Louisville, KY - By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The weekend is already off to a great start for a Louisville resident. Friday morning, he was reunited with wife after several years apart, but perhaps the biggest meeting stems from the fact that he also met his 18-month-old daughter for the first time.
The reunion is years in the making, and was all made possible by a congregation who looked past the lines of religion.
"It is an exciting moment of my life since I left Sudan," said Gabriel Akech Kwai, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who came to Louisville years ago.
He came face-to-face with his 18-month-old daughter Agoitch for the first time; and was also reunited with his wife.
When the two met shortly after 10:30 Friday morning, it was emotionless, and may even seem awkward. His wife Alek seems to walk away after only a few seconds with no hugs and no tears.
That's because life is different in their native Sudan.
"Living in Sudan is like living in hell," Gabriel said.
Gabriel says that's because the government is strict, even abusive. Public affection is viewed differently.
He was lucky to get away as part of the "Lost Boys of Sudan Movement" - coming to Louisville several years ago.
Getting his wife and daughter permission to come over cost $6,000… not to mention a great deal of time waiting on immigrations.
Rabbi Robert Slosberg of Congregation Adath Jeshurun helped make it happen.
"It's been really an act of love from my congregation," he said.
It's also been an act of acceptance. His congregation is Jewish - Gabriel and his family are Christian.
"He gave a speech 11 months ago to our congregation and mentioned that his wife and daughter were still stuck in the Middle East and was working to bring them over and I was just so touch, especially since he hadn't met his daughter," the Rabbi said.
And the congregation worked to raise the money, allowing for the two to finally be side by side with their daughter. As for what they'll do now, Gabriel said, "I'm very overwhelmed! I have a lot going on! But I will let them rest because they have not rested for 3 days so when we get home I will let them shower and they will get to eat something and then I will let them go to bed and get rested!"
Gabriel officially became an American citizen in 2006.
He graduated from Murray State University and currently works two jobs, one at Republic Bank and another at Home Depot.
He says once his family is rested, they'll go out and explore the area… finally, being together in their new permanent city of residence.