A life transformed through refugee resettlement

Refugee resettlement is about saving lives! I would like to share this story of Benjamin, a refugee from Liberia who is alive today because he was resettled to the United States just in time.

Hudsonville Walkers
Benjamin (center, wearing Iowa "hoodie") was among participants in the CWS CROP Hunger Walk in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Photo: CWS

By Jotham Ippel, Director of PARA Refugee Services, Bethany Christian Services, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Refugee resettlement is about saving lives!  I would like to share this story of Benjamin, a refugee from Liberia who is alive today because he was resettled to the United States just in time.

In October 1990, a rebel faction gained control of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. The President had been captured and killed. Liberians were fleeing by the boatful to neighboring countries. Benjamin boarded a Nigerian ship for Accra, Ghana. He feared for his life.

Benjamin lived with other Liberian refugees in Buduburam Camp on the outskirts of Accra.  He never returned to his native Liberia. Instead, he spent the next 18 years of his life waiting and hoping for a new life.

In the camp, Benjamin met Betty, and they were married four years ago.  Then the U.S. Refugee Program approved Betty for resettlement to the United States.  Church World Service took her case and arranged for her to go to Grand Rapids, Mich., with her two young children.  Bethany Christian Services, along with cosponsors Messiah and Immanuel Christian Reformed churches, welcomed her in March 2006.  Once she got her bearings, she applied for Benjamin to join her.

During this time, Benjamin started to experience extreme pain in his nasal cavity. Doctors in Accra identified a cancerous growth, and feared Benjamin would not live long. The mass kept growing, and eventually Benjamin could not breathe through his nose. 

It was April 2009 before Betty’s paperwork was approved.  At that point it seemed that even if Benjamin came to the United States, he would only live weeks after he arrived.  The Church World Service-administered Overseas Processing Entity in Accra expedited the case, and in May 2009 Benjamin arrived in Grand Rapids.  Bethany Christian Services provided resettlement services.

A surgeon and doctors were immediately able to assess Benjamin, who was sent to Ann Arbor for surgery in June. The surgeon, an expert in her field, was able to remove the life-threatening, baseball-sized growth, which thankfully was found to be benign. Today, Benjamin has fully recovered from the surgery. 

Benjamin shares that a verse from Proverbs 18:14a has helped him through his trials:  “The human spirit will endure sickness.”

Through prayer, his doctors’ skill and the care extended by Bethany Christian Services and by the cosponsoring congregations, Benjamin has hope. He has regained his health and gives thanks for the gift of refugee resettlement.  He plans to pursue a nursing career in order to help others. Benjamin's story is an example of how despair can give way to hope!

Editor’s note: Benjamin is one of the 262 refugees PARA Refugee Service resettled on behalf of Church World Service in 2009.  The others came from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Rwanda, Russia, Ukraine, Cuba and The Gambia.  In all, CWS and its nationwide affiliate network resettled 6,428 refugees from 39 countries along with 186 Iraqis and Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas in 2009.


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