In recent years I have felt a call from God to return to a something I once did in 1996-1998. To be honest I have judiciously avoided ever getting involved again, purely because it’s a tough industry for anyone that cares.
I have a background in law. As a young lawyer, I was transferred to the immigration department at the firm I worked in, I was registered as an Australian migration agent (in addition to my law qualifications) and I was sent to Port Hedland (read middle of nowhere, amazing outback mining town on the far northern coast of Western Australia – pigeons are red from the red, red dust, huge road trains hammering up the highways, and huge salt mountains from local salt farms that shone to my right each time I drove from the little airport to the small township as a very green, young, “stars in my eyes” lawyer).
Port Hedland at the time was the location of one of the many Government run detention centres that Australia had for illegal migrants that had entered Australia by boat (read refugees that had no visa to enter the country, hence “illegal migrants”, that had been tricked by people smugglers to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get a berth in a dangerous boat to Australia). These people were better known as “boat people” back then, and it was these types of people that have suffered terribly at the hands of Australian governments (from both sides of politics). They are known by many names, but they are known more correctly as human beings that are frightened, traumatised and whose dreams have been smashed and that are seeking to be recognised as “refugees” so that they may be granted a protection visa, because they need protection due to a fear of persecution in their country of origin.
I was completely thrown in the deep end. During that time I worked and represented Chinese nationals, Algerians and Iraqis (who were then escaping the Gulf War recriminations of Saddam Hussein from the 1991 war). The Afghanistanis came later, after I left in 1998. I primarily represented Iraqis at the time (many doctors and other types of professionals) who had escaped the ravages of persecution due to their religious beliefs, their cultural affiliations, and their family associations.
The work was tough emotionally, and I was mocked by my co-workers that I wore my heart on my sleeve, to which I responded that I would rather have someone like me represent me if I were a client, then someone like my co-workers, who were looking to meet budgets and many of whom simply did not care (I worked for a private firm that was contracted to provide legal assistance back then).
I left the law firm in early 1998, not long after my father died, when I realised that the ladder was against the wrong wall, and I went into private practise and did some corporate consulting instead, which pretty much finished up in 2002. I had my first child in 2003, my second in 2007 through out which I did a little, but not much, immigration work from an office at home – throwing my energies into caring full time for our two poppets, learning and growing in my love of Jesus – it was a choice of love over money at the time, and a decision to intentionally invest into the next generation, and into my faith.
Well, that is a long explanation to now move on to say that a couple of years ago I was frustrated. I felt that there were no freedom for me to fully express my gifts, to serve freely. I was serving faithfully within the capacity that I was permitted to serve – I was leading a prayer team that met and prayed for the church once a fortnight, I often interceded privately for leaders, and others, I would stop for people on the street as I felt led, I was mentoring one or two people privately at the time and walking with them into their call, I served in kids church, I played in the worship team, but there was no freedom to fully step into prophetic words etc that I had held close for a long time – in fact every door of ministry was shut, sealed and secured, and I was in the throws of walking through what may be described as the dark night of the soul, and I could not see anyway that any of the prophetic words spoken over me by recognised international prophetic voices would ever come to pass – I still don’t see how, but I am more at peace with that one now.
So, I prayed what I now know to be a dangerous prayer – “God I love you, and I want to serve you, but I do not see where I am free to fully serve, give me something, show me what you would have me do” (or something along those lines).
Within days Rev Farag called. Rev Farag (and his family) were clients over a five plus year process of getting them permanent residency. He (and his family) are now friends. He is an Egyptian Anglican Priest (who became a Christian years ago as a teenager) and who has led churches and orphanages for the deaf in Egypt, who has worked in outreach into Jordan, and Upper Egypt, and who to this day continues to lead churches, outreaches into Egypt and now into Australia, who speaks and travels and has completed peace keeping courses and who is a world recognised expert on teaching teachers of the deaf in Arabic communities, and who is heading up a team to translate the Bible into Arabic sign, for Arabic deaf people to hear the Good News of Jesus). It took more than five years to help him obtain permanent residency, during which time his daughter was being kept at home due to kidnapping attempts and they were dealing with attacks on the road and at their offices etc. With his case I found myself back in somewhat familiar territory of people in danger, at risk, who beg for help, and for whom I felt responsible. I knew I had to stay the line for his case, I felt God on it, but after his case (which on the surface had looked like a basic case) I did not want to do any such work again, ever!
