I want to give you all a heads up about a Nigerian family – Mom, Dad and 3 children – who were released from the detention center late on Friday, June 9. I had sent out an urgent email that day seeking housing and other support for this family. I have now had the opportunity to meet with them. The father is named Tola, Abigail is the mother, Dami is their 8 year old boy, Precious their 6 year old girl, and Lase their 4 year old son.
The family is very pleasant; they all speak some English. They are a very faithful Christian family who left Nigeria because of their faith (let me read that again: They are a very faithful Christian family who left Nigeria because of their faith); they were being oppressed for not following cultural norms that conflicted with their Christian beliefs. The well-being of their 6-year old daughter was being threatened, even by other family members, to the point they felt they needed to leave to protect her. Please note – they entered our country legally, with passports and valid tourist visas but were flagged and detained anyway. Not sure why – perhaps because Nigeria is a majority Muslim nation? They were held in detention at Berks for about 2 weeks and then received approval to seek asylum due to credible fear. Unfortunately their original plans had fallen apart by this point and they were released with no notice, (the father with an ankle bracelet) and no help to resettle available.
Our local immigration attorneys stepped up and through our network contacts we were able to find a very gracious host family for the family through mid-August. But they still need our help! Because they did not enter the county under refugee status, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and Church World Services cannot support them, but LIRS has helped with information and other possible resources.
In addition to clothing, we need a vehicle to transport the five members of the family plus a driver. A minivan would be perfect. Is anyone aware of a vehicle we could borrow during the summer for this purpose? Does anyone have a connection to a car-dealer or rental service that might be willing to help?
The family is living in the Green Valley estates, between Sinking Spring and Wernersville. Does anyone have a connection to Green Valley Country Club that might be able to get them passes or a discounted rate for the pool for this summer? They could walk there from their host home. The hosts both work and the family will not be able to drive anywhere on their own so this would be a nice outlet for them.
Financial contributions or gift cards are especially welcome. We hope to help with some of their costs so the host family will not need to cover all their expenses. The funds will be used for personal care items, food, filing fees for their asylum case perhaps, and transportation costs. Please, could you take a special offering to help the children? Do you have a social ministry budget you could tap?
This family is also looking for faith/worship opportunities. The father used to teach Bible study and Abigail taught Sunday School. They will not be able to get jobs or drive until their immigration status is determined and the courts are backlogged so it may take quite some time. Do you have any odd jobs they could do for a donation? Could you invite (and transport) the children to your VBS or other activities? Could you take the family to your worship service and have a meal with them. This can also offer some respite time for the host family. Taking a family of five into your empty-nest home can be a bit of a shock! Let’s truly reach out to share the love of God with our neighbors- the hosts have already said they feel blessed by this opportunity! Maybe more of us need to experience the true faith of this family, who believe that God will provide what is needed. They have expressed their feeling that this whole experience since being released has been an answer to their prayers. They are overwhelmed with the love they have already felt from total strangers here; especially in comparison to their being held in detention for doing nothing wrong!