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 and you invited me in."
Judy has often gone beyond inviting strangers into her home. Two days before the Pllanas' arrival, Judy hit garage sales and bought a crib, stroller, diapers, and car seats for the children.
Though frugal, she does not skimp on quality. "The Lord wouldn't give a torn jacket to someone," she says.
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Also appearing on our site today, Sudan's "Lost Boys" find a home in Kent, Washington.
Earlier Christianity Today articles on refugee resettlement include:
European Churches Declare Immigrants Are Not 'Potential Criminals' | Petitions submitted to the European Union for more protection, aid. (June 13, 2001)
Separation Anxiety | Haitian immigrants are less welcome than Cubans, but Florida churches are filling the hospitality gap.(April 24, 2000)
Saving Bodies, Rescuing Souls | Chechen Muslims find Salvationist care has compassionate accent. (April 24, 2000)
In Sri Lanka's No Man's Land, Churches Provide Some Hope for Refugees | Christians mobilize to help nearly a million left homeless by Tamil conflict (April 18, 2000)
The Torture Victim Next Door | Hidden victims of religious persecution find refuge in America (Mar. 6, 2000)
Church Aids Refugees Despite Violence | The Catholic church has been a place of refuge and reform for those opposing the Indonesian government. (October 25, 1999)
Coming to a Neighborhood Near You | Refugees from around the world are knocking on our door. (July 12, 1999)
Churches Reach Out to Refugees | In many cases, the groups are relying on churches to help provide temporary housing, furniture, clothing, language training, and money for rent. (June 14, 1999)
Christianity Today's sister publication Books & Culture ran a January/February 1999 cover story, "The Dead Zone | Pursuing the truth about genocide in the killing fields of Bosnia and Kosovo."
Coverage of the Kosovo conflict in Christianity Today includes:
Kosovo Takes a Lesson from Bosnia in Interfaith Relations | Muslim, Orthodox, and Catholics join for democracy and human rights. (May 1, 2000)
Only Human Contact Can Ease Kosovo Tension, Says Orthodox 'Cyber-Monk' | Father Sava Janjic is pessimistic about the future (Mar. 20, 2000)
The Case for Compassion in Serbia | A year after NATO bombing, Yugoslav Christians discover unity in caring for the poor (Mar. 7, 2000)
Orthodox Condemn Milosevic (Oct. 4, 1999)
Evangelicals Resent Abandonment (July 12, 1999)
Churches Reach Out to Refugees | American Christians are providing temporary housing for an anticipated 20,000 refugees. (June 14, 1999)
Doing Church Amidst Bombs and Bullets | Balkan evangelicals feel strain of ethnic cleansing (May 24, 1999)
Bridging Kosovo's Deep Divisions | A tiny evangelical minority has a vision for how to overcome the explosive mix of religion and nationalism (Feb. 8, 1999)
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