The Al Masri familiy arrived safely in Grand Rapids. Praise God!
More details about their joyous homecoming soon!
“Strength For Today and Bright Hope For Tomorrow”
from Great is Thy Faithfulness
What a swirling flurry of activities have occurred in the past 2 weeks. All were related to preparation for Miriam and Ahmed’s family arriving from Lebanon tomorrow! Trips to barbers and hair salons, purchasing new outfits to wear to the airport, Grand Rapids Mediterranean Island grocery shopping to pick up LOTS of food that the young Al Masri family will love to eat together with the Ali Al Masri family, sweets and treats for Farah and Moaaz, and rearranging of Marah’s LARGE bedroom to host the family for the first night at least!
Palpable and contagious describe the vibes well. Moayad already has plans for his brother-n-law Ahmed to come watch Moayad play soccer on Thursday March 10th, and Marah secured a driver to go to the West Michigan Friendship Center this Friday night so she can Introduce Miriam to their Grand Rapids friends!
Last night we shared food with the Al Masri’s as well as hymns of God’s faithfulness and provisions over all eternity, and especially the last 8 months. With Arabic interpretation by Abeer from upstate New York joining on speaker phone and written hymn translations, which Kholoud read to Marah and Ali (he stayed home due to not feeling well), we shared a sweet time of praising our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and praying. We shared prayers for the safe travels of Miriam’s family, who should be in the Beirut airport right now as I write this and will arrive Tuesday at 10:51pm in Grand Rapids.
Prayers were offered for God to be the source of strength, comfort, and encouragement for Mirvat, as she remains in Lebanon, a widow with her two young sons Yahya and Ali, remaining in refugee limbo. And we remembered Mohammed, their first-born son, living and working now in the Netherlands with secure refugee status, but still separated from his family.
May the Church rise up to be the hands and feet of Jesus among the World’s refugees as they love the fatherless, the widows, and orphans… in Syria and Lebanon, in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq…..This is such a good reminder that for Jesus Christ followers, this world is not our home, we are just passing through to the eternal home God has prepared. May we share that HOPE, even as we work daily to make the new American home comfortable for ALL the extended Al Masri family.
Continuing to look for affordable housing for the Al Masri’s .
Praises for the jobs and income that are allowing them to start to save.
Need for tutor for Ali and Kholoud for taking a written driving test. This is urgent brecause if they move from their location, they likely will need to drive themselves to their jobs. Right now they get rides from co-workers.
Assistance with applications for permanent residency/ Green cards, etc.
Continue to pray for, visit with, and share life experiences and adventures with our Al Masri friends!
As God wills, always,
Family is Coming!!!
This is a brief update regarding MARCH 8th.
The Al Masri's daughter's family arrives March 8th at 10:51 pm
All Shores Church is the Co- sponsoring Church with Bethany Christian Services for this family. There will be All Shores Team there to welcome Miriam, Ahmed, Farrah and Moaaz Al Masri ( yes- same last name!).
Jessica Jones will be transporting all the Al Masri's to the airport except for Ali ( he will be working and getting off a little early). Ginger Downey will pick up Ali and get him to the airport. If you are interested in being a part of witnessing this joyous event and fulfillment of thousands of prayers, please contact Kris Jones @ 734-620-3980 or Ginger Downey @ 231-881-0231 for further details.
Celebrating Birthdays, New Jobs and New Friends
update | 2.23.2022
food, sincere hospitality, and generosity! Kholoud is the embodiment of a Rich
Mullins song, First Family, with the following lyrics:
“Mom could make a gourmet meal
Out of just cornbread and beans
And they worked to give faith hands and feet
And somehow gave it wings.”
First Family Lyrics
Kholoud wears her hajib and performs
her prayers 5 times daily unless she is at an appointment. She lifts her hands
with tears or smiles and says in Arabic, “as God wills.” And she prays for her
loved ones wherever they are, as her family is EVERYTHING to her! I was reading
about Syrian culture this week and learned that a married female is referred to
as the wife of her husband until she gives birth to her first son. From that
time forward she is referred to as the mother of her son, in this case
Mohammed. But Mohammed is in the Netherlands! That little bit of education gave
me a greater understanding of the heartache she carries daily, that her family
is apart, scattered over 3 continents.
February has seen the celebration
of Kholoud’s birthday and Marah’s 12th birthday (today), with loud,
noisy, musical, and colorful fanfare. Covid 19 has interfered with several gatherings
this winter, but Marah’s big day was NOT to be dampened! The cake needed to be large,
have pink, and have a hand-picked picture of Marah on it! Thankfully
Wal-Mart accommodated! As for the added gold beads on the frosting, Kholoud
squealed “Very Syrian: this is good!” This is a day Marah has invited her
teacher and language tutors to her home to meet her family, and Kholoud has
cooked her traditional tabbouleh and grape leaves to complement her buffet of
nuts, seeds, fried chicken, popcorn, sweets, sweet drinks, and cake. Marah and
the color pink will be wildly celebrated!!
greater context of the above preparations is that Kholoud began a new part-time
job on February 13th: 7.5 hrs/week sweeping and dusting a manufacturing campus
with a crew of workers on Sundays from 6am-1:30pm. At $18/hr!!! Her
new supervisor provides Kholoud transportation to and from the job FOR FREE!
This is in addition to her recently started employment from the State of
Michigan as Malak’s Home Help Provider for 103 hrs/month!
Kholoud’s jobs with Ali’s salary at Pliant Plastics should allow them to meet
their monthly expenses, still using the biweekly food pantry and food truck to
supplement their groceries. They’ve both practiced writing checks for bills
this month and Ali has paid one phone bill online with his pre-load bank card.
All of these are definitely “works in progress” but may we join them in a
corporate “Praise God from whom ALL BLESSINGS flow!”
fell, in the dark on the way to the school bus, on the treacherous ice we still
had at the beginning of last week. Thankfully, he was bruised and sore, but did
not hit his head or require more than one day of ice packs and rest. They have
had rock salt and a snow shovel all winter, but no one in the home much enjoys
being in the cold to use them regularly. After his fall, they put many
recyclables to use as scoops in the salt bag and have salted more often. For
all volunteers driving to their house, be EXTRA CAREFUL walking on their
Moayad has been desperately
pleading with anyone who will listen that he wants to join a year-round soccer
league. Most of the people who have received these pleas do not have the inside
scoop on how to research the options, but thankfully 2 volunteers do! Whether
it will actually come to fruition or he will need to wait until Spring and Summer
outdoor leagues, he certainly knows the love and care of those helping him
pursue this dream. He has expressed another dream, entailing being a goalie
that gets paid and never has to work at anything but soccer! Not wanting to
crush the spirit, but wanting to foster realistic dreams, feel free to share
any ideas for summer jobs for Moayad! One CLC member assisted Moayad with
getting 2 bicycles in their garage “tuned-up” and tires fixed, so that he will
have freedom when the snow and ice melt to explore the Tri Cities and will have
transportation to employment. He remarks that his brother-in-law Ahmed, who
arrives on March 8th from Lebanon, also likes to ride bicycles, so
he shall have company! Moayad also has an air pump now as well as a bicycle
lock. If you enjoy a cycling outing with him and he forgets the combination, it
is the year of his birth: 2004 J
Probate Court date has been rescheduled to March 14,2022. This will hopefully
be the last step to making Ali and Kholoud her legal guardians! Originally the
date was February 21st. It was going to be by Zoom. Because the
family requires an interpreter, the judge has called for it to be in -person.
This also now requires Malak’s evaluator from Mary Free Bed to be in person for
this appearance. As a Zoom meeting, there was not going to be any expenses in
the entire process for the family. Now they may have to bear the cost of the
evaluator spending the morning going to court in Allendale. Please pray that
these fees might be waived or be minimal.
Ali is doing well at work. He and
Kholoud receive a lot of financial “tips” from other Arabic -speaking friends
they have met in Grand Haven and Grand Rapids. These tips may all be correct,
or possibly just correct for the circumstances of the individual family sharing
the information. It has made for some cultural miscommunications in the past
few weeks. Navigating ideas about financial institutions, saving money, taxes
and why they’re necessary, government benefits, changing benefits according to
income, etc. have been daily conversations. Hours have been spent by one
volunteer alone teaching Kholoud how to document her caregiving hours for Malak
in the required online program for this job. As the co-sponsoring Church, we
have entered a new phase. We are no longer coming alongside the Al Masri’s in a
survival mode for them, but a development mode.
