymore. She wouldn’t recognize me if we passed in the street.

Intuition, deja-vu
The Holy Ghost haunting you
Whatever you got
I don’t mind

At 7:30pm on Saturday night, one hour before we raced down the turn lane of Route 30, she said she wanted to go for a walk, so she and I set out along with Leo and Cade. We went west on James and turned north on Prince and as we walked down the long hill, the sun was setting off to our left, its light dripping into a vacant parking lot. A cool breeze swept by with the traffic. The air felt lighter somehow, as if August had persuaded October to come and take over the evening duties.

FullSizeRenderWe turned east onto Frederick Street. Cade walked ahead. Leo said hello to a little girl playing on the sidewalk. Maile slowed down. She breathed deep, and I could see it beginning to happen: the withdrawal, the searching. She was looking for a way into the labyrinth.

“You okay?” I asked her. There was some fear in her eyes.

“That was a strong one,” she said, walking with one hand supporting her back. “I’m scared. You’re going to have to help me with this baby.”

I nodded quietly.

“You got it, babe,” I said. “One at a time.”

We walked all the way to Duke, turned south, then doubled back on Prince towards home. A homeless man pointed at her stomach.

“I saw another one of you over on Lime,” he said, practically shouting. Indescribable joy was etched on his face. We smiled and nodded.

“Over on Lime!” he insisted. “Pregnant ladies everywhere.” Then he turned and walked away.

We got to the last crosswalk. Soon we would be home. The sign was orange, don’t walk. Maile bent over then arched her back, breathed deep again, hummed. That was the first hum I’d heard. The contractions were serious. She stood up, looked like she might throw up. Her eyes were far away. She was entering the labyrinth.

“Maybe we should head into the birth center,” I said, not expecting her to take me up on the suggestion. She doesn’t like to go in until it’s time. But she surprised me, there on the corner of Queen and James, just opposite the Greek restaurant we love. She didn’t even make eye contact with me. Only nodded.

“That’s a good idea. We should probably hurry a little bit.”

I wondered what it would be like to deliver a baby in the Suburban. I turned to Cade.

“Hey, buddy,” I said. “Why don’t you run ahead and tell Mimi we need to go? Now. Tell her we need to get moving, fast.”

Cade stared at his phone.

“Hey, you,” I said, half laughing. “Get moving.”

“Dad,” he said, looking slightly embarrassed. “I’ve got an awesome Pokemon on the line.”

“What?” I exclaimed. He paused, swiped his fingers up and down his phone, then took off in a sprint.

“I got him!” he shouted joyfully over his shoulder. Maile and I shook our heads. We both laughed.

Put your elbows on the table
I’ll listen long as I am able
There’s nowhere I’d rather be

That’s when we drove out of the city. That’s when I weaved in and out of city traffic. That’s when Maile started to feel an urge to push.

* * * * *

We slip away from the setting sun, now 15 minutes from the birth center. With every contraction I ask her if she needs to push. Sometimes she says yes, sometimes no.

These are the hills where I grew up, the sprawling, green fields with July corn as tall as a man. These are the summer nights I cut my teeth on. This is the land inside me, the place I will someday go home to when my life is over, my far, green country. I am not afraid of helping my wife deliver a baby in the truck, if I have to – not with those fields as witnesses. It almost seems fitting, that a child of mine would spring into being in the midst of the corn and the tobacco, the trees and the fireflies, the quiet, curving roads and the distant storm clouds.

But we make it. There will be no Suburban birth. We pull into the birth center and the nurse lets us in after hours and we go into the same room where Leo was born. The same room. The same bed, the same tub. I remember when Leo was born. I remember texting everyone the news, including our friend Alise who had recently had a stillborn son. I wanted her to know we were thinking of her. There is such joy and sorrow as I get older. Joy inextricably mixed with sorrow. They’re a tangled mess.

The contractions come closer together now, and Maile is far away. She is lost in the labyrinth, trying to find her way to the elusive center. She hums through contractions. She strips down and climbs into the warm bath, facing the corner, squatting down as far as she can, her arms out in front of her. In yoga, it is close to the child’s pose.

She whispers prayers into the water when the pain becomes unbearable. Her breath scatters shallow ripples over the thin surface. Or maybe it is the Spirit. She wants me to push deep into her back, and I press with the heels of my hands. I feel her spine and the deep muscles of her lower back, her ribs.

Bone from my bone. Flesh from my flesh.

