This Monday, I had the privilege of documenting the arrival of Dyan, a Sudanese refugee, to the United States, where he was reunited with his family after four years apart. His wife, Alik, was pregnant with their third child when she immigrated to the U.S., so this would be the first time he met his youngest son in person.
We began the evening at Alik's apartment complex in north Fort Worth, which houses refugee families from around the world. Molly Jamison and Mary Claire Hall met Alik four years ago through Catholic Charities. She was pregnant, didn't speak English and had just arrived in the U.S. from a refugee camp in Sudan.
Early on, the Hall and Jamison families did what they could to help: hosted a baby shower, drove Alik to hospital visits and bought Christmas and birthday presents. Molly and Mary Claire even got to be there in the hospital when her son was born.
Each time they would come visit Alik, Molly and Mary Claire would meet more of her neighbors: refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, Liberia, Burma, Russia, Iraq, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and more. They, along with their home group from The Village Church in Fort Worth, began holding monthly cookouts in the courtyard of the apartment complex.
As more and more children from the complex attended the cookouts, more volunteers from the church came to serve food, kick soccer balls, braid hair and mediate arguments. Coat drives, toy drives, backpack drives, Thanksgiving meals, Christmas caroling, vacation Bible school – each new season brought a new way to serve.
One person missing out on all of this was Dyan. He and Alik didn't have an official marriage license in Sudan and therefore weren't allowed to immigrate to the U.S. together. There's much to the story that I'm leaving out, but basically Mary Claire and Molly worked as amateur ambassadors to deal with paperwork, officials and red tape before finally helping Dyan get permission to come to America.
After four long years apart, Dyan arrived safely and was greeted by his family, both related and unrelated. Lots of hugs and tears. At one point, Dyan fell to his knees and held up his hands, praising God for something that a lot of people had been praying and waiting for for a long time.
We collected one of Dyan's bags at the carousel, but the other bag was stuck in Houston. This kept us at the airport an extra 30 minutes or so, but no one will remember that part of this day. As we rode back to Fort Worth in the van, Dyan and his wife didn't speak much. But I imagine just sitting next to one another after so long was enough.
There's a temptation to somehow tie this in with the election, foreign policy, refugee crises around the world, etc. but I don't know much about any of those things. What I saw was a son jumping up and down because his dad was almost home. I saw a wife stand nervously in her best clothes, waiting to see the man she'd married. I saw a man get out of a van, look around an apartment complex in Fort Worth, Texas, smile, and say, "It's good."
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.