Heart of Texas: Dallas Churches Welcome Refugees

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Each year the U.S. government allows thousands of refugees into the country. Most of them leave their home countries because of war, religious persecution, or natural disaster.

Today, Dallas has become a key destination for refugees into the country, especially for Iraqi refugees. Several churches in the area have been putting out the welcome mat to those who are making America their new home.

Risky Road to Freedom

When U.S. troops toppled the regime of Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein, Abner Abraham felt freedom for the first time in his life.

"I'm so thankful for U.S. troops; for all our heroes and their sacrifice. They did such a great job," he told CBN News.

After a background check, America's military put Abraham to work as a translator for United States and coalition forces in Iraq.

He explained how he was excited about the opportunity to help U.S. soldiers.

"There was a safehouse; Sadaam's cousin in my neighborhood and that's when U.S. Army, they took over that safehouse. Next day I walk to them," he recalled. "I said, 'Hey, I live here. I know the area and I speak 50 percent English and I'm ready to help your guys somehow.' And they said 'Yeah sure.'"

But Abraham said doing so made him a target for the Taliban.

"I didn't want to put my family at risk and danger; So I felt that it was time for me to leave (the) country," he said.

But leaving his homeland was not an easy thing to do. He was nearly killed before getting out.

"I got blown up in 2007," he said. "Roadside bomb hit our convoy and I was in (a) wheelchair for three months. They told me I can't walk anymore."

But miraculously Abraham recovered. He moved to the United States in 2009 under a program that grants visas to Iraqi's who worked to help the U.S. military.

He settled in Dallas. 

Dallas Refugee Ministry

Abraham joined a growing number of refugees in the Dallas area. Many came from Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan. Each of these countries are currently undergoing political turmoil.

Many Iraqi and Burmese refugees are drawn to Dallas because of family ties. The State Department assigns refugees to cities in the United States where they have relatives, job opportunities, and a community.

Many of the refugees in the city live in an apartment complex called Vickery Meadow. Refugees from more than 31 language groups live in the complex, located east of Interstate 75.

Leaders from Northwest Bible Church in Dallas saw the many needs of refugees who were coming into the city. Many needed to learn the basics of American culture, from how to speak the language, to learning how to install a child's car seat.

"Here you have to go get your Social Security, drivers' license, get a car, an apartment," Abraham said.

Northwest Church established a number of programs where refugees learn marketable skills, such as sewing.

Every week, women from Iraq, Burma, and elsewhere meet to sew purses that they can sell to make money for their families.

Brian Newby, the outreach coordinator at Northwest, shared the importance of the church's refugee ministry.

"If I go somewhere in the Bush of Africa, if I go somewhere in Southeast Asia - that's missions," Newby explained.

"But really what God has called us to do is to live intentional, transformational lives where He's put us and as He's given us opportunity," he told CBN News.

Newby said the refugee ministry is sometimes challenging.

"It's difficult to come up with, like, a one-size-fits-all program," he said. "We've done things like basic needs, like food closets, clothes closets. We've done things all the way up to (rescuing) sex trafficking (victims)."

Arabic Bible Church

The war between Iraq and Iran forced Jalil Dawood to leave Iraq in 1982. He said adjusting to life in America was difficult at first.

"Started from nothing, came from a little bit - two brothers ahead of me with almost also nothing," Dawood explained.

"But the Lord was gracious," she added. "Learned more English; learned about life."

Today, Dawood pastors Arabic Bible Church of Dallas, the only Arabic church in the city. The congregation is made up refugees from Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and other areas.

He helps to disciple people like Abner who converted from Islam to Christianity.

Abner gives Dawood credit for helping him grow in his new Christian faith.

"Jahlil, he was always there for me. He disciple me and answer my questions and I'm so thankful to him for being there for me," he said.

Call to the Church

Dawood pointed out that government assistance for refugees ends after just six months, which is why he stepped in to help them find jobs and a place to live. He said the Church can do more to help refugees.

"We need to love those people," Dawood admonished. "We need to serve them. We need to get all the churches involved in programs to educate the churches about the religion of these people, the background of these people, and how to reach them for Christ."

Dawood said he is glad he was reached by the Good News.

"I fell in love with Jesus because the way, how he is: love, grace, freedom, happiness, joy," he said. "I call Jesus package - when you open it you find everything in that package."

Watch CBN News' full interview with Pastor Jalil Dawood.


Watch CBN News' full interview with Abner Abraham.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.