My America

A mosaic of voices and visions for America.

In January of 2019, LIRS launched the My America campaign to lift up the voices of refugees, migrants, faith leaders, and Americans wishing to express an experience or vision that inspires hope. In a time where our newsfeeds are often flooded with discouraging headlines about immigrants, this campaign seeks to offer an alternative vision for an America that embraces all those seeking protection. 

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah

LIRS PResident & CEO

Elizabeth Saldana

TeMecula, CA

Sharon Baglyos

Baltimore, MD

Awn Sian Mung

Albuquerque, NM

Huda_My_America

Huda Abdulhameed

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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Rana Almishlib

Baltimore, MD

Basel_My_America

Basel Mousslly

Baltimore, MD

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My America...
From Refugee

to CEO

My name is Krish Vignarajah and I’m honored to join the LIRS family as its new CEO.

Like so many, my family’s American story is the story of refugees who “yearned to breathe free.” Four decades ago, my parents fled a civil war in Sri Lanka. I was 9 months old. 

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Krish O'Mara VignaraJah

PResident and ceo at LIRS

Before I met Rana, I had never even thought about going to the United States. I was working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, helping people as a first-responder in a Syria that was crumbling before our eyes. I loved Syria, and I loved the work that I did. I had never imagined leaving…

The first time I got to talk to Rana, we were playing foosball in between volunteer shifts at the Red Crescent. She was funny, sharp, and flawless. I don’t do this kind of thing very often, but I let her beat me at the game.

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Basel MousslLy

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service

My America...
Opened the doors to love

My America... is a place of freedom

I’d like to share how this country is free and blessed. Anybody can be a citizen no matter their race, color, or religion. I want to share about the way that this country gave me a lot of power – that I can be equal, no matter my gender or my religion.

I would encourage anyone who couldn’t find this peace and equality in their country to be grateful and motivated to do it, work towards their U.S. citizenship.

My new life started here, in a peaceful country. No matter what difficulties I have been through, either in my origin country or adjusting here, I can only say it was worth all of the sacrifices.

Rana AlmishLib

Loans Operations officer at LIRS (Baltimore, MD)

My America...
Is a place where all people can be free

When I think back on my life – and the time before I came to America – I feel like I’m sleeping. Like I have a dream within my dream and I see the lights coming in…

I am from Myanmar (Burma). But I am not Burmese. I am Zomi – a member of the founding ethnic group of my country. But when I was young, the government declared that they would no longer recognize the Zomi people, and in 2006 I was forced to flee my home.

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Awn Sian Mung

Lead Case Manager at Lutheran Family Services-Rocky Mountains

I came to the United States in 1980 after Archbishop Romero was assassinated in El Salvador. I was persecuted  by a paramilitary group that was called Death Squad in the ’80s because… I had traveled with Romero to many towns and assisted him as an altar boy.

As a Lutheran pastor in America, I became a bridge connecting all kinds of community leaders from our neighboring cities throughout Dallas County. My talents and gifts in some ways have been accepted and in other ways rejected as an immigrant who has a different skin color, culture, and a strong Spanish accent. 

The greatest challenge that I have faced is discrimination from people who seem to resist any change in their community. But through meetings and prayers, I have been helping to educate people to properly understand the newest immigrants in American society. 

Over the last 10 years, Irving and other cities in north Texas have drastically changed with the influx of new immigrants from all over Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The Muslim community is also growing rapidly in our city and they come from all over the world.

We have over 48 different languages spoken in our diverse city. 

Pastor Portillo

Iglesia Luterana La Transfiguracion (Irving, TX)

My America...
Is capable of incredible change

As a pastor and an ambassador of welcome at LIRS, I’ve spent the last several weeks contemplating the importance of welcome during this Easter season.

In the Bible, we find two Easter stories in which the risen Christ is encountered as a stranger. Mary, outside the empty tomb, supposes that Jesus is a gardener. Two friends of Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, do not recognize Him.

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Sharon BAglyos

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service

My America...
A Special Easter Reflection

My America...
Is CAlled Home

Home. It takes only four letters to write the word, but for some, it takes a lifetime to find its meaning. The word has caused me, as a former refugee, much pain, confusion, and uncertainty. When I finally found its meaning, I found peace.

Home for me was Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Selena Besirevic

Attorney at The Harris Law Firm P.C. (Denver, Co)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

As we hear these words ringing in our ears, we see that not only are we sent to preach the Gospel to all nations, but in fact all nations are being sent to us. The mission field in our own backyards and at the footsteps of our churches. Just as we are also called to love our neighbors.

And so who is our neighbor?

Yes, this includes new Americans who may feel like strangers and go unseen in our own neighborhoods.  We are called to love them and to welcome them, as we go about making disciples.  In this, we proclaim the Good News, we teach, we show mercy, we embrace their households as a part of our own community… we care for them in body and soul just as Christ did. 

In Christ, we suffer and we sacrifice for the refugee and the immigrant and the least of our brothers. And this is a testimony to the world around us of the very Kingdom of God.

As Christ Himself prays in his priestly prayer, that the world will know that His Kingdom has come, in a unity that comes only from the Prince of Peace, a unity that reflects the life of the world to come.

When every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, will stand before the throne and before the Lamb. And every knee will bow to worship the King of Kings as every tear is wiped away by the Shepherd’s hand.

Rev. Dr. Steven Schave

LCMS Office of National Mission

My America...
Welcomes Our Neighbor and Strangers

Steven Schave

My America...
Empowers Children to Thrive

Having worked in child welfare for 5 years, I am committed to helping vulnerable children in the LIRS Family Reunification network thrive. The resilience and courage of the children I work with is inspiring, but every now and then, I encounter a case that surprises even me.

The following account reflects my experience with one of those cases.

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Ana Iris De Los Santos

UAC Social Worker at Bethany Christian Services (Fair Lawn, NJ)

My America...
TransforMs Fear into WElcome

The family reunification program was such an eye opener on the devastation that the zero-tolerance immigration policy brought to so many families. As a case worker, I saw this impact firsthand in my work with families struggling to regain a sense of normalcy after the heartbreaking separation.

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Elizabeth SaLDana

Social Worker at International Christian Adoptions

My America...
As a hard-working Single Mother

I was resettled to VA in 2014 as a refugee with my three minor daughters. Since that time, my husband has been waiting in Jordan in immigration limbo, hoping to reunite with us in the U.S.

Managing as a single mom has been my biggest challenge to starting a new life in the US, but I have worked hard to achieve personal and professional success as a woman, just as I did back in home country.

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Huda Abdulhameed

Refugee Caseworker at YWCA (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

For over eight years, I’ve worked to serve unaccompanied kids and families at LIRS. And in that time, the road that our families have had to walk has never been easy. But it’s been a lot harder over the past few years – just look at the family separation crisis. 

We saw it coming in January of 2018hearing the stories and seeing more and more instances of separationThat’s when it started to get frightening... because up to that point, family separation had only occurred in very specific circumstances and was considered a last resort – even by immigration officials  

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Ginny Fitchett

Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service

My America...
Is A Shinng Light

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