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Making a Way for a New Home in Buffalo

Updated: May 5

(2024) Last year in February, I was appointed to a new responsibility which changed my ministerial life. I was no longer a pastor of a parish but an overseer of a geographic portion of the Diocese of Buffalo with a title of Vicar Forane. Recently, ROTA has been buzzing with activity as we set work in production of a new promotional video on our new building project in South Sudan, the Koiyom Residence. We also have a rather large number of African priests and a bishop coming to Buffalo for various reasons which we host and care of while they are with us. Our local humanitarian assistance outreach has been a bit minimal of late that is until a unique door opened for us.

A few years ago a gentleman from Uganda came through Buffalo in order to plead asylum in Canada. He was not accepted and thus landed back in our country as an undocumented individual. According to my understanding of the current law, the country you first flee to and arrive at is the one you have to plead asylum within. He was thus detained and sent to a number of detention centers until arriving in Batavia, NY. While awaiting his asylum case he endured a medical stroke which has impaired his walking and speaking. His case finally came before an immigration judge and he won his asylum case. Immigration authorities sent for the members of his family who were years in hiding in his country back home.

Through the kind consideration of a resettled South Sudanese Young Woman, he contacted us and requested that ROTA assist him to prepare a home for his family. At that time his family was scheduled to arrive at the end of April 2024. He already had scouted out and secured a second floor apartment in a home owned by a South Sudanese family, who themselves came to Buffalo as refugees years earlier. The apartment was still being renovated when both he and I inspected it.

Immediately I began to pray. How can I assist this family when I no longer have a parish community behind me? It was after my prayer that the Lord laid upon my heart who to be in contact with. Immediately I began placing calls. The RIMM: Refugee, Immigrant, Migrant, Ministry group at my former church just happened to have set up a furniture collection date on the last weekend of the month which we anticipated would be the weekend to move into the new apartment. They jumped on board to assist. Others I was inspired to call were providing me fresh ideas and local assistance. This gave me assurance that this indeed was yet again another miracle plan of our loving God.

All was going according to plan until we received word that, due to immigration timelines, the family needed to arrive two weeks earlier. Panic ensued in my soul as again I poured out my concern to the Lord. I was reminded that years earlier I had lived in a parish church rectory in the city where ROTA had furnished multiple rooms to accommodate various African Clergy visitors. The parish rectory had been unoccupied for a few years. Calls were made and an agreement reached. Now it was a matter of resetting and cleaning the rooms for the new family. Young African men, whose parents arrived formerly as refugees in Buffalo, came to my assistance to move furnishing around. Again persons from the RIMM

group came to the rescue for the cleaning. Other contacts shopped for the supplies we would need as well as arrange that an American woman reside there as a resident manager to attend both to the family and the care of the facility. Finally a couple took the husband of the family food shopping making sure the family would have all they would need. All was now set and word came to us that the family was on the way. Of course the journey was long roughly over 30 hours. Mom was coming with four young daughters and one son. They would be arriving late in the night. We had secured a large church van for the family and others with their vehicles to assist in the transport of the family to their new temporary home. We waited and finally the time had come as the children, seeing their father whom they had been separated from for four years, ran to embrace him.

Knowing that the family would be both tired and hungry, we received a generous gift that enabled us to order some prepared food for the family's arrival. We ordered from the Nile River Restaurant in Buffalo operated by another former South Sudanese gentleman. The family enjoyed the food and their temporary surroundings. I told them it was like living in a hotel. They were in four rooms with three bathrooms. God blessed us in the safe arrival of the family.

Our American resident manager assisted the family in navigating some minor adjustments to their new surroundings. An added benefit was the presence of WiFi which enabled a Smart TV to work fine as well as their other electronic devices. It will take a few weeks to finish the enrollment process of Social Security Cards, immunizations, school affiliations etc. Knowing the younger children couldn't just walk outside to play I arranged to take the eldest young lady with me to supervise the younger as I treated them to an indoor playground called: Billy Beez. It was a good afternoon of laughter and fun.

The time in their temporary home was coming to an end and the children were able to be accommodated by another local family so that the preparations for the move into the new apartment could be made. Again, I relied on the young African men I contacted to meet early in the morning at the rectory to dismantle the beds and move them to the lower level for loading into the moving truck later that morning. They finished their work and I thanked them for the generosity of their time. A few hours went by and the next crew arrived. About ten men and the truck. The miracles continued as they made such a difficult task so easy by their love, care and strength. I was also appealing to the Lord. The weather forecast was not too favorable with predictions of heavy rain and thunder storms. I asked the Lord to push the clouds south of us. When the truck was being loaded we had mild blessings from the heavens. Upon reaching the apartment the rain had ceased and the sun was beckoning to emerge through the clouds. Thank you Lord for your most generous assistance by calling so many to assist our new neighbors and never abandoning us in our hours of need.

1 Comment

Jack Leo
Jack Leo
May 04

Dear Father Ron -- We, the members of RIMM at Nativity, and the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Buffalo, were so honored to be a part of the family's resettlement in Buffalo. Yes, there were many prayers for this effort to be successful ... and behind the scenes, there was much more going on, with God's loving guidance, to make it all happen. -- Jack Leo

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