She presses herself down until I think she might melt into the water or split in two. She wants help out of the tub, so we move her to the bed. She hums through the contractions and the humming turns louder and louder, rises up over itself until she sounds like a muezzin calling us all to prayer. Her powerful voice gives me chills. She moans and cries out and pushes.

Secret fears, the supernatural
Thank God for this new laughter
Thank God the joke’s on me
We’ve seen the landfill rainbow
We’ve seen the junkyard of love
Baby it’s no place for you and me

The way a child comes into being from a woman is the birth of a galaxy. It is searing pain and numbing joy; it will break you into interstellar pieces. A bundle of powder-coated limbs slips and jumbles its way into the world, still attached to the source. A squirming heap of carbon and water covered in blood and a ghostly vernix. Believe in miracles. They are born every day, attached to their mothers.

When Maile realizes the baby is a girl, she raises her face towards the ceiling. Her smile is like those clear shafts of light that break through storm clouds.

IMG_4221 copyI was born to laugh
I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I’m gonna learn to love without fear

“What a gift,” she kept whispering over and over again. “What a gift.”

Later, in the quiet, the labyrinth far behind (or perhaps all around, with us finally residing in the perfect center), we name her Poppy Lynne Louella.

Poppy for the ruby red fields in England we often hiked through, gazed at.

Lynne for my Aunt Linda who died a month ago, who rose through a bright pink sunset and fireworks that split the sky.

Louella for Maile’s grandmother, homeless and alone at a young age with only her sister, married at age 16, one of the strongest women we ever knew.

Poppy Lynne Louella.

What a gift.

Italicized lines are from the song “Born” by Over the Rhine, my favorite band. You can purchase the album, “Drunkard’s Prayer,” or listen to more of their songs, HERE.

She Convinced Us She Would Live Forever


When the first flowers finally
dry into brittle reminders, and the nurses
know the names of the family members who spend
every night sleeping on the tile floor, you know
the vigil being kept has entered its second
week. Somehow she convinced us
she would live forever. The realization struck us
like a firework going off: she was just like us. She was

She would soon die.

In shaky script she wrote to me three days before
she died. Breathlessly she asked for a pen,
a paper, and we scrambled to fulfill her command
like priests in the temple appeasing a god. I stood
beside her bed and watched her do it. She wrote
that she wanted me to
come back next week to work with her
on her obituary.

I said I would.

She put her hands on Maile’s stomach and smiled. We asked
if she thought it was a boy
or a girl? “Another boy,” she whispered, shaking her head
in mock sadness. I leaned in before I left
and whispered, “You were always my favorite.”
I cried when I said those words. But
she laughed through her short breath, as if
even then, she was only planning to stay
in the hospital for a short time. “What?” everyone asked. “What did
you tell her?” I refused to say.

That was
three days before the end. Three days before

nurses mute the machines. No more
beeping, no more buzzing, no more
chirping. The room is quieter
than it should be with so many people. Ten
of us? Twelve? Fifteen maybe? I tick off the seconds
between, each breath a tiny struggle, a refusal
to leave. Three seconds. Four. Not yet.

Anything said is said in a whisper. To leave the room
is to undertake a silent pilgrimage, holding the latch
so it doesn’t snap, guiding the door to its rest.

Maile sits beside me. She reaches through the silence
for my hand and holds it against
her stomach. The baby moves. Kicks. Rolls in
its own little universe. Does it know what we
are waiting for? How must that feel to be Maile,
a mother, holding life? How must that feel to be
my grandmother, sitting quietly beside the bed of one
who once twisted and turned inside of her, now

Through the eighth floor window the sun splashes us
with pink and red and a deep sense that everything is
being fulfilled. But how? Could this be the end of the world, the last
night? We are a prehistoric people basking in the glow
of the apocalypse, worshiping a God who does not answer
the way we want.

Her last breath is like the thousand
that came before it, diminished. The candle is out. She is finished
waiting. There is a silence between her last breath and the first
cries of our anguish. Generations are born and die
in that space of time. Everything else in the world
stops. The clouds bow down in their
sunset. The red lights in the city synchronize – everyone
pauses. It is a silence you can fall into
if you’re not careful.

The moment she dies, just after 9pm on July the 3rd, fireworks
go off all over the city. We watch them from the eighth
floor. We hold each other. Words are completely
powerless. I feel that I never want to speak again.

