Congolese refugee reunited with his four children thanks to BHITC volunteer and church partner
When refugees flee their home countries and become resettled in the United States, for example, they leave a huge part of their lives behind – their careers, their homes, most of their belongings – and sometimes, their circumstances force them to even leave family members behind.
More than eight years ago, a Congolese man named Germain Luhata and his family fled their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and became separated in different refugee camps. When Luhata had the opportunity to resettle to the United States in 2011, he knew the cost was high. It would mean many, many more miles between he and his family, a distance made worse by much waiting and paperwork, not to mention the money required to change that.
Luhata says the hope to build a new life reunited with his loved ones helped him never accept the idea of the distance becoming permanent. “I stayed in contact with them [my family] as much as possible, but I was alone here and had little language skills to help myself or my family” says Luhata, who is still working to bring his wife and grandchildren to the United States. Luhata soon met Loren Dill, a volunteer refugee mentor with Building Hope in the City (BHITC), who has been by his side ever since, advocating for him, teaching him and just recently, sharing possibly the best moment of his life.
On May 12, Luhata’s four children – one of whom had not even been born yet when they were separated – arrived at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and Dill was right there with him. “We had almost given up believing they were on the flight,” says Dill. “We were in baggage claims, and it appeared everyone on the flight had gotten their bags and departed. Suddenly, there was a shout, and they came running to sweep Germain up in a big family hug that lasted for minutes and included many tears.”
Even Dill’s church, Bay Presbyterian Church (BPC), had the opportunity to be part of this special moment. “Germain’s children had been waiting several years for permission to join their father in the United States,” says Christin Hardy, Director of Outreach for BPC. After several long journeys to the embassy in Africa, the paperwork and authorizations were complete, but a final authorization would still take months and require yet another costly trip to the embassy – a trip the large family had not anticipated and could not afford.
“When Loren learned of the emergent situation with Luhata’s family, he immediately contacted the church for help. Money was needed immediately, and the church made the decision to pay for the family’s travel inside Africa so they could all be reunited in Cleveland,” says Hardy, who has seen mentor-based ministries bless and motivate others in her church greatly.
For Dill, who saw Luhata struggle for years without his family, says that moment in the airport is one he won’t ever forget. “Seeing Germain and his children embracing there in the terminal is really a highlight of my life,” he says. Meanwhile, Luhata gives thanks for how Dill and others have blessed him. “I am where I am today because of Loren, my friend and my teacher,” he says. “I didn’t have a chance as a refugee. Loren helped me in ways above and beyond what I could have imagined. I have hope today because of BHITC and Loren.”