When Helping Hurts, book by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
are excellent resources with which to familiarize oneself if
you are seeking to be intimately involved in the longer road of befriending and
mentoring this precious family as they navigate cultural and economic
differences in America. It is a new concept to them that it is a good sign
when they get more income and their Bridge Card benefits for food assistance
decrease: i.e. the government assesses that they are earning enough money to
support their own food bills. There have been frequent discussions about the
purpose of the type of government support they received for their first 6
months, and that it was only meant to be a safety net until they were here long
enough to get jobs with sufficient income to replace that financial support.
It’s a fearful time for them as they transition away from that safety net, and
they definitely DO NOT want to lose their Medicaid health insurance!
Two families with tween - and
teen-age girls have been befriending Marah and she loves being with the girls.
Please encourage others to join in the fun of sharing social times with the
kids or the entire family: it is full of smiles, laughs, surprises and usually
food- amazing food. And God blesses every encounter. It would be especially
great if families with teen boys would reach out to Moayad, also.
Thank you for ALL the ways each
of you supports this ongoing ministry of resettlement. Every gesture of
time and prayer is seen by our Father in heaven. While practicing being salt
and light in the world, we are glorifying God as we strive to live missionally,
sharing Christ among the nations!
As I close this update I am reminded of a verse from my
favorite hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:
we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing.
not the right man on our side
man of God’s own choosing.
ask who that might be?
Jesus it is he.
Lord Sabaoth his name
age to age then same.
he must win the battle.
The outpouring of love and service in this ministry is
fueled by our Lord Jesus Christ: individual adrenaline and good will always
fall short. “Come, follow me” is
Christ’s call as daily he equips us with whatever the needs of the day require,
and his love and mercy covers a multitude of our mistakes. Join the journey!!
Please share the blogs! And share the gospel!
“Halleluiah, all I have is Christ.
Halleluiah, Jesus is my
life!” lyric from All I Have is Christ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jg_gl3IpEFw
Love Is In The Air update 2-10-22
God’s blessings continue to be revealed in the Al Masri household on a weekly and often daily basis! Malak receives glowing reports from her teacher at Ottawa Area Center. She is up @4:00am most days and is anxious to get in her Hoyer Lift sling, be swung into her wheelchair and rolled out the door to be greeted by her bus drive John and assistant Jan. Unfortunately, the bus is at 7:45am, not 5:00am, so Malak has a bit of a wait! She is much more relaxed with having her hand held and allowing others to do passive therapy and range of motion with her arms. Even shares smiles now! Soon her custom red wheelchair should be delivered! Thankfully, Malak has been healthy since arriving in Michigan, except for some chronic dental discomfort. She came without legal guardianship as defined by U.S. law. So….she has not been able to have neurological testing and oral surgery which have been recommended, until the issue of guardianship is resolved. February 21, 2022 is her Ottawa County court date, by ZOOM ,to hopefully complete a process of evaluations and meetings that began to be scheduled in August! Please be in prayer for the outcome of this legal proceeding. There are a flurry of new medical appointments that will occur for her once guardianship is finalized.
Kholoud was approved by the State of Michigan last week to be a private Home Help Provider (HHP) for Malak. She was approved for 103 hrs/month (roughly 25 hrs/week) to be paid for what she has already always been doing all along for Malak! Currently there is even a small Covid “supplement” to the wages, but this supplement is slated for elimination in September 2022. At that time the wages return to @$10/hr. This is still an enormous help for the family! Hopefully an additional part-time job will become available for Kholoud also, which allows for the daytime flexibility she needs with Malak’s school schedule. Or even a weekend job to supplement their income. Please pass any leads for such work on to me ANYTIME! Kholoud’s English is improving daily and she uses the Google translate app much less frequently now.
Bouquets, What’s app text messages, snail-mail cards, visitors and phone calls from Lebanon, the Netherlands and Grand Rapids brought prayers and wishes for a happy first birthday in the United States to Kholoud on February 5th. Marah was an excellent hostess, spreading their dining table with bowls of treats such as small candies, sunflower seeds (in shells), nuts and peas, popcorn freshly made, fresh fruit, tea, Pepsi and Sprite (Ali doesn’t drink caffeinated soda) and the most decadent chocolate cake with candles. With “Happy happy birthday to you” BLASTING from You Tube in English and Arabic, and lots of singing and eating, this kind, generous, hard-working woman, mother, caregiver, wife and friend was ushered into her next year of life joyfully. I am sure there will be a repeat soon, as Marah turns 12 on February 20,2022.
Accompanied by Ali, Moayad and Marah applied for their State of Michigan ID cards this week. The let down for Ali was that he thought he was going to get to take a driving test also! He misunderstood the email he received reminding him of the appointment for the children. To brighten his mood, he received a Michigan Driver’s test study book. It’s all in English though. He said he would start working on it. Anytime one of you visits with them, would you please summarize a couple of pages for him from the book? He is very anxious to be able to drive. I have no idea when that will occur, certainly not imminently, but you can’t learn to drive until you pass a test, so this is a baby step to encourage him! All of the extra language tutoring Marah has received in and outside of school were so apparent when she signed her name on her State ID form. Thank you to everyone who has poured in to her, as in September it seemed she was going to be far behind all others in the family. Now I was able to witness Moayad’s need for 1:1 English tutoring, as well as Dad’s need. Do any of you guys want to enjoy some cookies and soda, coffee or tea and spend an hour a week in English tutoring with the men of the house??? There is also a program called READ for English literacy in Ottawa County. I have requested their Refugee Education Center (REC) caseworker consider enrolling both of them in this language 1;1 tutoring program. Please pray about finding the best ways to motivate the Al Masri men to practice their English writing, reading and speaking.
We have reached a new milestone: even though there was a Saturday morning Urgent Care visit, Ali has worked 3 full-time weeks in a row! Praising God for Kathy (afternoons) and Jeff (end of shift) who have been giving Ali rides to and from work daily. He always remarks how much he likes his job, too.
Marah and Moayad had another immunization appointment, but only for 3 vaccines each this time. That’s a huge improvement from 8 vaccines each in July for Moayad, Malak and Marah! Everyone in the family will get their Covid 19 booster in April, and I think that will be all for years to come. They have been really brave. The present this time was whatever snack food they each wanted from Walmart. Just so you know, Marah loves HOT SPICY chips ( Takis?- “fuego”). Moayad loves any kind of regular chips, so he picked a box of individual lunch size chips of multiple kinds. Ali and Kholoud apparently like chocolate ice cream, too ☺
It is precious to see the affection of Ali and Kholoud, even in spite of how hard some of their adjustments have been. They are so excited for the arrival of Miriam, Ahmed, Farah and Mooaz on March 8th. Please be praying for housing for the new family and the All Shores Church team preparing for their arrival and settlement. Continue to pray for the availability of HHI subsidized housing for persons with disabilities which the Al Masri’s applied for in mid-January. There is a waiting list but pray for an opening soon. A more economical rent for this family than their current $1,525/month will go a long way towards them meeting their monthly needs, paying off their $5,000+ travel loan (the airfare from Lebanon to Michigan) as well as enabling their saving for big items such as a used car in the future.
Ali’s debit card was hacked for the second time in 3 months in mid January. The have a new card now, but the 5/3 Bank strongly recommended they also apply for reloadable cash cards for Ali and Kholoud. They agreed to this and have been taught by the bank to use these cards to pay for things in the stores or online. They understand how to transfer money electronically, in real time, onto these cards when they think they are going to need to use them. If you are a friend who shops with them, please reinforce this new way of using the reloadable cards. The Al Masri’s have used MANY gift cards already, and it is exactly the same idea, except that they are putting their own money on the reloadable cards☺ . Also if anyone banks in the Ferrysburg 5/3 Bank branch, be sure to thank the employees for how comfortable they have made Kholoud and Ali feel! They have spent a large amount of time with them, and it’s a beautiful picture of small-town charm and character!
We are still looking for more families or individuals to share in the social and Christian outreach Friday nights at West Michigan Friendship Center (WMFC). The Al Masri’s love going!!! It’s a fun way to learn more of their culture and gain skills in sharing one’s faith with Muslims. Please contact Jessica Jones (734-210-2581- Kris Jones’ wife) if you’d like more information. I’ll be taking the family to WMFC 2/11/22. I have room for 1 more if you’re curious!!
