Saving grace was prompt action of refugees – World Refugee Day 2018

saving grace - Father Jim Bream, Wilson and Francis
Father Jim Bream, Wilson and Francis

Sioux Falls, South Dakota – in honor of World Refugee Day 2018, Father Jim Bream celebrates the prompt action of two refugees as his saving grace.

On January 2, 2018, I continued my entrance into the New Year by having a friendly visit with a Nigerian immigrant, Francis. I had helped him get settled one year previously. All of a sudden I felt oddly different, a cold and distant feeling – a feeling I had never before experienced.

I realized that my right arm was loosely dangling and my mouth would not open nor could I turn my head sideways or up and down. Francis, realizing something was wrong, said, “Padre, say something.” I wanted to speak to him but could not. Again, Francis spoke but this time shouting, “Padre, I am worried, say something!” Again, I wanted to speak but could not.

Francis had been in the United States only one year at this time. He did not know about calling 9-1-1 for emergency help. In desperation Francis texted a friend, Wilson, a refugee from Burundi, who was in the Twin Cities visiting other friends. Wilson has been renting part of my house for the last 18 months. Francis’ text to Wilson said that Padre needed help and that he, Francis, didn’t know what to do. Being in the Cities, Wilson called Minneapolis 9-1-1 and explained the situation.

Minneapolis 9-1-1 called Sioux Falls 9-1-1. Wilson could now speak directly with Sioux Falls 9-1-1. Within 15 or 20 minutes, an ambulance was at my door.

I was helped into the ambulance, and appropriate medicine was started in my arm. We headed to the hospital. Many tests were conducted. I passed them all except the one that tests bleeding in my brain. By late afternoon, the doctor informed me that I definitely had a stroke. Throughout that day others thought that I may have had a stroke. I honestly thought the same, but would not say it or I could not say it because much of that day I suffered loss of speech and balance. The doctor’s diagnosis left me scared. Over the years I have met many stroke victims who are living with very serious physical problems following a stroke. In discussing this with my doctor, he reassured me that I would have no debilitating effects and that my speech and balance will come back soon. That has been the case. The saving grace through all this was the prompt action by the two refugees, Francis and Wilson, and the prompt attention by the 9-1-1 people.

Over the years, I have spent much time helping refugees in their needs, which at times could be extreme. On this day, January 2, 2018 when I was in extreme need possibly facing paralysis, life in a wheel chair, and even death, two refugees and 9-1-1 saved me. This saving grace is not coincidence but the Lord’s work going full circle.

Thank you, refugees and 9-1-1!

Refugees shaking hands

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World Refugee Day 2018

This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place.

Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day: therefugeecenter.org/world-refugee-day.

Learn more about World Refugee Day. All across the country, there will be events celebrating World Refugee Day. Visit this map to find an event in your community.

About Jim Bream
Father Jim Bream was ordained more than 50 years ago and has been involved in parish work ever since. Over the years, he worked to help resettle refugees through Catholic Social Services and Lutheran Social Services, helping them find work and get to language school, and teaching them how to buy groceries, cook and drive, among other tasks. Their simplicity helped deepen his faith, and through him, many parishioners came to know and befriend these refugees as well. In 2015, Father Jim was inducted into the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools Hall of Fame for Excellence in Service.