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Bethany Christian Services on refugee resettlement and reunion

By February 24, 2017

USA (MNN) — Refugees and a travel ban are still at the top of the list of issues people are talking about…but there are human faces and families at the heart of the issue.  Today, we’re bringing you one of those stories with the help of Bethany Christian Services.

(Capture courtesy Bethany Christian Services, FB live)

(Photo capture courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook Live)

A reunion two decades in the making unfolded at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan this week.

Syrian refugees Zane Shami and his mother kissed moments after she stepped off a plane early Wednesday afternoon.  It was a reunion frustrated by a series of delays after President Donald Trump’s travel ban thwarted travel for people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Shami’s mother was finishing the immigration process around the same time and was supposed to arrive in the U.S. on a February 7th flight, but those restrictions stopped her plans. A federal judge suspended the travel ban and plans for her to come to West Michigan resumed.  Her flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids was canceled Tuesday because of heavy fog, but Wednesday afternoon, mother and son were finally joyfully reunited.

The Journey

Shami came to college in the U.S. in 1996.  He has since become a U.S. citizen and was looking forward to having his 67-year-old mom move into his home in Hudsonville, MI.  That took more doing.  Back home, things were quickly degenerating in Syria.

(Capture courtesy Bethany Christian Services FB live)

(Photo capture courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook Live)

By 2012, the civil war had started, so his mother moved in with family in Kuwait to escape the war and violence.  Four years later, with no letup in sight, she officially registered as a refugee with the U.S. government and has been going through the vetting process since then, which included vetting by the United Nations, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.

This week, along with Shami, Kristin Van Noord and La’Leatha Spillers were there on behalf of Bethany Christian Services, one of two organizations helping to resettle refugees in West Michigan.  Via Facebook Live, Spillers let people watch the nervous moments before and after Shami’s mother was visible in the corridor…. “As you just saw, Zane’s mom just arrived and they’re walking down the ramp.  We’re so excited for them.  Mother and son, reunited.  Thank you guys so much for joining us and we really appreciate all your support.”

Bethany Christian Services helped Zane apply for his mother to come as a part of the Family Reunification Program, and will be the resettlement agency for his mom.

(Capture courtesy Bethany Christian Services FB live)

(Photo capture courtesy of Bethany Christian Services via Facebook Live)

Their ultimate goal is to bring and keep families together.  Spillers added for those interested in helping refugees seeking asylum in the United States, Bethany offers volunteer opportunities, particularly for individuals willing to directly mentor and guide new arrivals.

“We are in great need of folks that can serve as foster families for unaccompanied minors in our program, as well as those who are open to support and sponsor refugee arrivals when they are here in the States.  Again, for those of you who are interested in finding ways you can support Bethany’s refugees programs and services, you can visit Bethany.org/refugees.”

Working in partnership with Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, resettlement help includes:

  • Employment services
  • Housing assistance
  • Cultural education
  • Refugee foster care
  • Medical management
  • And much more…

Where does the Gospel come into play? Bethany’s resettlement program within the United States works in collaboration with local churches, volunteers, and service providers to ensure refugee families a safe and smooth transition into their new homes.  In being the hands and feet of Christ to these newcomers, conversations are started on what makes people of the Book so different.

Ask God to open hearts to a hope that extends beyond policies and provides true, eternal freedom.

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