There’s still a need for an individual to continue to train and reinforce the budgeting skills that Bethany Christian Services began with the Al Masri’s. Ali and Kholoud have written two utility checks so far this month, and several others should come in the mail in the next 10 days. I have shown Ali how to use the calculator app on his phone to keep his check ledger current. I also had him subtract the budgeted amounts for certain expenses for which they have not yet written the checks. This exercise was to show him that even though there looks to be a nice lump sum in his checking account (he checks his bank account on his phone daily), that money is already spoken for later on in the month. His eyes widened as he quickly saw the big sum dwindle to just over $100! And the Bridge card (their “food stamps”) amount will decrease again in 2 weeks when Kholoud begins receiving income as the Home Help Caregiver for Malak. If you have wanted to have some activity you could share with the Al Masri’s and thus get to know them personally, this could be it! They are aware of their need for help and are SOOOO APPRECIATIVE!
Carrying Christ’s light,
Pictures are separately attached to this email.
January 26, 2022
Graduation Day 1-25-22
January 8,2022 was Graduation Day for the Al Masri family from the Matching Grant cash assistance program affiliated with Bethany Christian Services (BCS) Refugee Resettlement organization. This program had been paying all their rent, utilities, and phone bills since August 9,2021, in addition to providing some monthly spending money for incidentals. They also provided employment searches and initiated Ali’s new job. January 9th opened an exciting new phase of their “independence” journey and assimilation into America, while also confronting them with the reality that they are much more “on their own'' and responsible for meeting their basic needs. They continue to have a medical caseworker, Jennifer Nielsen of the Preferred Communities branch of BCS. Jenny works with persons who have complex medical needs. Both Malak and Ali have been enrolled in her program. She will be working with the family to train them in all aspects of meeting their medical needs over the next 9 months. Think scheduling doctor appointments, arranging for Medicaid taxis to transport them to appointments (all of their specialist are outside of Ottawa County), getting medications from pharmacies and requesting translation, using their online portals to read about test results, changed orders or other messages from their healthcare providers, getting all family members to annual check-up appointments, etc. She is also helping the family with completing the guardianship procedures on Malak’s behalf. Additionally, Malak, who is connected to a caseworker at Ottawa County Community Mental Health (OCCMH) will be followed by OCCMH throughout her future. This case worker works closely with the Ottawa Adult Center (OAC) where Malak became a full-time student on January 3, 2022! Marah and Moayad will continue to be followed by Refugee Education Center (REC) out of Grand Rapids for all needs related to their schools, for as many years as is needed.
Malak LOVES school! Kholoud thought it might be hard to get Malak ready in time for the 8am bus, but Malak wakes up and crawls to the Hoyer lift sling on the floor right away, excited to be getting in her wheelchair and onto the bus. This delights Kholoud and Ali. The OAC sends home Malak’s red binder with daily papers highlighting the activities Malak participated in and sometimes includes photos of Malak, as well as personal notes to the parents. Neither parent realized what information about Malak’s days was in the binder since it’s in cursive and English, but they loved the photos. All messages have now been translated for them, enabling them to communicate that Malak needs lunches without meat or pork, but can have chicken and vegetarian, and to share some of Malak’s preferences. Malak is enjoying the library story time, 1:1, sensory activities, swings and assistive devices! She has been gifted beautiful red boots at school that she likes to wear all the time, as well as a soft black shawl. Pictures to follow!
Moayad decided to withdraw from the wrestling team in January, after struggling with a GI bug late December and a sinus cold in January. Both Moayad and Marah have had very irregular school schedules since the end of Christmas break, and it has disrupted routines and schedules at home a bit. Some days have been snow days, some, teacher training days, some, missed buses, some, no bus drivers due to too few drivers and workers out sick! Moayad assures me he has several friends at school and he lists off their names. He continues to be in touch every 2 weeks with his counselor from the Healing Center also. Grinning ear to ear, he ecstatically talks about the good news that his sister and brother-in-law, Miriam and Ahmed, plus their children Farrah and Moaaz, are confirmed to be coming to the USA through BCS in Grand Rapids on March 8th! JUST IN…. All Shores Wesleyan Church in Spring Lake will be their co-sponsoring church!!!.
Marah spends lots of time in her bedroom on her phone when home but loves going shopping…ANY KIND OF SHOPPING. She and Kholoud rode Harbor Transit (HT) by themselves to and from Walmart last Friday and did the family grocery shopping together. Marah is using some English at home now and corrects her parents’ English at times ☺ The children have not ordered HT yet, but Kholoud and Ali have. PLEASE, if you are with them, coach them through ordering a ride for a weekend day so that they become more and more comfortable with the procedure. Praise God, HT is STILL FREE!!!
There has been a flurry of applications and interviews for the family. Today, their application for special housing (for persons with disabilities) was submitted at the Salvation Army. There is a waiting list, but the family would be eligible for a 3 bedroom apt. on ground level when one becomes available! These apartments are on Despelder Rd. in Grand Haven. Please pray this housing would become available quickly!. Additionally, Kholoud completed her interview for becoming a paid “home helper” for Malak, through the Michigan Adult Services division. Now she will be enrolled in the next couple of days and could receive a response from Lansing by mid-February on what amount of pay they have calculated her types and quantity of care qualify for! Please pray for a speedy response from Lansing and that this will be a significant contribution to the family’s income!
In closing, the family shall receive rent assistance for the month of February from the Grand Haven Salvation Army. In the future, they are eligible for utility assistance, but only one-time rent assistance. Please remember to support ALL OF THE services this family has benefitted from in our community. Donate food or money to Love In Action Food Bank, as the Al Masri’s go to the food truck and church pantries every other week! Much of their clothing and outerwear is from our various resale (Love In Action, Salvation Army, Goodwill)and free (Seventh Day Adventist) stores! And PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for them, for their physical and emotional health, for the health of both of their daughters’ families in Lebanon and for their son Mohammed in the Netherlands. Praises to Jesus, our Healer, for the healthy return to home of their grandson Ali, from the acute hospitalization for gastroenteritis!
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”…always, (Eph.3:20)
January 1, 2022
New Year, New Opportunities- December 30, 2021
The countdown is about to begin as New Year’s Eve balls drop around the world and mark the beginning of 2022. So much hopefulness and dreams, yet still the fear of Covid 19 variants, wars, divisiveness among peoples, and unimaginable numbers of persons languishing in refugee camps on every continent. The worries for their daughters’ families has only escalated in the past week for the Al Masri family as their 1 year-old grandson Ali (Mirvat’s youngest son) has been hospitalized after a 6-day illness of gastroenteritis at home. He was severely dehydrated, vomiting still and unable to keep food down. Kholoud and Ali are beside themselves, feeling so very helpless. Ali’s brother is in the hospital with Mirvat, supporting her part of the time, while Mirvat’s other son Yaya stays with their other daughter Miriam and her husband at home. Please join them in praying for Ali’s recovery and strength to return.
The email response I received from the Refugee Information Center was polite but had no information in it. The Center states that the refugees themselves must send the email, or an involved 3rd party. Ali tells me his daughters have no access to computers to craft an email to the Center. He doesn’t know how to send an email, or at least doesn’t feel confident he will do it properly. I contacted Bethany Christian Services Healing Center and asked for guidance in this matter. They have approved our reaching out to their Arabic Interpreter for assisting Ali to send an email requesting an update on the status of his daughters’ cases. Even as you just read that, it may have seemed wordy to you, or too much detail. I want you to know that paragraph reflects over 5 hours of attempts at correspondence in Arabic, then in English, tracking down more ID numbers, reaching out to Bethany, praying with Kholoud and Ali several times, etc. NOTHING for refugees is straightforward, linear, simple,…NOTHING!
Ali proudly boasts that he started full-time work at Pliant plastics this week! He is picked up at home by a co-worker every day @1:30pm and enjoys the work. Thankfully the paycheck is auto-deposit. He remarked to a volunteer that the money in their bank account was their money to do with as they wished. January will be the first month where they are responsible for all of their bills as well as paying the February rent in the last week of January. Quickly they’ll learn that their money is needed for those obligations, not consumerism. January 5th will be a significant interview/evaluation appointment in their home to determine Malak’s eligibility for the CHAMPS government program. This program could potentially pay Kholoud for providing all of Malak’s daily care, and that pay could be as much as a minimum wage job full time! Ali’s income alone is not enough to cover their essential expenses. Please pray for a positive evaluation on January 5th and acceptance quickly into this program.
