As a nation and as a community this holiday season, let us say to the refugee & the stranger among us: Welcome. There is Room. We wish you peace.
Welcome a refugee family by making a gift to World Relief Seattle today.
When Hussein, Sabeeha, and their six children arrived to SeaTac Airport in August, it was the culmination of a years-long journey that spanned from Syria to Norway and many places in-between.
The journey began in their home in Baghdad, Iraq. Hussein and his seven brothers ran their own construction factories. “My family was so rich in Baghdad,” remembers Hussein.
When the US began its offensive in Iraq in 2003, the brothers were contracted to do construction projects for the American military, putting them in danger of retaliation from groups in opposition to the US. Two of Hussein’s brothers were killed by militants.
Fleeing the dangers that had claimed his brothers’ lives, Hussein brought his family from Baghdad to Syria, where they stayed for three years. It’s a period that Hussein doesn’t talk about much. “When we were in Syria we felt hungry many, many days,” he says.
Seeking greater opportunity for his family, Hussein made the heart-wrenching decision to leave his wife and young children behind. He hoped to reach Europe and, upon establishing a safe life, to eventually bring them to join him.
Hussein found himself on an overcrowded boat from Turkey to Greece for three days. He remembers well the fear he felt in that moment: “You choose between two points. There is death here and death there. I just preferred the sea more than to return to Iraq and the horror”.
Surviving the harrowing boat ride, Hussein made it to Norway where he spent more than three years trying to gain legal residency. His efforts came to naught, though, when the Norwegian government deported him back to Iraq in November 2011.
Hussein reunited with his family in Baghdad, but his presence made it unsafe for them to stay. Again they fled, this time north to Turkey. Stuck between a homeland that couldn’t protect them and a neighboring country hesitant to welcome them, Hussein and Sabeeha felt desperate.
“Every night at that time, I just cried inside my bedroom,” he remembers. After several days waiting and a night spent on the streets at the border, the family was granted entry to Turkey.
Here they stayed for four more years, waiting on the extensive security screening process required for resettlement into the US. Sabeeha gave birth to their sixth child–a spunky little girl. The older children learned Turkish and studied in school.
Finally, they received their visas to come to America.
“I’ve spent a big period of my life looking for shelter,” says Hussein. “This is the end of my mission. I started my life from the beginning again.”
The family’s new life in America has been marked by struggle and generosity. The shortage of housing in King County meant that the family spent weeks waiting to secure an apartment they could afford. While they waited, they were warmly welcomed into the home of an American family who learned about World Relief through their church.
Today, Hussein and his family are beginning to gain their footing in their new homeland. The teenagers are attending school and learning English. The oldest son, Omar, has a job doing auto detailing at the airport. The entire family is enjoying the security and warmth of a new apartment.
World Relief comes alongside newcomers like Hussein & Sabeeha, helping them learn English, get jobs, and become thriving members of their new community.
Will you extend a warm welcome to a Seattle-area refugee family this holiday season? Give online today.