When Donald and Joyce Halterman first learned about WRQC’s mission through their church in July of 2019, they felt compelled to step forward. They never expected such a simple act of faith to wholly reshape their lives.
“We’ve always wanted to serve the Lord in whatever way he would have us serve, and we felt that this was something we could both do together,” Donald said.
They began volunteering in client transportation. When they weren’t delivering clothing, groceries, or food baskets to local refugee families, they would bring clients to medical appointments, sometimes travelling as far away as Rockford. But just as soon as the Haltermans found themselves completely dedicated, the pandemic hit. The new restrictions would derail many of their endeavors.
Yet their determination remained intact. When they were introduced to WRQC’s first-ever Cultural Partner Team (CPT) program in the summer of 2020, they were the first to volunteer. Their journey – their calling – wasn’t over. It was about to take on new meaning.
Donald and Joyce were paired with a family of four who had recently been resettled in the Quad Cities from the Democratic Republic of Congo: Alimasi Lumenge, his wife Faila Kamlete, and their sons Sadiki Alimasi and Kamlete Alimasi. The Haltermans would meet the Alimasi family on a weekly basis for the next six months to teach them about American culture and guide them toward self-sufficiency.
“The Alimasi family was very shy, but they were a very warm and close-knit family. We felt comfortable and received from the very beginning,” Donald recalled.
“When we saw them the first afternoon, we took a group picture and had that framed. They had no pictures of their walls of anything. When we gave them a colored picture and copies to share with their friends and family, they were so excited and so happy,” Joyce added.
Each meeting brought a new lesson to the table for both parties. As the Alimasi family learned about bus transportation, paying bills, budgeting, and safety, Donald and Joyce learned about the Alimasis’ culture and became accustomed to new technologies like Zoom and What’s App. One specific incident at the DMV, however, impacted the Haltermans’ understanding of just how much the Alimasi family had to teach them in return.
“It was a three-and-a-half-hour process in which we were made to stay outside in the rain while we waited in a long line that moved very slowly. As we stood there waiting to get the husband and his oldest son ID cards, they seemed to be very unaffected by it,” Donald said.
Later, Alimasi Lumenge sent Donald a text describing his excitement. Donald couldn’t help but share in the enthusiasm.
The Alimasis quickly grew comfortable with the Haltermans’ company and began to share their needs – one being bicycles. Both sons’ bicycles were broken. When Donald and Joyce discovered that one of the Alimasi sons had to walk 12 blocks uphill to get to school every day, they knew they had to act.
They were initially given a repair estimate of $200 per bicycle, but within just six hours, they found a listing for two “practically brand-new” 16-speed mountain bikes on Craigslist for a fraction of the repair cost. Much to their surprise, the seller’s parents had adopted a child through World Relief, resulting in a hefty discount for the pair of bikes. Donald and Joyce could purchase both for just $100.
They resolved to contact their Missions Director to see what their church could do, but their plan was disrupted by what can only be called a miracle. Imagine their astonishment when they learned that the seller’s family decided to donate their bikes to the Alimasi sons. The exhaustion of a lengthy trek to school each day was about to become a thing of the past.
The boys’ eyes were filled with light, a moment frozen in time by the photos taken that day.
“It was a Holy Spirit experience,” Donald said. “We recognize when the Spirit is leading us,” Joyce agreed.
Both parties had expected little more than a client-volunteer relationship. But through guidance, laughter, and prayer, a beautiful friendship blossomed. Now, the Haltermans and the Alimasis break bread often, pray, and talk with one another via phone and text.
“They needed a friendship the most to help them get through a lot of difficulties, and we became friends with them . . . we’re enlightened by them and the great smiles on their faces,” Donald said.
With Donald and Joyce’s kindness, not only are the Alimasis becoming self-sufficient, but are beginning to feel “at home.” They’ve made many other friends at their church and look forward to coming to church with the Haltermans when they know a little more English. And in February of 2021, they reunited with their eldest son Asukulu, whose immigration case had been delayed since 2020. Their family had been made whole again.
Despite pandemic restrictions, both families anticipate a future filled with palpable love and companionship.
“We envision a lifetime of friendship. We were told we would be their partners for six months, but we could never walk away from this family,” Joyce concluded.
The story of two families uniting to learn from one another and creating transformative change on both sides is an invigorating example of the power of togetherness. Whether quietly cultivated or sudden, God’s joy will always find a way through.
For more information about our CPT Program, contact Julie Hornbuckle at email@example.com. Or, click on "Get Involved" to submit a volunteer application.
April 1st, 2021
Erica Parrigin graduated from Western Illinois University with a B.A. in English in December 2020. After a semester-long internship at World Relief Quad Cities, she was hired as a full-time Communications Associate. In addition to communications, she coordinates the food pantry, social media, marketing materials, and assists with casework and event planning.