Community Welcomes Refugee Family Home

Feeling blessed to be in their new home are, from left, Abdulahi, Mumina, Maryan, Max and Abdul

Max Ceymoy stood with his family by his side in the living room of their new home and quietly thanked those who had made it possible.

He spoke of the family’s arrival in the U.S. seven years ago after fleeing civil war in Somalia. It was a harrowing journey, begun in the stinking hold of a livestock ship, which cost the life of his oldest daughter. But here they were today, in a newly built house in Cedar Springs, where until recently they had lived in a cramped apartment downtown.

“God has a plan and a purpose for everyone,” said Max, speaking to about a dozen guests while his wife, Maryan, dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “His plan was to bring us to Cedar Springs to live here, and to meet a good community.”

He recalled sitting in the offices of the Inner City Christian Federation, signing the paperwork that would authorize the building of this three-bedroom house on Cedar Street. Dozens of community members helped build and furnish the home, where three of Max and Maryan’s six children live and attend Cedar Springs High School.

“This is the fruit of that day – a home, a wonderful new house,” Max said reverently, as a candle burned on the dining room table. “We understand the faithfulness of God. We thank you, we thank you, we thank you every one.”

With such thanks and prayers, warm hugs and the bestowing of a Bible, Max, Maryan and their children began a new chapter in their remarkable saga – one that began as refugees from a country in chaos, and led them to a caring community that helped them build a new life in America.

The Journey

School News Network told the story of their journey last spring, shortly after they were approved for an ICCF home. It detailed their trials in impoverished Somalia, their escape on a boat to Turkey, and the long-awaited approval by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for passage to the U.S.

After a year in Lansing, they moved in 2010 to Cedar Springs, where they found a welcoming community and a supportive school system. Donations and attentive teachers and tutors helped in the school success of their children: Abdul, a freshman; Mumina, a sophomore; Abdulahi, a senior; Cabdul, now at Grand Valley State University; and Ciise and Jibriil, now in the Army.

Cedar Springs Middle School Principal Sue Spahr helped the family get approved for an ICCF home and coordinated a small army of volunteers to help build it. Teachers, principals and a school board member pitched in, and businesses donated a dining-room table and couch, and beds and bedding at a discount.

“How can you not want to reach out and volunteer to build a home for such an amazing family?” Spahr said at the home dedication. “This family is a magnet. They just exude such light and love and happiness.”

They also put a ton of work into their home, from helping with painting and other building tasks to taking ICCF classes on house maintenance, budgeting and other home-ownership skills.

“They were committed to it,” said Sireece Martin, the ICCF housing programs manager who worked closely with the family. “They would show up early and leave late” – and always with a smile, she noted.

Project manager Don Fredricks commended their hard work, such as Abdulahi painting while memorizing verses for his church’s Teen Bible Challenge. Said Abdulahi, “I’m so happy I can grow up here. It’s an amazing community.”

ICCF Project Manager Don Fredricks, left, presents at Bible to Max Ceymoy’s family at the recent dedication of their new homeBlessing to the Neighborhood

At the dedication in early March, Fredricks presented Max with a Bible as bright sunlight streamed through the windows. ICCF President Ryan VerWys said a prayer for the family that the home “would be a blessing to you and that you would be a blessing to this neighborhood. We’re so grateful that you are here.”

Gratitude beamed from the faces of the new homeowners. Said Max, “We feel very excited because of the riches and the blessings of God.”

Abdul declared the house “awesome,” adding, “The beds are so comfortable.” His sister Mumina pointed out with a grin, “I had tocome in and nudge him three times to get up.”

“It’s amazing,” Mumina said of their new home. “I’m glad we get to make new memories in this house – really good ones.”

CONNECT

Fleeing from Civil War in Africa, Family Finds Peace and Caring Community in Cedar Springs

Inner City Christian Federation

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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