As a young boy, Danay Moo lived in a refugee camp in Southeast Asia rated by the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants as one of the worst places in the world for refugees. Victims of ethnic and religious cleansing, his family had fled from their home country into the refugee camp when he was only 2 years old. He remembers carrying water in buckets from a river about two miles away for cooking, drinking, dishes, clothes, and showers.
In 2010, Danay and his family had the privilege of being among only one percent of all refugees who have the opportunity to resettle to a third country. Danay was about 7 at the time. They came to Clarkston, Georgia, a city identified by Time magazine as the most diverse square mile in the U.S., due to its large, diverse refugee population.
“My family and I didn’t really know any English, and at the apartment complex there wasn’t anybody else who spoke our language. . . and it was not very safe.” Danay says, describing what it was like when they first arrived. “There were gangs.”
Then someone told his family about a church school and a woman named Kelli Czaykowski, a wife and mother with a heart for helping refugee children attend Seventh-day Adventist schools. Czaykowski currently has 62 refugee children in Adventist schools.
Czaykowski was happy to look for — and was able to find — a sponsor for Danay, and soon he was in Duluth Adventist Christian School, a school established 50 years ago.
When asked why he wanted to attend church school, Danay replied, “In public school, we don’t learn about God, and I wanted to learn about God.”
And learn he did. Two years ago he was the first in his family of nine to be baptized.
“Danay made an impression on me immediately!” his teacher, Kassandra Fernandez, told Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries in a phone interview. “He is willing, helpful, and kind. He’s eager to learn, eager to help, and he’s just a good student all-round.”
Already during this school year, Danay has received three awards — one for perfect attendance, one for spiritual leadership in his class, and an award for being on the principal’s honor roll.
“I’m really happy," says Danay, "because people here understand us and treat us like family.”
This article originally appeared in Adventist Review, February 2017.