"Bwana asifiwe"

Imagine someone asking where you are from.

Imagine not being able to answer that question.

Because the country where you were born no longer exists. And the country you fled to is not really your homeland, and you fled again, to a third country -- but you don't live there, anymore, either.

For the group of 32 African political refugees that recently joined Sojurn Free Methodist Church in Fairmount, this question requires a complicated answer.

In December of 2007, just 10 days before Christmas, Sojurn parishioners was introduced to the first group of refugees to be relocated to the Syracuse area from a refugee camp in Tanzania. Ephraim Barangendana, his wife and seven children were joined with Sojurn because Barangendana is a Free Methodist Pastor. A week later, Ephraim's brother Amoni Hakizimana, a Free Methodist deacon, his wife and their seven children arrived.

John Stone, a Sojurn parishioner, said he volunteered immediately to help provide transportation for them. Each week, Stone drives the newcomers to and from Sunday service -- two full trips with a cargo van.

Stone said at first, the trips were quiet. The families speak Swahili and Kirundi. Without an interpreter, there was little conversation.

"It's amazing how much communication you do with a smile," Stone said.

Now, the van trips are lively, his passengers laugh and talk loudly -- a sign for Stone that they are becoming more comfortable.

Stone said many parishioners were enthusiastic and excited to have the opportunity to help the refugees and learn about their culture.

"It's a good opportunity to start practicing what we're all supposed to be living."

Barangendana and Hakizimana, and other members of the group, originally hail from Burundi. They fled Burundi in 197 and relocated to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1996, they were forced to flee again to Tanzania, where they remained in a refugee camp for 11 years.

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