Michel was in a college class studying medicine when a neighbor came in with news that turned his world upside down: Both of his parents had been brutally murdered. On top of that, the man who had killed them was headed to the university, looking for him next.
In that instant, Michel made an excruciating decision. He fled his country with only the possessions he was carrying and without a single goodbye.
It was 1999, and Michel’s home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or DRC), was in chaos. Violence escalated between the Congolese government and rebel militias. Millions were killed or simply “disappeared.” It was one of the deadliest wars since World War II, but many don’t know about it—or that the conflict continues in the DRC to this day.
Michel ended up in a refugee camp outside the city of Ibadan in Nigeria. He grappled with the tragedy that had upended his life, but he was anchored by his faith and determination.
A United Nations officer discovered that Michel had been studying medicine, and the UN offered him a scholarship to complete his degree. Seven years later, he was hired as a surgeon in Ibadan. He often had to operate without light or electricity. He also traveled to other refugee camps for the UN, diagnosing other Congolese refugees, grateful to be helping others who had fled just as he had.
He met and fell in love with a woman from the DRC, and they married and had a son. They dreamed of resettling in another country where their baby boy could have a bright future.
In 2013, Michel’s wife and son were approved to travel to the United States—but not Michel. Michel’s wife had started the process before their marriage, and because the U.S. prioritizes the cases of women and children, her petition was approved first. When Michel’s wife arrived in the U.S., WRDA helped her find housing and a job so she could support herself and her son. Meanwhile, World Relief’s Immigration Legal Services team (which specializes in representing family reunification cases for refugees and other immigrants) helped her apply for a visa for Michel to join her and her son in the U.S.
It took two years, to the day, for Michel’s visa to be approved. Seventeen years after he fled his homeland, he finally found a country that welcomed him to stay. But reuniting with his family came at a cost. The medical credentials he had worked so hard for weren’t valid in the U.S. His first job was packing boxes at a local company. Though he was grateful to be supporting himself and his family, he longed to be back in the operating room.
Michel met two World Relief volunteers who helped him make that dream a reality. One, a retired ophthalmologist, connected Michel with doctors at a local hospital. Another, who had spent time with a missions group in the DRC, coached him through the application process and took him to interviews. Most importantly, these men gave Michel friendship, courage, and confidence to pursue his dream.
After rounds of tests and interviews, and only 10 months after arriving in the U.S., Michel was hired as a surgical assistant. The doctors at the hospital have also welcomed him, given him advice on how to advance his career, and even leant him textbooks so he can continue his studies.
When asked about the volunteers who have become his friends, Michel says, "Without them, I would not have been able to get this job. I am very grateful." Michel's story of hard work and resilience is just one of the thousands of stories of refugees who have found life-changing connections and relationships through World Relief's ministry over the years.