The family used most of their gift cards received at Christmas to purchase an enormous TV for their living room. Today when I arrived Kholoud was showing me the program that they all have been watching : it Is teaching English to Arabic speakers! Sitting on their couch in front of the speaker on the program is like sitting in the row in front of the orchestra pit in the theater: VERY up-close and personal! Marah is using her English more at home as are both parents. Everyone but Moayad is complaining of gaining too much weight since their arrival from Lebanon. Marah was gifted a jump rope that lights up. It is the source of many laughs. They are resistant to walking on the sidewalk outside. The women in the house may dance for exercise once Ali has left for work! Ali has been losing weight since starting work and he beams when showing his progress. They were also gifted a scale which can be a source of encouragement as they see tenths of pounds come off. They were a little frustrated at first that the scale is in pounds, not kg, but they are getting used to the fact they are in America, and kg is not the norm in the grocery store or on scales!
They are using their large calendar regularly now, which is preventing mix-ups with transportation and visits. Malak’s Psychological Evaluation for Guardianship appointment was completed in record time and both parents were deemed to be capable of being her guardians. Now this evaluation will go to the courts and a ZOOM appt. will eventually be made in February or March to finalize guardianship. Praising God that this appointment was done pro bono at Mary FreeBed!
The parents practice getting Malak in and out of the wheelchair with the Hoyer Lift and Malak loves it! They all seem truly excited that she will be starting school on January 3rd. A few volunteers are working on getting Marah “out and about” for more social activities as well as creating visit time with friends from school or the West Michigan Friendship Center in Grand Rapids. Moayad will resume the wrestling team on January 3rd when school resumes. In the meantime, he is thoroughly enjoying the PLAYSTATION gift he received for Christmas from an anonymous family. Ali made his first call to order Harbor Transit by himself, and he and Kholoud have a Harbor Transit “date” tomorrow from 10:00-1:00 at Walmart!
Please encourage them to call Harbor Transit and practice making appointments or setting up rides on Saturday mornings when none of the family are working. Ali exclaimed, “Now I can go wherever I want, anytime!”
They were showered, or should I say monsooned with generosity in presents over Christmas! Today I showed them the CLC Newsletter that shows the photos of all their children. I explained that Covenant Life Church members are praying for all of them, regularly. The tears flowed from Kholoud’s eyes. That was such a tangible way to connect the Church, all of you, and their family together, and provided a perfect entrance into praying for each of them. I love how all of you have made their resettlement be flooded with evidence of God the Father’s provision, the Son’s love, and the Spirit’s comfort!
Happy New Year to all.
December 20, 2021
Weeping for One’s Children
The anguish that torments Ali and Kholoud multiple times every day is unimaginable for me. They spent 4 years within Syria moving constantly for safety with their family, before finding a way to Lebanon in 2013. They managed to keep their family together through the difficulties of refugee living and were all set to immigrate to America in 2016, together. Then there was a change in the government in America and their situation was stalled in limbo…. For 7 ½ years! In that time, 2 daughters married and had children. And now one (Mirvat) has become a widow with a 1 and 3 year-old. Their other daughter Miriam, and husband Ahmed, and their children Farah (5) and Moaaz(3), were supposed to come to America with Ali and Kholoud’s family on July 13, 2021, but at the last minute did not receive the final clearance stamp reportedly. And finally, Mohammed, their 18 year-old son left Lebanon and made it to the Netherlands and has recently been granted asylum there. Thankfully, he is working, has food ,and safe housing there.
Ali and Kholoud, who struggled for 11 ½ years total to keep their family together and safe, finds them now worlds apart, and in Lebanon, in the midst of severe economic disintegration: electricity is scarce, access to health care is prohibitive, and basic needs are wanting.
Christmas is a joyous time because of the gift of the incarnation of our God as our Lord and Savior Jesus. But when that is not your faith, the lights, music and gifts are superficial. The greatest gift the Al Masri’s pray for daily is reunification with their children and grandchildren. There is much opportunity in their experience of longing and calling out to God to pray with them, remind them our triune God never slumbers or sleeps, remind them that he knows every single sparrow, and numbers the hairs on our heads and LOVES US. Remind them of his power and grace embodied in Jesus Christ. They are very moved by prayers. And take them a nativity picture or set to explain the Christ story over tea.
I also sent a scribed letter off to the Refugee Resettlement Center on Ali’s behalf this weekend, requesting updates on the status of his daughters. It was very moving toi see Kholoud pull out the vital documents and small official stamped papers, identifying them as Syrian refugees. In this little bag is their “identity” and the identity of their daughters. Very powerful and sacred time. Evidence in the well worn papers that God has protected them through many travels and moves. BUT THEY ARE NEVER OUT OF HIS SIGHT!
Please pray with them for their children. They are:
Miriam, Farah, Moaaz,
Mohammed (adult male ).
May the coming of Christ the Savior of the World be your joy this Christmas!
December 14, 2021
Joy, Joy, Joy!!!
At the outset I apologize for any news I leave out in this latest blog…wonderful things are happening between Kholoud, Ali, Malak, Moayad, Marah and ALL OF YOU and I can’t keep track of everything I hear from you. Know that it is all being used by our Father in heaven to reveal his love and the love of Christ to this family. The time invested in being WITH them reminds me of the name Emmanuel, God WITH us! Your Presence is THE BEST Present, for it is through our friendships that the Spirit of the Living God is revealed (in addition to a myriad of other ways)!
The adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings very true and so this blog has LOTS of photos and less narrative. Then photos are a separate email. Kholoud, Marah and Moayad enjoyed the Grand Haven Jingle Bell Parade on a mild December evening and took in all the lights, music and floats with Covenant Life Church friends. They have all continued to participate in the Friday dinners at the West Michigan Friendship Center and Marah won another gift card for winning Bingo! For those who are unfamiliar with WMFC, it is a non-profit providing a place for community, connection and conversation for refugees, immigrants, and visitors to this country, sharing God’s love through friendships. For more information, talk to Jessica and Kris Jones, Ginger Downey, Roger and Judy Sellon, or go to https://wmfriendshipcenter.org/
Besides just transporting the family to the lovely Friday dinners, we hope to be signing up to host the dinner at the WMFC on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
Malak has had the most changes in the past 2 weeks. She embraced her new Hoyer Lift after loud resistance and fear initially. Now she crawls right onto the sling and loves the “ride.” Ali and Kholoud learned the proper operation of the lift and the safety steps at once. It is such a relief to not see them using their backs to try and lift her in and out of the wheelchair! Unfortunately, the configuration of their bedroom furniture precludes using the lift to get Malak into the shower. Ali assures everyone “No problem, I don’t plan to renew my lease and we will find more economical housing with a better bathroom for Malak!” Please join in the prayer for this need!! They would like to relocate into Grand Haven to be near doctors, dentists, Grocery stores and bank.
Malak also had her individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting this week at the Ottawa Adult Center in Allendale (OAC). She has been found eligible for 5 day/week school, and it will commence on January 3rd. There were 18 persons at the IEP meeting, explaining all the results of months of evaluations (mostly done by observations) by PT, OT, Teachers, Psychologists, CMH, etc.to the parents with an interpreter. Malak and her parents received a tour of the center and the smiles on the faces of Kholoud and Ali as they saw the abundance of equipment, swings, helps, , etc. was so heart-warming. They kept saying through the interpreter that they wished everyone to” be patient with Malak as she adjusts to her new environment: we are sure Malak will love all of the staff working with her once she gets to know them!” Please join them in praying for a smooth adjustment for Maklak and the staff, and that she will learn new daily living, communication, and mobility skills through this intensive program. She is eligible to be at OAC until June of 2025. I have included pictures of some of her classrooms and the library.
Kholoud received her State of MI ID today!! And they both received their new bank checks with BOTH of their names on the account. Plus new bank debit cards were received and activated. Two weeks ago, Ali was scammed by phone to purchase Arabic stations on their TV. Fortunately, he never understood how to activate his first debit card, and so the scammer kept calling him for his money. I see God’s protection over them because he was ignorant of the dangers of giving out his debit card number online or over the phone. The personal banker at 5/3 Bank was able to explain this well to him and Kholoud and today they could repeat to me the safe ways to store and use their debit cards.:-)
Ali is still only working 3 days /week and happy at work, proudly modeling his safety glasses and his employee badge. After hearing about Malak’s school schedule, I am unclear what type of employment Kholoud will obtain with a flexible enough schedule for Malak’s schedule, but God knows their needs! Please pray that SSI is QUICKLY approved for Malak, which will provide additional income for the family. Kholoud has heard through the CMH OT that Kholoud may be eligible for income as Malak’s home helper. This has not been presented by Bethany at all, so there is confusion regarding this. Pray that if that is true, that it would be clarified soon. There is anxiety about how Kholoud can work and take care of Malak.
