When Bunga and Hortence arrived to the United States on a cold November day in 2013, they were thrilled, relieved…and sad. They were thrilled that they had been welcomed to a country where they could live permanently and rebuild their lives. They were relieved that after enduring 17 years in refugee camps in Nigeria, they had finally found somewhere safe and stable to raise their youngest son Mayo.
And yet they were sad, for they were even further away from their oldest son Jonas, who had been away visiting relatives when the rest of the family fled for their lives from their home country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Jonas was trapped by the conflict back home in the DRC, and his parents worried daily for his life.
Bunga and Hortence went about making a new life for themselves here in Illinois as best they could. They completed World Relief’s Job Readiness Class, received a donated van, signed up for ESL classes, and enrolled their son Mayo in school. With the support of their volunteers and a local church, they quickly felt at home in their new community, and they learned what it takes to survive and thrive in the United States. They were doing well, but they longed to be reunited with Jonas.
When the couple learned of World Relief’s Immigration Legal Services (ILS) program, they immediately set up an appointment with a legal specialist. The specialist listened to their story, asked a number of questions, and explained the family reunification process to them. Bunga and Hortence were overjoyed – they once again had hope.
Over the next two years, World Relief’s ILS specialist helped the family navigate the many stages of the legal process. Through constant communication with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the U.S. Embassy in the DRC, each phase of the process progressed, albeit slowly. Finally, in April 2016 – almost two years since they had their first legal consultation at World Relief – Bunga, Hortence, and Mayo stood waiting in hopeful anticipation at O’Hare Airport.
When Jonas walked through the exit, Hortence let out a cry and fell to her knees in gratitude. The family embraced in a reunion so emotional that strangers at the airport joined in on the celebration. It was a moment of pure joy, and a stunning example of how God can use people to move mountains and reunite families across borders.
This past May, Jonas triumphantly walked across the stage to receive his high school diploma. And three months later, he is now beginning a new journey toward his college degree at College of DuPage. He plans to study engineering, and he hopes to use the new start that he has been given to contribute to the country that welcomed him.
The family now lives happily in a home that Bunga and Hortence purchased after just four and a half years of hard work and saving. Like many of the immigrant families welcomed to our community, Bunga, Hortence, Jonas, and Mayo are making the most of the opportunities and help that they have been given, and are living full, hopeful lives.