Being a refugee herself, native Iranian Samira Page knows firsthand the challenges one faces when fleeing one’s home country. Fleeing Iran for religious persecution at 24 with her two young children and former husband, she experienced the strain of getting a visa, finding a place to live in a foreign country, and getting a social security card so she could get a job.
After arriving in Dallas, Samira enrolled in the Perkins School of Theology at SMU. She didn’t have any transcripts to send with the application, but she was granted enrollment into the school. Then after she was ordained, she wanted to start a missionary to serve people. Her ministry, Gateway of Grace, became the largest refugee ministry in North Texas, and it now works with over 90 partner churches!
Gateway of Grace is a nonprofit, not a church. It serves to mobilize churches to help remove barriers, prejudices, and fears of refugees. It has a school for English language classes for the refugees, their volunteers help with drop offs and picks ups from doctors’ offices, they organize baby showers, and they coordinate 3 major events each year – Easter Egg Hunt, Thanksgiving Dinner and a Christmas party. Dallas Heroes Project was invited to this year to the Thanksgiving Dinner and we saw firsthand how welcoming the atmosphere was. Samira and her husband Dennis (Chief Operating Officer of GofG), explained the meaning and traditions of the American Thanksgiving. They also individually acknowledged the various refugee groups in attendance – those from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, etc.
Another thing we learned from Samira was the misconceptions about what it means to be a refugee. We learned that all refugees are legal – they have all come to the U.S. after registering with the U.N. and going through an extensive background check by Homeland Security and the FBI. They are not illegal immigrants. Many have actually assisted our American armed forces in war as translators or medics. Samira explains, “imagine coming to a country where you education doesn’t translate and you don’t have family or a support system. They want to work and contribute, and we try to help them feel they are loved and welcomed.”