Very dedicated English tutoring continues Sunday afternoons and ZOOM ESL on M-Th mornings. Drivers are still taking Kholoud grocery shopping as well as to the pantries and Food Truck. BUT…they have been trained at home on how to call and order Harbor Transit! They have index cards to carry with them with the steps to follow, and they have a large orange sheet on their refrigerator with Harbor Transit steps. They wrote notes in Arabic next to each step. If you are visiting with them, please make practice calls together ☺.
So thankful for God’s gift of Jesus Christ as our Savior. As we engage in gift-giving during this season, with the Al Masri’s, may we find our unique ways to point to the greatest gift of all. - Ginger
December 1, 2021
Thanksgiving, Snow, and Frost Breaths
The hours of daylight have been waning, but the activities of each day for the Al Masri family have continued to expand. As daylight savings time ended, they had one missed school bus in the morning, and many questions about why clocks changed. The coats and boots that numerous families helped them purchase have now been worn and the warmth and protection they offer has been greatly appreciated. All but Malak and Ali want to run and get in the car without coats for drives to appointments or social gatherings. Progress has been made to at least get them to carry their coats on their arm to have them with them in the car in case there would be a need to be standing outside in the winter air due to a flat tire, a breakdown or an accident. Marah loves to exclaim “ No need… car warm!” The coming of the snow has provided a tangible reinforcement for the need to have cold weather apparel with them at all times.
Ali has had numerous medical tests and thankfully they have all come back with results that are easily managed either with medication or just annual follow up tests. He has been able to start work at Pliant Plastics on the 2nd shift, three days a week at present. Hopefully within the next few weeks this will increase to full time for him, continuing with the 2nd shift. His work hours are 2:00 PM to 10:30 PM. He is walking to work, as Pliant Plastics is exactly one mile down Taft Road from his house.
Malak has had a flurry of appointments with her Community Mental Health (CMH) Case manager and Ottawa County physical and occupational therapists. They have been to their home to evaluate the durable medical equipment needs and alterations to the home that might be needed to make her care physically less taxing for Kholoud and Ali, as well as providing more opportunity for participation by Malak. This team of professionals is reaching out to the landlord to see about adaptations for the shower and they have obtained scripts from her Primary Care Provider (PCP) for a Hoyer lift and other equipment. The Hoyer lift will be delivered Dec. 1st and training in the home for the parents and Malak on its use on December 6th. Malak also has a tour of the Ottawa County Adult Center in Allendale on December 13th. This is where the team of approximately 12 Professionals who evaluated her in November have determined would be the best fit for her needs and age. At that evaluation she was observed by a school psychologist, school occupational and physical therapists, teachers, etc. The current goal is that she will be able to be enrolled immediately after the New Year's holidays. Once she becomes a student at the Center, she will be eligible for County provided transportation to pick her up and return her to home at the end of the school day. This should be approximately an 8-hour day that she is gone from the home. From the very outset of when the Al Masri family arrived in Michigan, they have been included in the plan for this outside-of-the-home center-based education for Malak with the intention that Kholoud will be able to work during hours while Malak is at school. Malak had an additional appointment in Grand Rapids at Mary Free Bed for a wheelchair evaluation so that she can receive a custom wheelchair for her needs. She has been fortunate to be using a sturdy and safe wheelchair donated by Love In Action for the last four and a half months, but there are wheelchairs with more adaptations for what she needs that could now be ordered for her through Medicaid.
An interesting and perplexing piece of information was discovered when Malak had her first dental appointment in August. She needs to have general anesthesia in order to have dental work done. There is no legal designation of her parents as her guardians and so she was not able to have the dental work performed as of yet: she needs a guardian to sign her papers. Bethany Christian Services and CMH were able to eventually obtain pro bono services at Mary Free Bed for the psychological evaluation that must be performed as part of the legal documents submitted for a guardianship request. This is a great benefit for the family, as these psychological evaluations can cost hundreds of dollars otherwise. Malak’s evaluation will occur on December 27th. Hopefully, Ali and Kholoud will become her legal guardians in the early part of 2022.
Kholoud and Ali are making great ESL progress and practicing their new language frequently. Face-to-face conversation is the most helpful for practicing. Unfortunately, they have had to transition to ESL class via zoom due to the constant changes to their calendar and add-on appointments for Malak and other family members. When both adults settle down into their work schedules and Malak is in school it may be possible to resume taking Harbor Transit to ESL class in person.
Kholoud and Ali roasted their first American Thanksgiving turkey and ate it in true Middle Eastern style, sitting on their beautiful maroon carpet cross-legged and eating on the floor. They are definitely transitioning from just physical resettlement to the emotional and psychological embracing of their new surrounding culture and history. Due to COVID 19, Covenant Life Church did not have a live Thanksgiving service. Many individuals who spent time with them in the second half of November have taken advantage of the season of Thanksgiving to pray with them giving thanks to God with them and to build this friendship.
Marah is making tremendous progress in English and at school, according to her case manager at Refugee Education Center, who is the liaison with the Spring Lake Intermediate School. Both she and Moayad have missed the school bus a few times and this has only been found out later in the day, as they have just stayed home with Kholoud and Ali. Their duplex neighbor Terri, who works from home, has generously offered to transport them if that occurs in the future. This has been communicated to the parents and the children. This is an incredible blessing as with the winter weather and construction, Harbor Transit could take all morning to get back out to Spring Lake to get them.
Answered prayers for the Al Masri family include:
Ali likes his work, Malak is nearing enrolling in school, Moayad is loving wrestling and once again has phenomenal coaches and families assisting with scheduling and transportation, Kholoud is very connected with her ESL program and some Sudanese friends locally, and Marah is making friends and enjoying “girl things.”
Kholoud received her SS card, finally!
They are extremely appreciative of the friendships extended to them and all the helps they have received. Though they have many reasons to be exhausted and weary of the processes involved in resettlement, they have shown great fortitiude and perseverance. Let us not grow weary as we walk this road with them!
Now we enter a concentrated 6 weeks of transitioning them to “independence” in the Tri-Cities area! January 8, 2022 is their graduation date from Matching Grant assistance program, and except for the case management for Malak and Ali for complex medical needs, there will be no further Bethany affiliate involvement with the family after this date. REC will continue indefinitely to be the school liason for Malak, Moayad, and Marah, though. So…this some of what this entails is:
Training them to order Harbor Transit for themselves for their common needs such as rides for shopping, 5/3 Bank, Walmart pharmacy, Health Pointe appts., etc. It does NOT mean we never drive them for such things, but it will not be all of the time
Reminding them to write everything on their big calendar so that they don’t have scheduling conflicts
Paying their own bills with a budgeting “buddy” to continue training in check writing, budgeting (there’s a good initial budget from Bethany), and building a relationship with Covenant Life Church’s care Ministry
May this Advent Season remind us to include the Al Masri’s in our preparations to receive the Savior of the world into our hearts and lives. There is much turmoil in our country and the world, but our joy transcends our sorrow, for the Lord HAS COME! Alhamdulillah!!
November 10, 2021
Pumpkins, Gourds and Friendship Gatherings 11-9-21
October is a “wrap” and the Al Masri’s are heading full steam ahead into November and the numerous autumn holidays! The Spring Lake Schools had celebrations for the “Festival of Fall Colors” which happened to be the last day of school before Halloween. The students were invited to dress up for this occasion. After 2 weeks of unsuccessfully searching for a “Cindarella” dress which was Marah’s wish for a costume, a bright purple “vampire” dress was found and Marah was pleased as could be! She wore it to school AND to the West Michigan Friendship Center dinner that Friday night! Moayad was completely unrecognizable in a creepy mask and gnarly gloves outfit that was very monster -looking! They both enjoyed an outing with Kholoud and CLC families from Upstreet to view pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns. No trick-or-treating per se this October, but they had their first exposure to the splendor of the color changes of leaves, apple cider, and the smell of wood burning smoke from chimneys. The West Michigan Friendship Center dinner on October 29th was a huge hit. Marah won the gourd-painting contest and received a $10 gift card to the Dollar Tree! She was ecstatic! (And Moayad was wishing that he hadn’t felt ‘too old” for such an activity. Marah found another girl that night who was about her age, and they were inseparable all night. Kholoud sat with a few women and talked continuously with them for 2 hrs! Ali and Moayad learned the scoop on what stores often have cheaper merchandise than even Walmart! They are becoming thrifty consumers in their new homeland.
Moayad is asking to get a part-time job, but he is also starting the wrestling team. This winter sport will have practices after school every day and some tournaments on Saturdays. The Refugee Education Center also informed me that immediately after Thanksgiving, Moayad’s schooling will intensify in the academic subjects. If anyone has any leads for work he could do just a few hours on the weekends, let me, Kris Jones, or Diane Wiersema know.
