Shukriya, whose name means thankful, was separated from her family in East Africa over ten years ago. She was resettled in the United States a few years later. Since then, she has tirelessly worked with World Relief Memphis (WRM) to bring her two sons here.

Shukriya invited us to go with her to the airport the night they finally arrived. We are so thankful to have witnessed the reunification of this patient, persistent mother and her 14 and 17 year-old sons whom she had last seen when they were only four and seven.

Shukriya waited at the airport with friends from her community and WRM. Everyone was very tense as no one was absolutely sure that the children were even on the plane. No one knew if they had made it to their port of entry within the hours-long gap between executive order bans. Once Shukriya spotted the two teenage boys heading her way, her huge smile signaled it was finally time for celebration.

Because her sons were minors they could not be released to her until she provided identification and signed for them. During another moment of tension, as she frantically searched through her wallet for ID, the boys knelt to give thanks to Allah as she had instructed them to do before she would embrace them. As they finished their prayers, she too stopped to give thanks before an emotional embrace. She finally collapsed into their arms, and her now-grown boys lifted her up and carried her away.

We spoke with Catherine Gross, lead resettlement specialist with WRM, and friend of Shukriya. She explains that, over their years of working to bring the boys here, she and Shukriya prayed together she in the name of Jesus, Shukriya in the name of Allah. Six months ago, when Catherine had a baby boy, she says Shukriya was elated and told her “now you know what it feels like to be a mom!” Though she admits she will never truly know how it must feel to have to choose between safety and separation, Catherine definitely understands how Shukriya’s desperation to be with her children drove her to work so long and hard to get her family back together.

Unfortunately, Shukriya has more work to do. Her daughter and two grandchildren are still in Africa.  Under our current immigration system, Shukriya can apply to bring her daughter here but not her grandchildren. Only her daughter can do that. So, once again, a marginalized and endangered human being, another mother,  must decide between separation and safety for herself and her family.

Amidst the agony and effects of these decisions, we watch as this family chooses to stop and give thanks to God. May we all have the spirit of gratitude and compassion that drives us always to work for love. We are grateful for the inspiration of Shukriya and for the work of those at WRM who stand with her and others who are vulnerable.