Finding faith, Finding love, Finding family
Isaac Aduda, a naturalized American citizen, returned to his native Kenya for a visit in 2009. He went to reconnect with his parents and siblings and rediscover his place of birth. He found all that and more—Audrey, the love of his life.
They were married in April of that year in a ceremony at his family church in Kenya. Isaac returned to his home in Michigan and immediately set about bringing his bride to his adopted country. He walked into the Justice For Our Neighbors West Michigan clinic in Grand Rapids and asked attorney Liz Balck to help him complete the necessary forms.
“Oh, good,” Liz thought, “This will be an easy one.”
Three long and grueling years later, with the Department of Homeland Security’s approval of their petition, Audrey was finally in the home stretch. Everything was in order. She and Savannah—the baby daughter born 18 months after Isaac and Audrey’s wedding—would soon be on their way to the United States. There the three of them would be starting their lives together as a family.
While waiting for a visa interview at the American embassy in Nairobi, Audrey checked off the items she had been told to bring: her marriage certificate, the letters that Isaac had sent her, the phone records to prove they were in constant contact with each other. She also had the results of their required DNA tests that proved that not only was Isaac the father of Savannah, but that Audrey was her mother.
Audrey sat down with the interviewing officer, a grim-faced woman who immediately asked, “Where are your wedding photos?”
Audrey was confused. They had already submitted wedding photos with the application.
“How do you expect to get a visa without wedding photos?” the official demanded.
Audrey and Isaac actually have a lot of photos from their wedding day. Copies of these photos were in the DHS file sitting right there on the desk. The interviewer wouldn’t even glance at it. She essentially accused Audrey of entering into a marriage for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card. She made no explanation for the existence of the baby. The visa was denied.
It was a devastating blow. “We had waited three years and finally had some hope that we would be reunited,” Isaac explains. “And then…” His voice grows raspy with the remembered pain of that day. “I don’t really understand why she decided to deny my wife the visa,” he says. “There is no reason at all why.”
Back home in Michigan, Liz was equally astonished. She had considered the case a “slam dunk.”
Liz had been a fortress of strength for Isaac since their very first meeting. She’d counseled him through the humiliating request for DNA proof of Savannah’s parentage. She encouraged him when he was told that he was not eligible to sponsor his wife and daughter because he did not make enough money.
For nine months, Isaac worked two jobs, 16 hours a day, six days a week, to bring up his income to an acceptable level. Liz made time to meet him in her office to discuss his case whenever he could get a few moments away.
He was exhausted. The long separation was extraordinarily difficult. Audrey did not have access to the internet, so they relied upon letters and phone calls. It wasn’t enough. He hadn’t seen his daughter since she was 6 months old. He missed her first words, her first steps. She was growing up fast and she didn’t even know him.
Isaac is a person of deep faith. He grew up in a religious family, studied theology at University, and was an active member of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids. Yet he felt his faith was being tested.
“I was very downcast,” he confesses. “I even started doubting God. ‘Why,’ I asked him, ‘if you are all-powerful, why are you allowing this to happen? You blessed this marriage, why do you want it to fall apart?’”
At some point, Isaac became so despondent that he went to Liz’s office, ready to give up. She wouldn’t let him.
Now, after his wife’s fateful interview at the U.S. Embassy, Isaac wasn’t about to quit, and neither was Liz. “She promised me,” remembers Isaac, “to fight tooth and nail until the decision was reversed.”
They collected letters from supporters; from pastors and parishioners at Aldersgate UMC, from landlords, employers, even members of Congress. Several months later, they finally got, as Liz puts it, “a second bite at the apple to prove that Isaac and Audrey were truly in love.”
Once again, Audrey made the trip to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Once again, she was ushered into the interview room. This time, however, a different official was waiting for her. “I’m sorry for what happened,” the woman said kindly. There was no other explanation offered. Audrey was granted her visa.
Two weeks later, she and Savannah were on their way to America.
“For four years, six months, and five days our broken immigration system robbed me of my fundamental right as a U.S. citizen, a father and a husband, to love and care for my family,” says Isaac, enunciating every word for emphasis. “Justice For Our Neighbors gave that right back to me.”
Savannah is starting kindergarten this year. She loves school, she loves her friends, and like all little American girls, she loves the movie “Frozen.” She’s gotten used to having a dad, and loves him, too.
Isaac has felt the call to missionary work. He and a childhood friend from Kenya have started a faith-driven non-profit, Mission of Hope Africa, working to improve the lives of the marginalized poor in the troubled regions of East Africa.
“I feel I have an obligation,” he says. “God brought me here for a reason—not just to have a better life for my own family, but to also help the people back home.”
The best news of all: Audrey and Isaac were blessed with twin boys earlier this year; Israel, the elder by seven minutes, and Isaiah.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever (Psalm 100)
“Yes,” says Isaac, beaming with happiness. “I’ve got my faith back.”