Later that same night, I am home. I am writing an obituary
a week early, years early, decades too early (she was
only 48). My daughter waits for me
to climb the long stairs to the third floor
of our darkened house. There, most nights for the last
two years, we said a prayer for that beauty
who had just died, fled
this earth, dodging fireworks. For two years we prayed
for a miracle. I think I need a break from
prayer. I think I need to stop asking,
at least for a little while.

By the time I pry myself from my office and lean
my way up each sorry step, wondering how I will ever
be able to say the words, my daughter
is already asleep. Her light still on. I pull up the covers
under her chin, turn out the light,
and look through her window, towards the north. Towards
the night.

This is how I pray now: I climb the steps each night. I walk
the short hall. I hold my daughter’s hand as she says
the words. Sometimes, I think we need others to do
the praying for us. Sometimes prayer is as simple as waking
each morning and standing up out of bed, or clearing away
the brittle bouquets and bringing in fresh flowers.

The Stories One Family Told Me


As soon as I walked into the house, I could tell everyone was nervous. Polite, but nervous. And maybe a little skeptical. I shook hands with each of the ten people sitting in the dining room and then took a seat at the head of the table. I thanked them for agreeing to meet with me. I thanked them for their bravery.

I spent the next three hours listening to that family: there were two parents, four of their children, and their children’s spouses. They told stories, really difficult stories. Painful stuff. The father, the man sitting right there among them, had been horribly abusive, physically and verbally. He had treated his children, his boys especially, the way no boys should be treated by their father.

But that’s exactly how his own father had treated him, and he knew no different.

They shared their stories, the beatings and the put-downs, the sadness and the hard days. There were good times, too, vacations and Christmases, games and treats. There were the cold winter evenings they sat with their mother in the tiny bathroom (that’s where the heater was), memorizing Bible verses.

There were hard questions.

There was forgiveness sought after desperately, and given freely.

There were a lot of tears.

There was a lot of courage.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like it, a family free to talk about such a painful past, a family that brave to pull back their sleeves and say, “See! These are the scars!” A family so desperate to tell their story, only so that others might hear it and heal, or hope for healing.

The father said something during our time together that I’ll never forget. He said, “Often, a father will see some weakness in his son, a weakness he had when he was a boy, and it’s unbearable to him. He can’t stand to see his own son with the same weakness.”

And I felt that. I see that in myself, the way I interact with my own boys. The moments when I am too hard on them. The times I come down on them. It’s something I won’t soon forget.

Can we share our stories, even our painful ones, in a way that brings hope?

My Friend Died Last Week

Photo by Marleen Trommelen via Unsplash
Photo by Marleen Trommelen via Unsplash

My friend died last week. He was a good man, in every sense. I found out about his passing on Facebook, and when I first saw his name, I kept repeating it over and over again to myself because surely my brain must be short-circuiting. He can’t be dead. I must be confusing that name with someone else. There must be someone else with that same name, or a name like it.

But it was him. Later I found out his passing was sudden. He was 67.

I know we tend to say these things about the deceased, but he really was a remarkable man. You see, he grew up in a conservative Mennonite community, but later in life he was the personal assistant to Jerry Falwell in the early days of Liberty University, and he watched as the Religious Right was born. From there he worked for Chuck Colson. As our ever-twisting journeys would have it, he ended his life as an Episcopalian, happy to wrangle theology with anyone who had the time. But not only for the fun of it – though he was always kind and inquisitive – no, he was in it for the Truth. He was a seeker. He referred to himself as an Evangelical on the Canterbury Trail, and I guess that just about says it all.

I had spent some time recently helping him put together a book proposal about his life, a book that now, sadly, most likely will not be written. But even in that process he was measured, deliberate, and above all, kind in how he spoke of everyone, even those who in his life he had eventually come to disagree with. Those very same people sent his family flowers at the news of his passing.

Where have all these men and women gone, the ones who can disagree, even vehemently, yet retain the respect of those sitting on the other side of the table? Can friends still disagree on important topics?

His memorial service was on Monday, and this is where it gets interesting. You see, I have a book currently being shopped around to publishers, a young adult novel I wrote about death and life and living forever. Ironic, I know. I had received an email that a particular publishing house would be considering my book on Monday, the very same day as my friend’s memorial.

During the service, I listened to what all of these wonderful people had to say about my friend, and I kept thinking about what it means to live a good life, and all of these thoughts were swirling around with this sort-of-anxiety I was feeling about whether or not I’ll get a publisher for my book.

What does it mean? How important can a book deal possibly be in the face of our mortality? What is a good life?

