Over the ten years World Relief Memphis has been in operation, we have had the privilege of serving hundreds of refugees, asylees, and other vulnerable immigrants. Over the past couple of months, we reached out to some of the first families and individuals we welcomed, to our newest arrivals.
David and his family’s story is one of perseverance, patience, and prayer. Originally from the East African country of Uganda, David and his family sought safety in Kenya to escape conflict there. In Kenya, they found the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and started the process of resettlement. After several interviews and a long period of waiting, David was approved and invited to be resettled in Memphis in 2015. Although the initial resettlement period can be a time of joy, for David, his resettlement meant leaving his children behind.
As a single father of eight, this was an incredibly hard time for him. One thing he did have to support him during this time was World Relief Memphis. As soon as he arrived, WRM was waiting for him. “They helped me with housing, connected me to people, I made friends, and I got a job through World Relief.” WRM was also able to assist David in immediately filing for the reunification of his family.
It took six long years from the moment he began the request and the paperwork process to the moment his children began to arrive. During those years, David and his children had to complete multiple DNA tests, dozens of interviews, and fill out what felt like every form in the world. The first round of interviews started in 2017 and it seemed like the process was rolling smoothly until President Trump significantly reduced the refugee ceiling. They didn’t hear any updates until February 2019. “It was a very hard time because they kept promising, “you are coming you are coming,” and then nothing.”
After that pause, there was another hurdle. The US Embassy in Kampala, Uganda told them that they were no longer processing the case and that the kids would need to make their way to Nairobi, Kenya. David reached out to the office there after not hearing anything and the Nairobi international field office said that they had not received their cases. Then the office wanted to start the interviews all over again, this time in Nairobi. This was a major setback as the family had already gone through this once and now David needed to find a way to pay for his kids to travel from Uganda to Kenya, which would be very expensive.
Not wanting to give up, David reached out to the office again to plead his case and allow the process to continue in Uganda. The Lord provided. “God was good. After I talked with the field officer, she decided to reschedule the appointment in Uganda. So, I said, “Ah thank you God!”’ Though being able to finish the process in Uganda was a blessing, that was not the last hurdle they had to jump. They had to repeat the DNA testing and the medical exams multiple times as they kept expiring due to their long waiting period. Finally, they thought they were about to be approved when the Covid19 pandemic hit. This led to another year of waiting.
In May 2021, after six years and four months, David was reunited with his son Jonathon. Soon after, his family slowly but steadily arrived: first in June, July, and then September that year. The last of his children finally came in January and February of this year. By the time all of his children were back home with him, he had become a grandfather of three beautiful grandchildren as two of his daughters had started families of their own while in Uganda.
Throughout this whole process, David never lost hope, even though it was devastating to be apart from his family for so long. While they were apart, David shared that he would contact his kids and remind them not to lose hope, “Just know the time will come no matter how long.” While he was working here, he was able to send money back to them to make sure they were able to stay in school while they were waiting to travel and so they would have what they needed. Now that they are together, many of his older children are working and going to school and college which David is very proud of.
Reflecting over his entire journey, David shared how World Relief gave him a solid foundation in his early months here. Helping with cultural orientation, housing, and finding a job, he was able to take those lessons and skills and apply them to advocating for his family, buying his own home and car, and now starting his own business. He shared about his dreams and plans for the future saying “My dream, I want to be my own boss. I also hope to own rental properties one day. Right now, I offer landscaping services.” His goal is to be a part of people loving where they live. (Check out his business at Prooftobelieve.com LLC and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)
As we ended our conversation, David wanted to share one last time the importance of patience.
“It wasn’t easy. All these challenges in life, you can’t avoid them. Challenges are always there in life, you have to face them. But, it is the way you focus and stand against challenge and overcome them, that matters. As I told you, patience pays. It’s not easy to wait, but like Jesus commanded the apostles in Acts 1-4, you must wait for the Father’s promise.”
We are so thankful for David for sharing his family’s story and allowing us to share it with you. Through all of their hardship, it is still so clear to see God’s faithfulness in bringing this family back together. Here at World Relief Memphis we have seen Gods faithfulness these past ten years through the support from people like you. We thank you for joining us on our journey in making Memphis a more welcoming community.
Writer: Kara Spencer
Communication Coordinator at World Relief Memphis, recent graduate of Harding University, and Memphis native.
Photo Credits: Emily Frazier
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