A mosaic of voices and visions for 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My family’s immigration story is a novela.
My mother is from a little town called Alamo, in South Texas on the border. She lived there with her three siblings and her parents, and they lived with their landlords, Concepcion “Connie” and Rafael. Connie and Rafael could not have children, but they babysat my mother and her siblings a lot.
Rafael had fought in World War II, so he and Connie had been able to get their citizenship; but my mother’s parents, despite having their children in the U.S., did not have their papers.
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.
“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.
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.
After all my life experiences there is something, I will never do.
I will never question a mother’s sacrifice to ensure the well-being of her children. Everything costs something, be it time, money or both.
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.
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.
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 2018, hearing the stories and seeing more and more instances of separation. That’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.