Mother and Daughter Reunited For the First Time in 16 Years
Lar Paw came to America in 2005 as a 17-year old refugee from Burma by way of Thailand, leaving behind her mother, Naw Gay.
As soon as Lar Paw arrived in the U.S., she began filing for her mother to join her.
When the case finally opened up in 2012, Lar Paw began calling Arrive and other legal offices every week to check on the status of her mother’s immigration case. She called weekly for a whole year, and continued to call monthly for the next six years.
Rebekah, our Director of Refugee Services remembers, “I would receive 1-2 calls from Lar Paw each month where she was calling to see if there’s anything she needed to do to make the process go faster.”
Prospects seemed bleak. Many people would have given up. But Lar Paw wrote letters to Senator Tina Smith and other local government leaders to try to open doors for her mother. And finally it looked as if her efforts were paying off, in 2018 Naw Gay started medical check-ups for her resettlement journey.
Naw Gay’s case was still being processed when the pandemic hit the globe.
“There were a lot of covid cases in the refugee camp. I thought, now I have no hope for my mom,” Lar Paw reflects. “At that point I felt like, if she doesn’t have a chance to come, it’s okay. If all I can do is call and send money, then that’s what I’ll do.”
The Phone Call
An unexpected phone call came September 20, 2021: “Your mom is coming!”
“Lar Paw used to call me so regularly that I kept a sticky note right on my desk with her name and phone number to reach her. So as soon as I saw her mom’s flight was scheduled I called her that same day,” said Rebekah.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was totally surprised,” Lar Paw was completely shocked. They had spent 16 years in America without other family members. Finally, they were about to welcome their first relative to America. Those years of persistence finally paid off.
On Naw Gay’s arrival day, her airport welcoming crew consisted of Lar Paw’s family, friends from the Karen church, and many Arrive staff and volunteers.
“It was a beautiful memory. We were all so happy,” said Lar Paw. It was a moment Lar Paw had anticipated for over 20 years.
“I am amazed at how God made a way even when it seemed impossible, and at the advocacy of Lar Paw on behalf of her mother. She never gave up, she kept persisting. It was truly amazing to see that persistent love in action,” said Rebekah.
Life in America
Of course, the story doesn’t end there.
Two days after her arrival, Naw Gay fell and broke her hip.
Arrive Ministries volunteers were quick to respond by building Naw Gay a wheelchair ramp at her house. This ramp gives her more mobility and access as she patiently heals.
“When I left my village, my mom was very active. I didn’t realize she got old in the 20 years since I’d seen her!” said Lar Paw.
Although Naw Gay will undoubtedly face challenges with her recovery, and the change of country, culture, and climate, she is grateful to be in Minnesota with her daughter and grandsons. When Lar Paw asks if she wants to go back to Thailand, Naw Gay answers with a definitive NO.
Lar Paw chuckles knowingly as she anticipates her mother’s first winter weathering Minnesota cold and snow. But Lar Paw has many plans for the future.
“My mom loves to fish and my oldest son does too. I can’t wait for the day I can drop them both off by the river, and tell them, ‘Enjoy your time together!’ And I’ll go shopping.”
Throughout her these two decades of waiting, Lar Paw says she feels a overriding sense of gratitude.
“I have been through a lot in my life, but nothing could hold me back from getting my mom here. I don’t know how long she’ll be around, but as long as she’s here, I’m happy and grateful. I appreciate this country who welcomed us even though we have different skin, personalities, thoughts and ideas. This country gave us a home that’s safe. No place is perfect, but here we don’t need to worry about enemy bullets or packing our belongings to escape. I’m very thankful for that.”