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Seeking Asylum at the U.S. Border: Yousif’s Story

“I saw the presence of God in every single step of my journey — all the way. I felt the presence of God when I was escaping from Afghanistan … The same thing in the Panama jungle … We just prayed and God saved us.”

 — Yousif, an asylum seeker at the U.S. southern border

Headlines and soundbites about the U.S.-Mexico border abound. However, it can be easy to lose sight of the real people who arrive at our southern border in search of a more secure future. 

Their stories are varied and diverse, and every person — no matter where they come from or where they are hoping to go and why — is a precious reflection of the image of God. 

Yousif* is one such person, and this is his story of seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Miraculous Escape

The Taliban’s return to power in 2021 was like a death sentence for Yousif and his young family. 

He and his wife, who had welcomed their first child not long before the fall of Kabul, are Afghan Christians. Their Christian faith and Yousif’s job with the U.S.-backed Afghan government put their lives in grave danger nearly overnight. 

At first, they hid and prayed in their home for two days. One night, the Taliban tore through their neighborhood. They had nowhere to run, so Yousif and his wife fell to their knees and prayed for God’s protection. Miraculously, the Taliban inexplicably bypassed their home. 

With their faith strengthened, they made the difficult calculation that, even if they got caught while on the run, their chance of survival was higher than staying in place. 

They put their trust in God’s protection, and their miraculous journey of escape began.

Help families like Yousif’s find safety and rebuild their lives.

Journey to the U.S. Border

The roads to Kabul airport were already controlled by the Taliban, so the family traveled by bus to Pakistan. They then caught a flight to Brazil — one of few countries offering humanitarian visas to Afghans at the time. 

They had planned to stay in Brazil, but as immigrants, they soon began feeling unsafe there too.

What came next was a series of what Yousif describes as “escapes” from country to country on their way to seeking asylum at the U.S. border. For two months, Yousif traveled with his wife and their infant child by foot, boat and bus.

They faced many dangers along the way. “You’re not sure about anything,” he explained, “The only thing you can do is just trust God.” 

And God did help them.

While traveling in the jungles of Panama, Yousif’s son started crying. He and his wife stopped to give him some milk, thinking they could easily follow the path of the group they were traveling with. But just five minutes later, they had lost sight of the others. 

Alone, they tried to find their way back through dense vegetation, but as the day went on, they couldn’t seem to catch up. So they began to pray, asking God to rescue them. Towards nightfall, they saw glimmers of light in the jungle — fires burning where the group had stopped to camp!

“I saw the presence of God in every single step of my journey — all the way. I felt the presence of God when I was escaping from Afghanistan. God protected me … The same thing in the Panama jungle … We just prayed and God saved us.” 

Seeking Asylum

Finally, Yousif’s family made it to the U.S. border, where they are now applying for asylum. But their future is still uncertain. 

“When I got to the United States, I thought that it’s over,” he said. “We got here and we’re blessed … but when we were faced with this complicated process of immigration … sometimes, even now, I just want to give up.”

Despite Yousif’s excellent English and education, the process of applying for asylum has felt overwhelming. But once again, he found he wasn’t without help. Through a few God-ordained connections, Yousif was put in touch with our World Relief team in Southern California.

World Relief staff and volunteers have come alongside his family to provide legal assistance, temporary housing and a supportive community.  

What’s more, Yousif and his wife have found a new church home where, for the first time in their lives, they can freely worship the God who has rescued them over and over again. 

At the time of writing, Yousif’s case has yet to be decided, but he trusts that God has not left him without a defender and an advocate. That God was with his family in Afghanistan and he remains with them now. 

“When I find myself in these hard times,” Yousif explained, “I think about the story of Joseph and Jacob in which they are hated by their brothers but loved by their father … We see that God works in [their] lives and they become a powerful example of how a godly person overcomes adversities.”

You Can Help Displaced Families

In Yousif’s story of seeking asylum, we see a powerful testimony of how God is at work in the lives of those hoping to find safety at our borders. He has been walking ahead of and alongside Yousif’s family in each step of their journey, and now, we at World Relief have the honor of walking with them, too. 

We’re proud to serve alongside asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants as they rebuild their lives in the U.S. while advocating for compassionate border policies which protect both national security and the God-given dignity of every person. 

Today, as we face the greatest global displacement crisis in history, this support and the work we do to address displacement around the world is more important than ever. 

Will you join us in helping families like Yousif’s build secure, flourishing futures after displacement?

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the safety of individuals mentioned. 

Kelly Hill is the Senior Content Writer at World Relief. She previously served as Volunteer Services Manager at World Relief Triad in North Carolina. With a background in International and Intercultural Communication, she is passionate about the power of story to connect people of diverse experiences. 

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