* * * * *

Though I have been busy, perhaps overbusy, all my life, it seems to me now that I have accomplished little that matters, that the books have never come up to what was in my head, and that the rewards…have been tinsel, not what a grown man should be content with.

Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

* * * * *

My friend Seth is always reminding me that the book deal is never going to do for me what I want the book deal to do for me. The problems I have now will still be there on the other side of the book deal. The relationship issues. The personal shortcomings. The anxieties. Nothing will magically erase them.

Seth is a good guy, but sometimes, when he says this, I want to stick my finger in his face and say “Shhh!” really loud. Because the truth of the matter is, we all have those things we aspire to. Or most of us do. And we have those things precisely because we are frightened about what we would have to confront if we faced our lives exactly as they are, here and now. We’d rather focus on a goal, and we nudge ourselves into believing that that goal, accomplished, will change everything.

But it will not.

The book will not do for you what you want it to do.

The relationship will not do for you what you want it to do for you.

The successful business will not do for you what you want it to do for you.

The promotion will not do for you what you want it to do for you.

This is not to say we should not pursue these things. It is only to say that we should pursue them with our eyes open.

* * * * *

My friend did not seem to live according to this popular method of grasping. He was motivated, and he had things he wanted to accomplish, but from my perspective, he was one of these rare individuals who listened when I talked, who sat with me in the moment. He was present.

I thought of this as I took communion at his service, as we followed the cross out to the church yard and said the Lord’s Prayer, as we turned and silently walked away from the broken ground now housing only the evacuated chrysalis of a great man.

I think this is something that those who are gone will teach us, if we will listen, if we will step out of our hectic lives long enough to let their message sink in. This is our one and only life, and so few things are truly important. So few.

Can we sift them from the rubble, these crucial things?

Six Years Away From His Family – Jacques’ Story


The sky spit a cold rain on that January afternoon, the kind of light mist that barely makes it to the ground. I locked the door of our house on James Street and walked south on Queen, down past The Belvedere and the street lined with shops and the flower store. Past the brewery with the large glass windows and the park where you can always find a handful of homeless people sitting in small groups, talking to each other, looking around with tired eyes.

The Church World Service office is about ten blocks southeast of me, right along King Street. I arrived and let the front desk know I was there. A few minutes later my two translators walked in. We had never met before, friends of friends. We had never worked together.

Our contact at CWS led us up to a small conference room, and we sat on one side of the table and we waited. There was a mixup with the time, we were told. The family would be with us in five or ten minutes.

They didn’t take long to arrive. An African man and three of his sons came into the room. We’ll call the man Jacques. He had a very proud, defined face. He was average height, and his forearms were thin and strong, like cables. His eyes were fiery.

His three sons were soft-spoken, gentle even, but they followed their father with a dogged sense of protection. I could tell they respected him greatly and were there for his sake. Or maybe they didn’t want to leave his side – they had only been reunited recently.

We said our halting hellos, the kind that happens when speaking through translators. And then Jacques told me his story.

* * * * *

I am 51 years old now. Six years ago, I was arrested in my country, The Republic of the Congo, by the government. I had many, many, many friends and relatives who were arrested from time to time, for a variety of things. What tends to happen is that when the government changes, they persecute the people who supported the previous regime. If you are of the same religion as the person leaving office, or from the same region, or if you have any connections at all, you are in danger of being detained and arrested.

In those days, I worked in the administration of a university. It was a good job, and it helped me provide for my wife and seven children. In fact, when all of this began, six years ago, I had a two-week-old child.

The first time, I was arrested and jailed without charges. They wanted to know where my nephew was living – he had connections to the previous president. When I wouldn’t tell them, they tortured me for five hours. I was placed upside down and tortured and nearly killed. Then they went and got my nephew and tortured him beside me. They went and got my nephew’s wife and child and threatened to kill them in front of him.

Finally, they left us in a cell, where we stayed without being charged. Those were long, dark months. A human rights organization heard about our situation and pressured the government to either charge us with a crime or release us. After four months, we were placed on house arrest and released to go home.

Our houses were searched often during this time, turned upside down. After six weeks, we were supposed to return to the police, check in, and then we would be released. Or so we were told. But during one of the searches of our home, an officer recognized the father of my nephew in a photo on the wall, and because they had once been friends, he warned us not to go back in.

“They are planning on torturing you again,” he warned us. “I cannot help you. You must run away. Flee the country.”