Well, back to the call from Rev Farag.
Rev Farag calls and says “B, I need your help, I need you to see some of my people, I need someone I can trust”.
At first I said “no”. I explained that I was no longer practising in immigration law (I had decided that I was not going to take immigration work any more, it was too hard balancing the case loads with the responsibilities of full time at home parenting, which had turned into parenting of two ballet children at the elite level (the result of another dangerous prayer). It was too much to manage, together with the various health issues I had been dealing with, and that I was still overcoming, and to be honest I didn’t want to be a lawyer, or to work as an immigration agent any more. I had turned my back on that, and was waiting for what God had in store for me.
Rev Farag did not let up. He said “just see one”, so I agreed to see one – he said it was a spouse visa case so I thought what could it hurt? I still had a valid migration registration, I could give an advice and help one.
I saw one, gave an advice for a couple of ours for free, discouraged them from proceeding with what they wanted to do with me, but they insisted (in fact begged me to do the work) and so I helped them at radically discounted rates, and left it at that.
I then got another call from Rev Farag: “B we need your help I need someone I can trust”
I sad “no”.
He persisted and said “just see one”.
I reneged feeling God on it, and I arrived in town where I was meeting him and this one in town, and there were three desperate people – all refugee cases, or a variation on the theme. I had been tricked!
I heard them out and gave a basic advice to each.
One was a Syrian (“boat arrival”), who had just recently given his heart to Jesus, and whose wife and 3 young daughters were in a huge refugee camp; the second was an Iraqi Catholic nun whose family overseas had survived a church massacre, and other horrors after the 2003 war on Iraq, whose family had fled ISIS as ISIS invaded northern Iraq, and one was a woman who was being tricked by a man who she had fallen in love with – that was the easy case to advise – the others I desperately wanted to avoid.
I went home and battled with God.
I knew I had to take the cases, but I struggled. I said “God I love you, but I don’t want to do this” He said that He wanted me to “step up …” in fact He was quite firm, whenever I argued he’d say “step up” and not much more.
Regardless, I argued some more – “the laws have dramatically changed, I haven’t worked in this field for 20 years, there are other people so much more skilled than me…”
All I heard was “step up”.
I said “why me” I don’t want to do this – remembering my prayer and wishing I had never prayed it, and He explained quietly that I would pray for them, I would pray for the clients, that others would not do that, and that it was time for me to “step up”.
So I did …
I had nightmares to start with – blood dripping down walls, my children attacked by ISIS, threats against my safety, running from crumbling buildings war torn and bloody – dreams such as those haunted my nights, and I would wake heart racing, seek God, try to discern whether it was a demonic attack, or whether it was a God dream of warning, I would have to calm myself, and remind myself that if God was calling me to this, and I believed He was, so then I would be ok, I would be able to handle the cases. I had to bring my thoughts under the authority of Jesus Christ.
The anxiety was extreme. The law had dramatically changed. I had to sit through and read numerous accounts of extreme terror and cruelty, take statements from traumatised people that took hours, learn the law as fast as I could. I even had to watch a video from Baghdad News of one of my clients walking out of a church massacre, as one of only a few that had survived the attack. The scene was filled with dismembered bodies of Christians whose only “crime” was that they had dared to attend church and worship. I was at sea. I would freeze in fear not knowing what to do, and each time I would seek God, He would simply say quietly: “just do the next thing you know to do and I would feel a gentle leading”, and so I would, “just do the next thing”, all the time my heart racing as I told my mind and body to be still and know that he is God.
That was over two years ago.
