From the Mideast to the Midwest: “We’ve Found Peace in This Land.”
Like the pioneer families in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books, Iraqi refugees Naef and Suad and their seven children spent their initial winter on the Great Plains huddled indoors, suffering from shock and cabin fever. “The first time we saw snow, we were so excited, and the kids went outside and played,” their father recalls. “But after that we felt like prisoners in our own home. There was so much ice, we only went to the store once a week.”
But now his family, who arrived in Lincoln, Neb., 18 months ago, has adjusted to the climate and rhythms of American life. Weekdays, the four older children are on the school bus at 6:30 a.m.
Pastor Jim Keck of Lincoln’s First Plymouth Congregational Church says parish-ioners have expressed “joy and curiosity” about the newcomers. Church members have sponsored refugees and hosted dinners where the Iraqis have spoken about their lives and being Muslim. Keck adds: “That’s not to say there haven’t been misunderstandings. People have stereotypes about Islam, and one is that it is a more violent religion. It warms my heart to see conversations occurring between different faiths so people can learn the truth firsthand.”