Erneste Muhizi still bears the scars from the attack that killed his father.
On the top of his head is an indentation made by the blade of a machete when rebels descended on his hometown in eastern Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was 8.
"I woke up to someone lifting me up," said Muhizi, now 29. "She told me my mom and dad were dead, and she didn't know where my sisters were."
The woman who rescued Muhizi and got him to a hospital also took him in -- a charitable act that started him on a 20-year odyssey leading to Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and now, improbably, the Philadelphia suburbs.
He and wife Denise, daughter Faith, 5, and foster son Samuel Cyubahiro, 18, arrived here as refugees in November. They've begun their new lives in fraught times, in an American melting pot at a rapid boil over the rightful place of immigrants like themselves.
The Muhizis, though, are not going it alone.
On hand to guide them are congregants of five churches in Radnor Township: St. Mary's Episcopal, Wayne Presbyterian, Radnor Friends Meeting, St. David's Episcopal, and St. Martin's Episcopal. More than 80 volunteers, calling themselves the Main Line Refugee Resettlement Committee, serve as ESL teachers, drivers, chaperones to social services and medical appointments, school liaisons, and job scouts. It is a mission they say their faith commands.
"I was watching the news in the summer of 2015 before going to church, and they were showing refugees fleeing Syria," said Rena Counsellor, a St. Mary's church member who has helmed the effort. "I felt like I needed to do something. I felt like God was speaking to me."
Many of the volunteers say they were inspired during the campaign of President Trump, who promised restrictions on immigration and has delivered, imposing a 90-day travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations and suspending admissions of any new refugees for 120 days. The actions are now tied up in court.
"We've all been so unsettled by the events over the weekend," Carol Kangas, a St. David's church member and ESL teacher, said of the executive order and the protests in its wake. "We are global citizens, we are part of the world. It's our responsibility" to help.
The church committee worked with Bethany Christian Services in Philadelphia, a social service agency authorized by the U.S. State Department to resettle immigrants. Bethany matched the Main Line group with the Muhizis, Counsellor said.
Ever since, the volunteers have scrambled for resources, raising about $20,000 to rent an apartment, buy clothes and food, and cover other expenses. They found employment for Muhizi and his wife, and got Faith and Samuel enrolled in school. Looking ahead, they would like to have a permanent house in which to continue helping settle immigrant families. Social service agencies advise that it takes a year for a family to get on its feet.
This is not uncharted territory for St. Mary's, which in years earlier had sponsored refugees from Poland and Vietnam. But times have changed, and when Counsellor floated the idea in 2015 of hosting another family, about half the congregation was reluctant. Some believed the effort might "bring a terrorist over," she said.
A decision was postponed. But meanwhile, news of Counsellor's proposal circulated to nearby churches and clergy. Before long, four congregations wanted to join in, and the project became a community-wide initiative. About a year later, on Nov. 17, the group greeted the Muhizis at Philadelphia International Airport.
Behind them are years of poverty, political upheaval, and violence. But the memories remain.
In 1996, Erneste Muhizi was living with his parents and two sisters in Uvira, a city on the northern end of Lake Tanganyika, when their neighborhood was attacked by rebels.
"They beat my dad with a machete, and I shouted and they hit me," Muhizi said, pointing to the scars in his head. He recounted the horror haltingly while he sat in his apartment, where he wore a down vest because he is not yet used to winter cold.
Muhizi eventually moved to Mwese, Tanzania, with the woman who took him in, but he left at 17 to look for his family. He traveled to Uganda, making a life for himself by doing odd jobs, and always finding a church to join. He met his wife at one. They married in 2010, and soon moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where their daughter was born the following year.
Muhizi continued to look for his family, but never found them.
He did not find peace in Kenya. In 2012, Muhizi said, he was beaten in the first of two attacks by government operatives seeking information about rebel fighters. In one assault, Muhizi said, he was stuffed into the trunk of a car. Fearful, and eking out only a meager living at a pool hall, he applied for certification with the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
After two years of vetting, the family was days away from leaving when Muhizi spotted Cyubahiro, then 16, sitting on a curb and crying. The story the teenager told Muhizi was a familiar one.
His father had been killed in an attack on his Congolese village. The remainder of his family was captured by rebels, who separated them and forced the boys into labor. Cyubahiro's brother was killed. Fearing he would be the next to die, Cyubahiro ran away.
"I didn't stop until I got to Uganda," he said. A family friend helped him reach Nairobi but left him there. Then he met Muhizi, and the two discovered their shared roots.
"I came home with Samuel," Muhizi recounted, "and my wife said, 'Who is this?' I said, 'I found him. I must help him.' "
The couple made plans to bring Cyubahiro with them to the United States, but he had not yet been vetted. When informed that approvals would take another two years, "I said, 'I will wait,'" Muhizi recounted. "I couldn't just leave him."
Since their arrival, employment has been the biggest challenge.
A job at a local florist shop fell through because Muhizi is allergic to flowers. Now he works part-time gathering carts and bagging groceries at an area supermarket. He hopes to one day attend college.
"We come to survive, to work, to help America, to pay taxes, to be a good citizen," Muhizi said.
Cyubahiro is a ninth grader at Radnor High School, and grateful for the chance to get an education. But he is saddened that the word refugee seems to some an expletive.