Isaias: Welcomed Into a Family

Even when they are fleeing for their very lives, it can be heart-wrenching for refugees to leave their homeland. Isaias, for example, worked as a teacher in his home country of Eritrea. However, Eritrea is a totalitarian regime, known for widespread torture and forced military conscription.

Without warning and for no reason, Isaias was arrested, brutally beaten and jailed. Against all odds, he escaped and raced home, and immediately, he and his wife Genet fled for their lives.

The couple journeyed for days, walking all the way to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. “Life in the camp was demoralizing,” said Isaias. “I was able to communicate with my family back in Eritrea only once in seven years.”

Isaias and Genet had two children while in the refugee camp. They applied with the United Nations to be resettled. After seven years, the U.S. government finally invited them to resettle legally in Chicago.

“I was so happy!” Isaias said. “At the same time, I cried. I was leaving behind my friends. Coming to America is good, but it is difficult. America is very different!”

The family became more hopeful, however, when Exodus connected them with Bethany, a New Neighbor volunteer who began visiting weekly, helping them adjust to life in Chicago.

“I didn’t just welcome a refugee family to my country. I welcomed Isaias’ family into my life,” Bethany said. “My friends know that when I say ‘I’m seeing my family today,’ I’m referring to Isaias and Genet!”

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