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Kosovo refugees begin new life with help of town’s First Baptist

CORSICANA, Texas (BP)–A Kosovo refugee family of four entered a new life in small-town Texas June 10, half a world away from the war-torn land they were forced to flee.
Ahmet Krivaqu, his wife, Remzije, 15-year-old son, Albert, and 22-year-old nephew, Gzim, flew into the Dallas/Fort Worth airport from Newark, N.J., where they have been for a month at nearby Fort Dix.
They were met by a smiling, flower-bearing reception committee led by Nannette Cole, missions committee chair at First Baptist Church of Corsicana, which will be their primary sponsor as they resettle in the 25,000-population county seat town in north-central Texas.
The Kricvaqu family is the first Kosavar refugee family to be sponsored for resettlement by Southern Baptists, according to a spokesman for the North American Mission Board, which coordinates refugee resettlement for SBC-affiliated churches.
Also on hand as a welcoming committee were representatives of the co-sponsoring churches: Helen Albritton, a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, and Bill Bradford of Westminster Presbyterian.
“This is truly an ecumenical effort … a community effort,” said B.F. Risinger, pastor of First Baptist Church of Corsicana, which is about 50 miles south of Dallas. “Our church is providing the housing and serving as sponsor for the Krivaqa family, but others are joining with us to help provide for them.”
An interpreter and a representative of Refugee Services of North Texas also met the family, and another Kosavo group of four who are being sponsored by North Dallas Presbyterian Church
“The interpreter was with us for a short time,” said Cole, adding that the church will have access to the services of another interpreter who lives in Ennis, another small town between Dallas and Corsicana.
“We will be able to have him as needed, and he can do some interpreting for us over the phone,” she said.
Cole added, however, that 15-year-old Albert “understands a lot, and by the time we got to Corsicana, he was interpreting for his mother. The mother, Kemzije, is determined to learn English quickly because she has three older children who are in Germany, and she wants to be able to bring them to the United States.”
Cole said the Krivaqu family “is really a lovely family and they are so pleased to be here, to have a home of their own again.”
The only hard part of the airline flight and trip to Corsicana was when the Krivaqu family had to separate from the other family, who had been their neighbors in Kosavo. “That was the only time their eyes teared up. They had been told both of the families would be going to Dallas, but didn’t know they would be so far away from their friends,” Cole said.
“We will take them for a visit as soon as possible,” she promised.
The family, she added, was really very pleased to see the farm land and open country between Dallas and Corsicana.
She added her first priority now that the family is settled in the mission house at Corsicana is to get them some summer clothing.
“The came in with seven or eight pieces of luggage, but I think it is mostly winter clothing. They had on heavier clothing when they came in, and I tried to tell them it was hot outside. When they took their first step outside — into the 92-degree Texas afternoon heat — they said, ‘Oh. Hot’ and started taking off their jackets,” Cole recounted.
Albert, however, had on a sweatshirt from the U.S. Army at Fort Dix and did not, at first, want to take it off. Soon, the heat made him relent and off came the heavy garment.
Since communication was difficult initially, it took some time to determine Gzim was a nephew and not a son. Basic facts about the family indicate the family was from Pristina, the capital city. Ahmet was a truck driver; his wife a shopkeeper; and the young men were students.
Cole also added that the reports are that the family is Muslim, but said she believes the designation is “more ethnic than religious. I would say that these are not particularly religious people.”
Richard Robinson, immigration ministries specialist at NAMB, commended Baptists for a quick response to disaster relief for the Kosavo refugees but noted that the concern for disaster relief “has not yet carried over to the resettlement of refugees in the United States.”
He also noted that he is cognizant of the peace accords which have been signed stopping the bombing, but said “peace agreements throughout history have had a way of falling apart.”
“It is far, far too early to call off resettlement. We are proceeding with the resettlement efforts,” he said.
He added that even with the stop to the NATO bombing and the withdrawal of Serb troops, it will take “months and months” to restore Kosavo to livable conditions. “Kosavo is in shambles. There is no water, no electricity, no sanitation. Many of the homes and buildings have been destroyed.”
He also said the refugees who have been brought to the United States will not automatically return to Kosavo and, in fact, may opt to remain in the United States.
Individuals, communities and/or churches interested in helping with the resettlement effort are asked to contact Robinson at NAMB at (770) 410-6343.

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  • Dan Martin