I am still doing the work. I still feel overwhelmed. I cry when the refusals come.
I don’t have a huge number of cases, I don’t have the resources, but I have enough to be overwhelmed at times.
I held the nun as she sobbed, telling me (as the first person she told) that her mother had died in Turkey of breast cancer the night before, and that she had not seen her before she had died – her mother had been refused a visa three times prior to me taking on the case.
I had a client who was very upset with the news that his family had been refused help, who stood up and looked like he was going to get violent with me (some think I am the magic, even though I tell them I am not, I always explain that it takes prayer, diligence and a great deal a favour against the odds to be granted a protection visa). Rev Farag was thankfully there as interpreter on that occasion stood and talked him down, as I made myself very small at the table. As I did, I had a flash back to a time I was threatened by a client years back in a locked interview room, my hand on the hidden emergency buzzer, that he would have me killed if he did not get a visa.
I had cried when this man’s case was refused. I called and told him and we met. He was furious with me at the meeting, and I was the blamed for it’s failure, when in fact there had been circumstances well beyond my control at play.
I sat at that moment and reminded myself that God had asked me to step up.
I have taken on more cases – they just come. I tell them I have no magic, I have no contacts or special relationships, there are no guarantees, but I do pray. They are all sad. They are all desperate. Some want me to act, even after I disillusion them, others say they had through I was a guarantee, and they go to the agent that will promise them the world.
I am now working at times with a play group leader from another church who works with refugees in a country town church. She’s overwhelmed at times too. I am a point of reference for her, for which she is grateful, a legal min in her corner to work things through and to refer people to if required.
Not many cases have been successful to date. It is much like throwing the fishing line in again and again in the hope that a fish will just jump into the boat, such is the numbers. It’s statistically worse than lottery odds – but God says keep going.
The refusals – I sit and cry before I call and tell them the news. They know I care.
I resubmit …
The wins are AMAZING! Often the clients have no idea just how amazing a win is …
Many professionals don’t do the work because it is too depressing. You mainly get refusals – and that is not fun!
I know my job is to prepare their statements, make sure the forms are completed well, and make sure everything has been told that should be told … and pray.
The cases I take are families who are here, that have loved ones waiting for years overseas. The families here sponsor them to come. Generally their loved ones have had a number of refusals before they come to me for help, so there are often no other visa pathways available to them. I have a well qualified single female Iraqi teacher, a young talented male graphic designer (who cant leave because his mother and two younger brothers need his protection in Turkey); I have a family that are the last generation of multiple generations to carry the secrets of how to weave fine beautiful textiles from scratch (from sheep or goat to finished product) – many of these people can trace their heritage right back as being original inhabitants of the lands that Jonah visited (now the current northern Iraq area) and may be related to some of the oldest Christian heritage we have (evidence of which was sadly destroyed by ISIS as they went through Northern Iraq).
To be honest, I have felt other stirrings about my destiny, and I have started stepping out into various other prophetic words in obedience as I have felt led. I have no idea how that will play out. I had hoped that maybe this time, this season of refugees would come to an end, but recently, at a conference where Heidi Baker was speaking, I felt I heard Him say again as I was overshadowed by Him, “refugees” and so I know the season has not ended … and I do not know where it will lead.
I have had a few refusals recently. I will prepare the paper work to resubmit. One I am hoping to get in through a sponsored refugee visa – but he needs a job offer (that is my graphic designer) and even if he gets a job offer, I then need to work out how to raise about $40,000 for the family … it’s a “new” idea being offered by our government – let desperate people find a job offer and we may give them a visa if they pay for everything … as I started the process I threw the responsibility to God saying “well you work it out”, and to be honest Heidi Baker’s testimonies encourage me that God can and will do amazing things if I just keep at it for the one in front of me …
I don’t know where any of this will go – I just know to keep on stepping up and “do the next thing I know to do” and the rest is God’s work, and I trust and hope and choose to believe (because at times I do struggle given all they have been through) that He will take care of them, and their cases, even if they are refused, because …
God IS Good!