When a Muslim family—Ibrahim and Hanife Pllana and their three children—arrived in 1999 at a Christian home in Kent, Washington, they had endured 90 days in a bleak refugee camp in Macedonia. For this family of five, the fresh memories of the 40-minute Serbian shelling of their Balkan village, Lejthiste, in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, seemed unbearably painful. As bullets whizzed overhead, the Pllana family made its escape without serious injury.
Leaving behind a burned-out home, they moved to live with a nearby uncle. Within weeks, Serb troops expelled them and all others from the region. As Kosovars by the hundreds of thousands fled their homes, a few families, including the Pllanas, were immediately allowed to resettle in the United States.
For the Pllanas, Judy and Gary Ranson are lifesavers for welcoming them into their home during their first seven weeks in America. But Judy Ranson, 54, demurs. "It's not that big a deal," she says. "You just put more food on the table and lay out some clean towels."
"They showed us lots of care and love," Hanife says as she embraces Judy and they burst into tears of joy. "May God grant them favor for what they have done." Both Pllanas now have obtained jobs in the Kent area. "People at my job accept me for who I am," Hanife says.
Serbian police, soldiers, and others (mostly Orthodox) forced 850,000 Kosovar Albanians (mostly Muslim) from their homes. A NATO bombing campaign eventually drove Serb forces out of Kosovo, which is seeking independence.
Judy Ranson, a government salmon lab technician, and her husband, Gary, a 55-year-old Air Force chaplain, have helped nearly 20 refugee families over the years. She takes Matthew 25:35 to heart: "For. … I was a stranger ...1
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