Penne Collett, Susan Solomon, Rev. Samira Izadi and Carolyn Murray

Penne Collett, Susan Solomon, Rev. Samira Izadi and Carolyn Murray

Iranian native Samira Izmadi was born into a Muslim family and married off at 15, as was the custom in her culture. Her then-husband, 20, was Sunni, a persecuted sect in Iran, and life was difficult. When she spoke to Lake Highlands Women’s League members Friday, she recalled the day men came into their home in the middle of the night and searched their belongings. As soon as they found her husband’s forbidden copy of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”, “life as we knew it was over.”

Samira had just begun studies seeking a master’s degree – rare for an Iranian female. She left everything behind to escape across snow-covered mountains with her husband and two young children. They almost died in the desperate cold.

They paid smugglers to take them to safety in Canada. Soon, they realized the swindlers had abandoned them in Mexico with no identification, no paperwork, and no money.

Her husband suggested they go to Dallas.

Gateway of Grace picnic

Gateway of Grace picnic

“Why on earth would anyone go to Dallas?” she mocked.

Luckily, she relented. Dallas receives more refugees than any other city in the nation, and do-gooders from Wilshire Baptist Church’s refugee ministry met them at the airport. Samira and her family were stunned by their kindness.

Aid from the ministry continued, and soon the family had a furnished apartment off Audelia in Lake Highlands and food to eat. She and her family have been living and working in our area for 16 years now.

Samira enrolled in the seminary and is now an Episcopal priest. She founded her own refugee ministry, Gateway of Grace, which serves refugees from countries all over the world.

Gateway moves a family in to their new apartment

Gateway moves a family in to their new apartment

“We don’t proselytize, but we do share the gospel,” she told Women’s League members. “We try to be more holistic.”

Some have been tortured, some have been raped, she says. All share a deep gratitude for the simplicities of shelter, food and kindness.

If you’d like to help, you can donate online here. They also appreciate people willing to give their time.

“We need volunteers,” said Samira. “It’s joyful, joyful work. The refugees are poor, but they are hospitable.”