by Max Brantley
But eight years ago, six militiamen invaded the family compound, murdered his oldest son and his son’s wife and briefly kidnapped Mr. Mwenda. The family left everything behind, and after four days of travel by foot, car and dinghy made it to safety in a refugee camp more than 1,000 miles away in Malawi.The family has no Arkansas connections, but an Arkansas affiliate of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service worked with local churches to set them up in Fayetteville apartments, the Times said.
This month, they were again lucky to make a skin-of-their-teeth escape, when an International Organization for Migration vehicle pulled into the camp and transported them to an airport, with one-way tickets to the United States.
At the end of a 20-hour journey, the Mwendas arrived last week at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to a gaggle of well-wishers hoisting American flags and welcome-home signs.Some, perhaps many, in pro-Trump Arkansas would refuse them.
The local resettlement agency, Canopy of Northwest Arkansas, arranged for church groups to take the Mwendas on their first outings. In the produce section of a grocery store, Mr. Mwenda was bewildered by the abundance and wide variety of apples on display, promptly plopping two dozen pricey Pink Ladies into a bag. His sons were taken aback by the pet food aisle, and the idea that food would be manufactured specifically for cats.
Back at their apartments, they had to learn how to use the oven, the toaster and the toilet. None had ever lived in a place where they could flush.
They hope to soon find work, in the poultry, food service, construction or retail sectors. “I want to work and study to be an electrician,” said Jules, the eldest son.