ESL classes continue in-person, but unfortunately Ali has had to participate by ZOOM more than in-person due to numerous appointments and fatigue with headaches. He and Kholoud are very quick to weep when describing their intense concern for both of their daughters’ families in Lebanon. The living conditions are dire for refugees there, with minimal electricity, unclean water and limited food. There has been no news still on Miriam’s family’s date to come to America. That is their daughter that was supposed to come with the Al Masri’s in July. Mirvat, their widowed daughter, has not had her “case” assigned to any refugee resettlement organization as of yet. Please join them in praying for these families and their speedy reuniting with the Al Masri family in Michigan.
Malak is about to have numerous lengthy tests and assessments to determine what is the best outside-of-the-home, center-based program(s) in which to enroll her. She is eligible for ISD School until she is 26 years old. Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapists as well as a school psychologist will all be assessing her on Friday, November 12th. She recently had testing in Grand Rapids to further assess her epilepsy. She had severe mood /personality changes on one medicine, therefore that was stopped. The family has been prepared by their neurologist that it could be a long “trial and error” process to find how to diminish Malk’s chronic number of daily seizures. All of Maklak’s specialist appointments entail travelling to Spectrum Grand Rapids to be seen. She has a very involved and communicative neurologist, but these are long days in Grand Rapids. She will also have a wheelchair assessment done at Mary Free Bed at the end of November. She is still awaiting her home evaluations by P.T. and O.T,. to determine what durable medical equipment is needed for lifting, bathing and transporting her. This too has been a confusing process, as requests for equipment in the home have been submitted to Bethany and her doctor since August 1st! Today her applications were submitted to the Social Security Administration for SSI/Disability benefits. This is a very drawn-out process that has already been delayed by 10 weeks because of a typo on her birthdate for her initial Social Security card. SSI can take 1-12 months to be determined. This monetary benefit is a critical part of the Al Masri’s being able to meet their budgeted expenses, as detailed by Bethany Christian Services. Please pray for this application to be reviewed and approved quickly.
Kholoud has still not received her own SS card. This is an added stress on them, as they have been waiting for it for almost 3 months. There are no answers for the delay, except she is told that because her last name is different, her application was not “bundled” with the rest of the family’s applications. No social security number has delayed being able to add her to their bank accounts and to order checks. Additionally, it will be a large hindrance to seeking employment. Please pray that her SS card application is processed and approved at once!
Ali has had numerous medical appointments for chronic concerns. Several volunteers have been taking him and the rest of the family to appointments that range from Grand Haven to Grand Rapids, to North Muskegon, Ludington and Muskegon Hts. He also has his pre-employment physical exam tomorrow, and is schedule to start work at Pliant Plastics on Tuesday 11/16/21. He was offered a part-time job initially on second shift. Pliant Plastics expects to increase him to full-time once he has become accustomed to the job.
There is much more I could share, but this is a snapshot of where they are at and some prayer requests.They have found some comfort in their socializing at the West Michigan Friendship Center(WMFC). There they can converse in their native tongue and Marah is making friends. The Jones’, the Downey’s and the Sellon’s, plus the VanderSlik’s from All Shores Wesleyan Church have volunteered to bring a Friday dinner to the WMFC. If you have an interest in joining with us to do this another time, please contact any of us. It is a beautiful way to shower these Arabic -speaking Muslim families with Christ’s love!
October 27, 2021
Turning the Page into a New Chapter 10-23-25
It’s incredible, but it has been over 3 months since Ali, Kholoud, Malak, Moayad, and
Marah stepped through the security doors at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and
began their life as residents of the lakeshore in West Michigan! They have embraced the Spring
Lake-Grand Haven area and think of the warm and extensive network of volunteers they have
met as “family”. When someone asked this week if they wouldn’t want to move to Grand
Rapids to be closer to their Middle Eastern comforts of a large Arabic-speaking community
and familiar foods, the response was “No, No, No, the men (visitors, neighbors Jerry Erdmann
and Tom Daniels, and the ramp- building crew) and Covenant Church people, these are our
family!” There is no little act of kindness, generosity, labor, etc. that they have missed and they
are astounded by the love and warmth of all whom they have met.
Thursday, October 14th was the “farewell” home meeting with their initial Bethany
Christian Services (BCS) Case Manager Silvia. Her role in their resettlement has come to a
close. BCS is only involved for the first 90 days from a client’s arrival in Michigan. The Al
Masri’s continue to have a Refugee Education Center (REC) Case Manager for the children
and Malak, who is their liaison with all-things school-related. Malak has her own Medical Case
Manager now for the next 9-11 months. There is an Employment Specialist who is the liaison
for skills training and employment assessment for the parents. And there continues to be a
Matching Grant Case Manager overseeing their financial assistance until January 8, 2022. Ali
has had one job interview at a factory, but no specifics have been shared with him or CLC yet.
We petitioned for an extension in their financial assistance for several weeks past the January
8th “Graduation Day” so that he and Kholoud could participate in more ESL training, potentially
making them eligible for a wider variety of jobs. Their financial program is not permitted to
extend their assistance, so Ali particularly is anxious for more job interviews! If you have any
leads, let Kris Jones or Ginger Downey know!
Ali and Kholoud graduated from ESL “1” to ESL “2,” and their ESL teacher repeatedly
remarks on how quickly they are learning. There have been several more training days at the
pharmacy, doctor’s office appointments and the bank. The employees at all of these venues
have been so patient as the parent’s learn, and eager to help them. Last week Ali and Kholoud
completed a full medical appointment with Malak, utilizing Harbor Transit that was arranged for
them, from start to finish without a volunteer’s assistance!!
Ali has obtained a beard and hair clipping set and is embarking on his own haircuts and
trims. He is very pleased with his abilities and grins ear to ear when showing his skills! Ali also
obtained his first ever pair of eyeglasses: bifocals! It was hilarious watching his expressions as
he realized he could see detail far away now. He read all of the posted phone numbers on the
Shoreline Vision door from across the parking lot with his new “eyes,” and he is loving it!
Kholoud also chose new red frames for her glasses. They were amazed that all of this is
covered by their health insurance.
Thanks to intensive family shopping by multiple volunteers last week, the family is
outfitted well with true snow boots, and none too soon as the U.P had flurries last week :-)
Gloves and hats were acquired yesterday with a volunteer, and the newest report is “They are
all set!” Praising God with them for our tireless volunteers and the fabulous organizations in
the Tri-Cities which make obtaining the necessities of life feasible to those with limited financial
resources: Love In Action, Seventh Day Adventist Family Center, Goodwill, Salvation Army,
Hope’s Closet, etc.
There was a mix up between school, the Michigan Immunization Records’ software and the
Health Department, resulting in an urgent early morning trip to the Kent County Health
Department (GR) last Thursday for Marah. When I say early… I mean early! But all was taken
care of and she was back at her school at 9:03am ( it starts at 9). She was so eager to get
there and run to her class, thrilled she had not missed part of the day! When I recall how
exhausted and confused by school she was those first couple of weeks of September, it is
obvious she is settling in well. She bolted from the car with a huge grin and shouts of
“Shukran” (Thank you). The REC Case Manager also shared that Moayad received a great
report from his teachers at his parent-teacher conference last week. Their plan is to transition
him into more rigorous academic work immediately after Thanksgiving. Moayad has settled
into the school structure, roles, and responsibilities well and made friends easily through
soccer. NOW… he’s thrilled to share that he will be on the WRESTLING TEAM!!!! These athletic
outlets have been HUGE for Moayad, and HUGE time investments from coaches, team parent
drivers, scheduling by volunteers, etc. What another evidence of the enormous hearts in our
community. Moayad missed the bus one day last week, and therefore missed school for the
entire day. We can all help reinforce the need to be outside EARLIER than the school bus’s
scheduled pick-up, and also how to call Harbor Transit if he misses the school bus…
Malak is still awaiting O.T. and P.T. evaluations in the home for durable medical equipment. She
has an upcoming wheelchair evaluation at Mary Free Bed to allow for a personal wheelchair to
be ordered that meets her needs specifically. The parents have met with a director of the ISD
program, and the big plan is to have Malak start in an outside-of-the-home, center-based
program in January 2022. The assessments for this require neuropsychological testing, P.T.,
O.T., and medical evaluations. They feel confident that all of these can be completed by the
end of November, and then a plan created based on the outcomes. The neuropsychological
testing is the same testing that is required for the legal determination of guardianship for Malak.
Hopefully guardianship will also be completed by January!
