***UPDATE – Friday, April 28, 2017***
Asha’s Refuge took Ezekia to an orthopedic doctor who did prescribe for him an AFO brace. This will help his foot to be lifted up so that it does not drag onto the ground when he walks. He is so happy to have our help and we catch him praising and thanking God often for all the help he receives. Today he was measured for the AFO brace which will be special made for him and ordered as soon as we can get all the insurance details worked out.
We are praying that there is no extra cost for him for this brace. He certainly needs it. We were able to purchase some more supportive shoes for him today with some compression socks also. The regular shoe will go inside the boot that he will wear all the time unless he is sleeping. Please pray that through physical therapy and the AFO brace that Ezekia’s hip stop hurting and ease of walking gets better for him.
A few weeks ago, we interviewed Janet. She is from the Congo. She likes to babysit children. She used to do agricultural work in the Congo and enjoyed that. One of her concerns was rather interesting.
Janet married a gentleman named Ezekia in the Catholic Church while they were in the refugee camp some time ago. Ezekia is from the Congo too. The couple had been living as married in the refugee camp, but were both still awaiting their approval for refugee status. On average it can take 7-10 years for displaced people to actually gain approval for refugee status. A lot can happen during that wait time. Some children are born in refugee camps, grow up in the camps, get married and find themselves starting the next generation of their family while still in the refugee camp waiting. While Janet was happy to have the chance to be in America, she was sad that she and her husband had to hide the fact that they were married. Hiding their marriage was what she thought she was having to do but it was really a big cultural misunderstanding which has caused Janet and Ezekia a lot of unnecessary stress for the past several months.
You see, since Janet and Ezekia were married in the refugee camp, the marriage was not considered legal. Displaced people are stateless. They have no home country to claim as their own. It is kind of like being orphaned from your native born country and until another country adopts you, you have no parent home country. The marriage to Janet and Ezekia was legal in the eyes of God so they felt free to live together, hold hands in public and be together as a married couple in the camp. Once they gained refugee status, they were told they would have to come into the US as single people. They were not going to be able to live together and receive the initial government benefits that typically helps new incoming refugees for those first few months as a married couple. They could only enter the US declaring “single” status because that was what records the government officials had on record. This immediately caused them fear and confusion.
Janet was placed with a single lady in an apartment when she arrived to Memphis, TN. Ezekia was placed with a single man in an apartment when he arrived to Memphis, TN. The couple was sad to be apart from one another. They became lonely and more afraid. They were unsure of the cultural social sensitivity of them being together as a married couple and felt afraid to let anyone know they were actually married. It was as though they were having to hide their love for one another and their relationship. After interviewing both Janet and Ezekia with a translator, we were able to let the couple know that they were not going to be asked to show their marriage certificate in the streets of Memphis, by the police or government officials just because they were hanging out with one another. We better explained to them that they could just not live together and state that they were married while they were receiving any kind of government assistance since their marriage was not a legally recognized marriage. When they are able to go through the processes of making the marriage legal in the state of Tennessee (which is not complicated to do) they would then be free to request food stamps and such together as a married couple if that was a need they had at that time. Until then, we let Janet and Ezekia know that they were totally free to hang out with one another, hold hands and act like a married couple in public, in front of their new friends, church, in businesses and such. We comforted them letting them know that they did not have to be afraid as there is no marriage certificate police in the US! (No fear in Jesus!! God has you, I reminded them.) Once Janet and Ezekia receive their permanent resident cards, they will be free to pay the Tennessee Marriage Certificate Fee and have a judge or US Pastor sign the certificate to legalize the marriage in the US.
The news overwhelmed Janet. She cried. We told her first and then Ezekia. The freedom they felt was something sweet and special that we know was from God. The couple left class this day with huge smiles on their faces.
We learned more information about Ezekia in his personal interview a week later. Ezekia is 69. Ezekia used to be a fisherman and did agricultural work. When he had to escape the Congo to go to the refugee camp he had an accident while he was hiding from “the bad people” he said. He injured his right leg during the war. Ezekia surprised us when he lifted up his pants leg and showed us the damage that was done to his leg and foot. The skin on his leg had already long healed but the permanently damaged nerves in his leg caused Ezekia to not be able to move or bend his foot for proper walking.
God had a plan last Friday and had already prepared for what was going to happen. One of our Asha’s Refuge volunteers happens to be a retired Orthopedic Foot Doctor! We went upstairs to grab our doctor, friend and volunteer to take a look at Ezekia’s foot. Ezekia was complaining of his hip hurting. Our doctor kindly assessed Ezekia’s leg and foot and let us know what he felt was best for him. The important thing for Ezekia to know was that the damage done to his leg was not getting worse. Ezekia was fearful that his leg was getting worse and that he was about to deal with more problems with it. The doctor eased Ezekia’s fear and let him know that he was most probably overcompensating on his foot and walking in a way that was now causing pain in his hip. Ezekia will need to see an Orthopedic doctor and have a brace made for his leg and foot. He will most probably need to wear this brace at all times so that he will walk and stand with better position so that it does not put additional strain on his hip. With the brace and some physical therapy, we are praying that Ezekia will be just fine.
Now the hard part… at Ezekia’s request, Asha’s Refuge will deal with health insurance and work to find an Orthopedic doctor willing to help us get an AFO brace fitted for Ezekia’s foot. Please pray for Ezekia. We are believing in God’s miracle to heal his leg and foot and perhaps one day no brace will be necessary!
HELP US MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF LOCAL REFUGEES BY DONATING TODAY!