The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


First asylum, then baptism

Liberian librarian knows this well: 'We live by the grace of God'

In the middle of the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, N.Y., St. Luke Lutheran draws more of a global congregation than most churches.

“We are forced to constantly be open to new people here,” said Rick Bair, pastor.

The Ivy League school provides a steady stream of newcomers to the 900-member church founded by Lutheran university students in 1913. Liberian graduate student Saah Quigee started coming here in summer 2001. The Cornell law library assistant quickly fit into the church community and helped out when needed.

“He was the pleasant, helpful guy who folded the weekly bulletins,” Bair said. “I doubt many people knew the depths of despair he had been through.”

The Quigee family of St. Luke Lutheran
The Quigee family of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Ithaca, N.Y., visits with their pastor, Rick Bair. Saah Quigee (far right), who sought asylum in the U.S. to escape death in Liberia, came first—four years ago. With the help of St. Luke members, the rest have joined him: wife Jestina (center) and their children (from left): Leeila, Jimmy, Abbas and Jo-an. This month marks one year in the U.S. Next month, they celebrate the anniversary of their baptisms. New asylum laws would make thisreunion unlikely today.
Quigee, who faced more difficult matters than most on the campus in his first few years in Ithaca, said, “We live by the grace of God and we need to serve him.”

The then 40-year-old Quigee narrowly escaped death in his civil war-torn country before coming to the U.S. “Every day there was killing,” said Quigee of the violence carried out by rebel groups.

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