Lastly ( I only mean lastly for the purpose of this blog…. there are so many more things going
on in their lives daily and weekly…), the entire Al Masri family was taken to the West Michigan
Friendship Center for their weekly Friday Night Community Dinner, with games and lots of
visiting together with Arabic-speaking families. The family had a terrific time and wondered if
they would be brought every Friday night! That is not likely feasible, but it was a lovely treat for
them to speak in their native tongue, make new acquaintances, exchange phone numbers with
fellow immigrants who understand ALL that they have been going through, etc. SO… if anyone
would like to take them on a Friday Night, they’ll be pleased to go. Various churches sign up to
make dinner for the group for every Friday, and then the church members participate in the set
up, visiting and clean up. CLC is signed up for November 12th!! We are looking for more
helpers to cook ( @ 60 people eating… we have 3 families making food so far). Contact
Jessica Jones 734-210-2581 for more information. The Al Masri’s will be taken on that
Friday night :-) https://wmfriendshipcenter.org/
September 29, 2021
Temperatures wildly fluctuating; 3 seasons in 24 hours of time; scents of cinnamon, cider and wood burning; leaves of summer dying in blazes of color just beginning; dark, cold school-bus mornings… and rain! We may course through the first several hours of each day without really giving much thought to all of the above, but for a variety of reasons, the Al Masri family is acutely aware of all of them, ALL THE TIME, as they enter into their first autumn in America with us!
I had the privilege of listening to them share their gratitude for being brought to the United States this week, and their overflowing thanks for all of the help and love from CLC and supporting churches’ volunteers. I was present at a Community Mental Health (CMH)Planning Meeting with Bethany Christian Services (BCS) on Thursday. The CMH meeting resulted in recommendations for Malak to be enrolled in the ISD program SOON, as she is eligible until she turns 26. Additionally, Occupational and Physical therapy referrals have been requested! This should finally result in obtaining the durable medical equipment Malak and the family need to provide her care in safety for herself and them. At the end of this meeting, Kholoud and Ali said “It feels so safe here in Michigan and the people are like family for us!” “A BIG THANK YOU my dear sister and all of your honorable family” was another translation by the Arabic -speaking translator at our meeting. for their praise. Additionally, Ali received good news of a negative test result yesterday. Google Translate interpreted Ali’s response to my prayer and “alhamdulillah” as, “May God prolong your life my dear sister.” They reference God and are searching for his provision, protection and presence in their lives. They practice their Muslim prayers throughout the day with recordings on their phones. It is so exciting to me that every volunteer moment with them is shining more and more of the light of the true gospel into their lives, with the love and forgiveness, acceptance and adoption of them offered through Christ. They LOVE ALL visits and outings and feel so welcomed in this community.
Their weeks are filled with school for Marah and Moayad that goes until 4pm and 6 pm (due to soccer) respectively. Ali, Kholoud and Malak start each morning as early as the others and travel together by Harbor Transit to ESL classes M-Th until noon. They frequently have medical, DHS, or community appointments like banking needs and pharmacies, or shopping outings in the afternoons. These make for long days, but they are embracing all the time investments because they are making them feel settled.
Speaking of feeling welcomed…Ali shared in a different BCS meeting earlier this week of more of the trauma of being refugees for 7 & 1/2 years in Lebanon. After leaving civil war in Syria in 2014, originally their paperwork was to be completed in 2016 and they would have travelled that same year to the U.S.A. Plans changed overnight with the change in our federal government’s administration, and 5 more years of waiting ensued. In that time, Ali describes being treated as “less than human; like we were animals. You could never question the bureaucracy or local authorities. You couldn’t speak out about humanitarian injustices to the refugees and those caught in war in Syria. We are not animals. We are people just like you. Only when we got to America did we start to see what true democracy means. People in America can have conversations about the good and the bad happening in the world. We have felt loved by everyone in Michigan. WE FINALLY NOW FEEL HUMAN AGAIN!” Please let that last sentence sink in… If I am unhappy in a store or feel a receipt has an error, I can just go to customer service and get it corrected. I have so many opportunities for my voice to be counted at the local and national level. I don’t worry about who will be listening if I speak against a policy or an official. I have never known their kind of suffering , fear, or trauma. At both meetings, with the gift of a live translator, I expressed on behalf of all of us that we think they are an incredibly courageous family and they have persevered in the face of much despair and exhaustion with fortitude. In their exhausted sleep, the God of Heaven and Earth never slumbers or sleeps and he has brought them to Spring lake for his great purposes. They LOVED IT when I said we were “just sisters and brothers from another mother!” They truly feel we are family and I hope we all get a chance to meet them soon. I have invited them to the Fall Feast Worship Service and Feast.
Soccer continues to be the joy in Moayad’s life and the whole family loves going to his home games. Both Marah and Moayad are in need of WARM CLOTHES and outerwear, as are Malak, Kholoud and Ali. Jackets, hats, scarves, gloves, boots, polar fleece, hoodies, raincoats and umbrellas, etc.! One CLC small group has gifted some money towards purchasing some of these items, and the family receives some cash assistance for personal needs such as these items, but they need willing persons to take them shopping. The family members have their own personal tastes and just like your family members, love picking out some of their own clothes. The Seventh Day Adventist Community Center (FREE_in GH), Love in Action Stores (GH and SL), Goodwill (GH Muskegon), and Hope’s Outlet (GH) are good places to shop with them as well as if CLC families have items in good condition to donate to the family. I have added shopping trips to Meal Train website:
Please reconsider signing up SOON to help them acquire these needed items now. The children have stood at the bus stop twice without umbrellas in the rain!! And remember not to just drop off clothes without them trying them on and giving their approval. I have had many trips to take drop off bags of items to the thrift stores because they didn’t fit.
For all who have driven the Al Masri’s or helped to arrange Harbor Transit, THANK YOU. They go on and on about how excited Malak gets when she goes on the bus or a car ride- she LOVES these outings. She’s never been left with anyone but extended family members before and so they are all greatly appreciative for the efforts that have been made for them to experience their new life here as a family unit! The outings have included many soccer games now (befriended by awesome teammate families and Coach, in addition to volunteer families)), Craig’s Cruisers as part of a Young Life outing ( Kholoud’s dream of driving came true- in a go-cart! And Ali had 3 hole-in-one’s!), shopping in the Mediterranean Island store for comfort and halal foods, and many home visits. Ali has opened a bank account and we have met with the local Ferrysburg Fifth/Third bank Manager and teller (Denise) twice. This branch is 5 minutes by car from home. Ali has deposited and also withdrawn money now and the bank staff embraced the opportunity to be their neighborhood branch and learn how to communicate with him. His account will become 2 different accounts when Kholoud and Malak receive their final required paperwork from the government. One will be the family joint account with Kholoud and one will be for Malak’s direct deposits from SSI.
Lastly, Ali has been learning how to pick up prescriptions at Wal-Mart, the home pharmacy for the family. It is not the closest to their home, but pharmacy errands can be combined with grocery shopping. Furthermore, CMH and Bethany Christian Services, as a result of our combined Planning Meeting, are going to request of the Grand Haven WalMart that they begin to carry halal meats and some Middle Eastern breads and yogurt. The pharmacy staff have all been very patient, helpful, and willing to learn the process of using dial-in Arabic interpreters for reviewing the different medications, ways to take them and for what condition they are prescribed. in Lebanon, the medicines came in blister packs in all different cardboard boxes. Here, they come in identical amber plastic bottles with identical appearing labels. When one doesn’t read English, it’s hard to know what medicine is what!
Every little thing we take for granted is new for the Al Masri’s, but they are learning quickly, with God’s marvelous, abundant grace and the befriending and encouragement of each of you!
Partners in Kingdom work,
September 15, 2021
Leaves are turning slightly, the nights are cooling down, schools are all in-person and schedules are becoming a familiar pattern once again after the unstructured weeks of summer vacation. But let us not forget that what is familiar and routine to us and our families is anything but familiar for the Al Masri family!
Ali and Kholoud are veteran Harbor Transit (HT) riders now, most recently using HT for transport to and from ESL classes in Grand Haven. Originally it was thought that they could take Malak with them to ESL class and thus be able to learn in person and meet new friends together. The logistics of the technology required to move the classes to a main floor room that is handicap accessible have proved to be more complex than originally thought: for now they will take turns doing ESL in-person and by ZOOM.
