“If You Plant Early, You Harvest Early”
The first son of a large family, Daoud’s father raised him implementing the Afghan Proverb that “if you plant early, you harvest early.” Daoud apprenticed in his father’s trade and was entrusted early with responsibilities in his father’s store. He married young, grew the family business, had children, went back to finish school, and started studying English. Following carefully laid plans, his life was on track: he was beginning to harvest early.
But new conflict and war came to Afghanistan. Daoud’s business suffered and the harvest was no longer abundant. In order to provide for his family, Daoud took a risky job translating for the Coalition Forces. His careful plans to study English proved beneficial, even though those years were fraught with uncertainty. As time went on, it became evident that his family’s safety was precarious. He learned his job with the Coalition Forces made them eligible to apply for resettlement in the United States, so once again, they began making plans. It took two years for all the paperwork, background checks, medical checks, and security clearances to be completed, but Daoud and his family were relieved to receive their Special Immigrant Visas to relocate to the USA, to Memphis. [The U.S. offers a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to individuals who have been employed by or on behalf of the U.S. in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, and is awarded in recognition of their sacrifice.]
Daoud knew before moving to the United States that America is the land of opportunity and that if he worked hard, they would make it. He remembers the night they arrived in June 2014; they were greeted by World Relief caseworkers, volunteers and new neighbors, all welcoming them. As modeled by his father, Daoud immediately began planting seeds to succeed in the United States. Step one was to support himself and his family financially. He started working full time in a warehouse loading trucks. Although he had skills to do so much more, he understood finding your first job in the United States is not easy and he was determined to do whatever required. Not long after he began working, Daoud had to have major surgery. Even though it was a setback, he sees it as a blessing that he was in the United States when he got sick and was able to receive medical care. Back home it would have gone untreated.
Once Daoud recovered, he began “planting” and working again. He found full-time employment at another warehouse and took on another part-time job. Soon he was able to progress to step two: buying a house. After living in America for only two and a half years, Daoud and his family began to harvest from their plans and hard work. “We have experienced a better life here compared to Afghanistan. For example, our kids are in schools, we own a house, we got our rights, we have vehicles, all positive things that have happened. I am living the American dream. I never thought I could become a homeowner in two years!”
Daoud is continually motivated by his family. “Every parent hopes for their children to get an education, go to college, get a good job. My dream is for them to go to college and get a major that lets them serve the United States and Afghanistan.” He is teaching them to plant early for their future and prays that war does not disrupt their harvest. Daoud has also decided to return to school to complete his bachelor’s’ degree. He knows education is important and is applying what he is teaching his children to himself.
Before arriving in the United States, Daoud was afraid that he would not be able to worship freely here, that it would be challenging to be an immigrant and begin a new life with his family. But resettling in the U.S. was a blessing they never imagined possible. With help from World Relief, intentional planning, planting and hard work, they have adjusted well to life in the U.S. and this new culture – including new freedoms – discovering a community filled with friendship and love. Their journey has been long. Things did not all go as planned, but he and his family are thriving in this new place. They have been able to worship freely and Daoud’s family never take their new freedom for granted. “Freedom is a gift of God for humans,” he reflects. And only four years after setting foot on American soil, his family is harvesting early.
Catherine Gross, World Relief Memphis
Photos by Emily Frazier Creative