But still we weren’t sure what to do. We did not want to leave our families. So when our day came to check in at the police station, we started to walk there together, my nephew and I. As we got close, we saw a Jeep full of police. There was a crowd of street children, and we edged closer only to hear them talk about how they were on their way to arrest my nephew. Then they saw us and turned to follow us. My nephew threw his phone in their direction, and all the street children in the area (and there were many) ran to grab the phone, getting in the way of the police. This allowed us to slip away.

We had no money and had not even said good-bye to our families. We had left our homes hoping to check in at the police station and return home. This was in December of 2009, six years ago. I pictured my two month old. My other six children. My wife. But we had to leave, so we fled all the way to the border of the Congo and a man in a little hut let us stay with him.

“If you don’t go,” he said after a short time, “you will be arrested, and then I’ll be arrested for helping you.” So he directed us to someone who could take us over the river, from Congo to Gabon. We gave them our phone as payment for the hour and a half crossing. We were fortunate they accepted that. It was only by the grace of God.

We did indescribable work while we were there, physical labor that we were not used to doing. It was very difficult, but we saved our money and stayed in a cheap place and were able to take a train to the other side of the country, away from the bounty hunters who would have taken us back to Congo. After many difficult months and years, and help from my brother who also lived in Gabon, we were eventually able to get the attention of the United States embassy and get a visa. I was relocated to the United States only a few years ago.

But my family was still in Congo.

* * * * *

Jacques paused and the translators relayed his words to me. He spoke his French in a thick, African accent, and sometimes he nearly shouted with passion while he told his story. I turned to the sons. Their quiet eyes. Their calm patience. I wondered what my children would do, how they would seem, if I had to leave them for six years. If I left today, and was gone that long, Cade would be 18, almost 19. The baby Maile’s carrying would be 6.

“What was it like for you to not have your father for over six years?” I asked the three sons. The oldest one, 21 years old, responded.

* * * * *

We struggled when he was gone. We struggled even to eat. There was no way for us to make any money for food, and for a long time we didn’t know if he was even alive. The two oldest of us were able to get diplomas during those years, but the rest of the children couldn’t go to school. Books and clothes cost too much.

It was very difficult growing up without a father. Mother had the seven of us plus two other children she had taken in. She had no job. We prayed often that we would be reunited with our father.

When I heard that we might be reunited, it was like a dream that these things might happen.

* * * * *

The translator’s voice catches as he retells the story. The young men speak so calmly about such emotional details. Their faces are peaceful, like still water.

The father speaks up.

* * * * *

I had joy coming here, because I knew I wouldn’t be followed, hunted down, or arrested. I knew I could finally work, and then send the money back to my family. CWS helped me find the job as well as an apartment to live in. I worked at a food distribution plant, and now I work at a farm. It’s nothing like the academic work I did in Congo, but I am happy just to be working, just to be making money.

When I first saw my wife and children here in Lancaster after not having seen them for almost seven years, I wept and wept for joy. I wept openly. My oldest son did not weep, but later he said he wanted to cry, but he knew if he did then all the other children would cry, so he did not.

It was such immense joy, such deep joy, that I can’t really put it into words.

* * * * *

I asked Jacques what he wants for himself and his family, now that they are here in the United States. I guess I expected him to have goals and aspirations, perhaps to own a home. But he laughed a wide laugh, then smiled as he answered.

“I want nothing for myself. I have everything I need. The only thing I want is for my children to get the studies they need. An education, it is everything. That is my main purpose in life. Who knows after that? I feel so bad because during the six years I was gone, their education suffered. I want to make sure they can have that now. Besides that? What else could I want?”

* * * * *

Read other refugee profiles here:

A Muslim Refugee in Amish Country – Miriam’s Story
When Your Country is a Prison – Ahmed’s Story

* * * * *

Church World Service helps refugees like Jacques with many things: relocation, integration into society, finding employment and housing, and sometimes helping to cover the legal fees to apply for asylum, immigration, and green cards.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Will you give $10, $20, $50, $100 or more to help cover the legal costs for the reunification of families like Jacques’? If you can do that, please go HERE to make a donation towards CWS’ legal services.
  • CWS is in need of family law attorneys willing to take on cases pro bono. If you are willing to do this, please email me.
  • Would you be willing to get to know a refugee family who lives close to you and be part of a team who supports them as they try to start over in a new place? If so, please email me!
  • Like the Church World Service Facebook page.
*I am not an employee of CWS and any political or religious views expressed by me or the refugees I speak with do not necessarily reflect the views of CWS or its employees.