More and more of Bethany Christian Services Refugee Resettlement specialists have been “on-boarded” with the family recently. They received tech training and have a home laptop and wifi now, they’ve initiated communication with the Healing Center for refugee trauma, and bonds have been strengthened between the Refugee Education Center (in Grand Rapids) and the children’s teachers and principals in the Spring Lake school system. They have all but one received Social Security cards and therefore should be able to obtain photo ID cards shortly, as well as open their joint bank account! They are anxious to have these first evidences of identity, belonging and independence. Not a day goes by that Ali doesn’t ask about getting a job. Please be praying for jobs for Ali and Kholoud. The expectation of Bethany and the Matching Grant Program which funds their living expenses at this time, is that by mid-October they should each have a job! As you hear of any leads on work for either of them, please forward these to Ginger Downey with specifics of name, contact information, etc.
Malak is in the midst of numerous lengthy assessment appointments by Community Mental Health to determine what program(s) will be most appropriate for her needs. There is hope that she can go to “school” since she is only 22 and is eligible until 26 years old. Her assessments have been 3 hrs. long each time, but the CMH staff in Grand Haven have been very welcoming of the family. The assessments will also determine when occupational and physical therapy can evaluate her needs and make recommendations for assistive equipment for the family to use with her in her daily care.
Moayad is a full-fledged member of the Spring Laker JV Soccer team, and loving it. His coach, Jeremy Thelen has been instrumental, along with player moms, Jim and Becky Baker and Amy Sheele to make this a reality for him. Moayad also had his first experience of missing his morning school bus. The adventure that ensued included using Google Maps to ride his bike to school, but the map took him via the highway!! Moayad is safe, school personnel went and got him when someone mentioned they saw him on the road, and his coach drove the bike home later that night! As I said earlier, nothing is familiar or routine for this family!
Marah bursts through the door at 4pm after a full day of school, tired but with her huge smile… and hungry!It is a very long day for her and she still gets rest periods during the day. Covenant Life Church volunteers have been playing beginner language skill and numbers games with her also. She loves to accompany her mother on any shopping trips.
The family continues to take advantage of the biweekly Feed America Food Trucks sponsored by Love In Action and the biweekly Ferrysburg Community Church Food Pantry. These both help them stretch their Bridge Card allotment! A picture included is of Emma VanderSlik, daughter of volunteer Keija VanderSlik on Kholoud’s lap after the food truck outing together.
The opportunities to get to know this family and share the love of God with them are as varied as your creativity. Team up with a friend and take a walk or have tea together. They can’t wait to meet all of you!
September 1, 2021
“Alhamdulillah:” The Al Masri family begins their 8Th week in America
“Alhamdulillah means "Praise be to Allah" and expresses gratitude for his goodness. The Islamic phrase "alhamdulillah" can be used in several different ways. In each case, the speaker is thanking Allah:
Alhamdulillah can be used as a secular exclamation of pleasure, much as Americans might use the expression "Thank God." For example: "Alhamdulillah! I got an A in chemistry!"
Alhamdulillah may be a statement of gratitude to God for any gift, whether it be simply the gift of life or the gift of success, health, or strength.
Alhamdulillah may be used in prayer. By thanking Allah, the creator of all things, one is lifting prayers to God.
Alhamdulillah may be used as a term of acceptance for trials and difficulties placed before us. In other words, one can say "Alhamdulillah" in all situations because all situations have been created by God.”-Islamic Phrase 'Alhamdulillah'." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/islamic-phrases-alhamdulillah-2004284.
The last 2 weeks have been jam-packed with learning bus and school schedules, rules and expectations in classrooms, as well as unusual styles of greetings and communication which are foreign to Marah and Malak. The Spring Lake H.S. JV Soccer Coach has moved mountains to include Moayad in soccer this season, including arranging every detail of transportation for him to games and practices. Both Marah and Moayad have their own school chrome books and pocket translators, but Google Translate is not perfect and there have been big and small miscommunications due to its interpretation of the children’s Arabic accents. Marah is exhausted in school and has had her schedule altered to include a rest period during the day. She has the curiosity of a child in a toy store or candy store for the very first time, but is unfamiliar with the prolonged sitting and 5th grade level of work. Marah was deeply involved in childcare for her young nieces and nephews in Lebanon and was the “older one.” She has lost that identity, at least temporarily, and is flooded by new responsibilities and expectations in school. This is the first Marah has ever been in school! Becky Baker is working as our volunteer school liaison between Marah, Spring Lake Intermediate School and Refugee Education Center (in Grand Rapids, affiliated with Bethany Christian Services) to help insure that as many “helps” as are available for Marah are utilized. Moayad has started to make friends, is on social media with some, and wonders why school can’t be in session on Saturdays and Sundays also, “since the buildings are available!”-
Kholoud has become more and more comfortable with visiting the food pantry at Ferrysburg Community Church every other week with volunteer drivers from CLC. The family has a sweet tooth, and she loves to treat them to baked goods when they are available. She is discovering she can obtain toiletry items and paper goods at the pantry as well, and these are items not covered by her Bridge card. She has been so appreciative of the adult diapers she has been issued for free from Love In Action and the food trucks volunteers take her to twice per month. The family receives cash on a monthly basis now from the Matching Grant Program (affiliated with Bethany and Church World Services), as well as a Bridge Card with @ $220/week for food. She would like to be taken to the Mediterranean Island grocery store in Grand Rapids whenever possible to get their halal meats and familiar breads and snacks.
Ali is VERY anxious to start ESL and find work. ESL hopefully starts September 7th and will be M-Th 9-12 noon at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Washington in Grand Haven. He has had numerous doctor appointments and still has further tests. He and Kholoud carry great worry for their daughters’ families in Lebanon. They communicate several times daily with them and his brother in the U.K. as well as their son in the Netherlands!
Malak is in the midst of numerous required assessment appointments through Community Mental Health to determine what level of assistance and programs she is eligible to receive. These are long appointments and wearying for her and her parents. Harbor Transit has been the best at transporting her with her wheelchair with ease! The reception staff are getting to know them too.
Everyone has received their 2nd Covid 19 vaccine!!! Many praises that none contracted the Delta Variant before they were fully vaccinated.
Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. Praise our triune God from whom ALL blessings flow, and who is with us in the midst of the joyous and difficult hours and days.
“Moayad is on the Spring Lake JV Soccer team , please consider cheering him in person on at some point this season! Here is the schedule. “
August 25, 2021
5 Weeks in America
Love and comfort rain down on the Al Masri family from our CLC family and our broader Refugee Resettlement support community of All Shores Wesleyan and Second Christian Reformed Churches!
Let the list of praises begin!
Doctor appointments; DHS and Community Mental Health evaluations for Malak to open doors for services she’s never had; Spring Lake Intermediate and High School enrollments, orientation, and “meet and greets; ” food pantry and food truck expeditions; glorious treasure hunting in the Seventh Day Adventist Community Center Store (everything is FREE) and at Love In Action Resale Stores; intense grocery shopping training regarding weekly budget for food; lots more FUN Harbor Transit rides (Malak LOVES these and that so thrills the family); Case Management home meetings with Bethany Christian Services Refugee staff; REC (Refugee Education Center) Manager meetings in the home (and REC will manage EVERYTHING to do with school, indefinitely… for as many years as the students need assistance!!); lots of visiting in the home; moving mountains to get Moayad’s MHSAA Sports Physical completed so he can join JV Soccer; first haircut for Moayad in U.S.A.; plumbing installation services for FREE from CLC members; and the list goes on.
Household donations have been amazing and their home looks comfortable and inviting. They have had the opportunity to host for 3 days a Syrian family of 7 whom they knew for 2 years in Lebanon where they were all living!. That family, who lives in Syracuse, NY, was in Dearborn and came 3 hours farther, with their 5 children, to see the Al Masri’s! The palpable grief continues regarding their daughter’s family who was to come to the U.S. at the same time as the Al Masri’s, and still has not received exit papers from Lebanon. Additionally, they now know that their daughter Mervat’s husband has died (he was “missing” before). Remarkable, extraordinary comfort from God has come in the form of a personal friend of our Spain Partner. This friend met the Al Masri’s at a birthday party picnic in Spring Lake and is from the same city the Al Masri’s daughters are in. She knew their neighborhood, shopping district and mosque. She was able to talk to the daughters on What’s App and will connect with them upon her return to the area. This woman was only in Spring Lake for 1 day!!!!
Only our God sees every one of our tears and keeps them and can bring joy in the midst of sorrow. He has led the Al Masri’s to be here, in Spring Lake, immediately surrounded by CLC neighbors, and He has given each of us the opportunity to practice the works which flow out of our faith. What an honor to be his instruments of love, peace, and comfort, building these friendships and radiating Christ. --Ginger