Samira Page, founder of Gateway of Grace, a nonprofit that serves refugees, is a force to be reckoned with in Dallas, Texas, where she helps people assimilate, find employment and secure affordable housing after they come to America.
But its her powerful personal story that started decades ago in her native Iran that only adds to the intrigue surrounding her work.
It was there, inside the restrictive, Islamic country, that Page said she experienced a vision as a child that forever changed her spiritual trajectory. Growing up as a nominal Muslim, she had very little experience with the Christian faith.
“When I was 6, I had a vision of the Virgin Mary and I had no idea who she was,” Page recently told Faithwire. “There was this huge rock — this lady came from behind a rock, she took my hand and she said she was Mary.”
Page said that the vision was quite clear and that it unfolded during the day, though she wasn’t aware of what it meant at the time due to her young age.
Still, it piqued her curiosity about Mary, Jesus and the Christian faith more generally — a level of interest that only increased after she saw the 1943 film, “The Song of Bernadette,” a movie about a French woman who had visions of Mary and later became a Catholic saint.
“God planted those seeds in my heart,” Page explained.
Eventually, Page and her family fled Iran 19 years ago. But, like many refugees, she found herself in a desperate situation. After arriving in Mexico, where she stayed for a year, Page said she and her family were left in dire straits.
“Smugglers left us in the middle of Mexico with nothing,” she said.
But, looking back, Page now believes that God provided for her and her family “in amazing and powerful ways,” explaining that, after a year, the family applied for asylum and moved to the U.S. And just one day after arriving in America, she connected with a Christian church and never looked back.
“Six months later, I became a Christian,” Page said. “There wasn’t a [singular] moment … it was an ongoing process that led me to submit finally to Christ.”
Page’s story took a number of other turns, though, as she soon went to seminary and eventually began to pray to God, asking what he wanted her to do with her life. That’s when she started looking more intensely at the services available to refugees in Dallas, weighing her own experience in the process.
“I was a refugee myself and I started looking at what was available to refugees in North Texas,” Page said. “I noticed that there were not many systematic ways of mobilizing churches in a holistic way … for the transformation of lives.”
What soon evolved was a full-time ministry for Page, with the launch of Gateway of Grace, an organization that serves refugees. The nonprofit officially became a 501(c)(3) organization just three years ago, but already the accomplishments are mounting.
The name itself is a testament to the heart of Christianity and the idea that “grace” in and of itself is what differentiates the Jesus-centered faith from all others. As for Gateway of Grace’s biggest accomplishment, Page said it centers on the fact that the mission has brought over 80 churches together to unify and “do God’s work.”
And that work is relatively limitless, considering the vast and sweeping needs of the refugee population.
“I go to a lot of meetings, I do a lot of praying … I share my testimony, because that’s really the one thing that God has given me to show the power of church, the transformation of lives through the gospel,” Page said. “We build a lot of relationships through our refugees. We teach them English, we teach them American standards and values, we help them assimilate, we help them find jobs, we help them connect with their children’s schools.”
Gateway of Grace also serves refugees’ spiritual needs, hosting a Wednesday night worship services for persecuted Christians and for Muslims who are interested in the Bible. Additionally, the organization recently started a worship band in Farsi.
Page, who can relate to the refugees who come to America scared, alone and without resources, said that she is deeply moved and curious as to what God has planned for the individuals and families whom she works with.
“When I look at a refugee woman, child or man I say, ‘I wonder what God has for them,’” Pahe said, before sharing the story of one woman she recently helped.
That woman — a mother of five whose husband was kidnapped by ISIS — was working in the U.S. at McDonald’s last year when Page and her organization came alongside them, helping with low-income housing and with securing grants for the children to attend private Christian school.
“We started helping them … and then any needs that they had, they kept coming back to our Wednesday night worship. … eventually they started going to church,” Page said. “A few months ago she told me that she believed Jesus was the son of God.”
In the end, Page said she’s honored to be a part of these peoples’ stories.
“When I look at my life and when I look at the life of these refugees … it’s a privilege to be part of that,” she said.