April 25, 2014, was a monumental day for Jones Koffa.
For most couples, their wedding day is planned months to years in advance. For most couples, the wedding day -- and the many days after -- are spent together in celebration.
For Koffa, 35, he knew he wanted to marry Amelia Koffa, the woman he spent six years with. But he never thought he would marry her in Liberia on April 25 and then pack his bags to leave for America as an immigrant just hours later.
Koffa said he knew he had to make Amelia his documented spouse before leaving for America in order for her to come later. Amelia didn’t join him in America until this last week when the U.S. Consulate in Monrovia, Liberia, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted her permission to immigrate to the United States.
Nov. 21 -- the day she arrived -- was a date that could top April 25.
“From the moment I saw her, I could see something in her and I knew I would take her as my wife,” Koffa said. “And I knew we would succeed in life.”
The Liberian couple’s time to succeed together had finally come. On Sunday, members of First Lutheran Church, as well as family members and close friends of the couple, gathered to recognize it.
Hanging on the door was a wooden sign: “Welcome to our home! Enter with a happy heart.”
The couple beamed as they were the first to cut into a cake decorated with “Congratulations Jones and Amelia!” Two and a half years earlier, Koffa had eaten his wedding cake at the same table without his wife by his side.
Koffa’s mother, Anna Furkay, stood beside the two with pride. But it hasn’t always been celebration and easy times for Furkay, who fled to America as a refugee from the Civil War in Liberia.
The war destroyed much of Liberia’s infrastructure and separated the eight children she had to leave behind. Furkay lost two of them. One was killed in war and the other died during childbirth due to poor medical care.
“She didn’t know which of her family was still alive,” said Megan Morrow, who has assisted Furkay in America since 2005. “She didn’t know where a lot of her family was until she applied for resettlement. She was literally winning the lottery when she got to come to the United States.”
Morrow, assistant to the bishop of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has watched Furkay grow from working at a meat packing plant in Lexington to becoming a U.S. citizen and moving to Lincoln.
Furkay’s sheer fortitude and determination is something Morrow admires.
“She’s just very persistent and hardworking and stubborn,” Morrow said with a laugh. “There are so many people who would have been so discouraged and beaten down by the circumstances.”
Morrow said Furkay now has three children who have conquered the immigration process and made it to America. Another one of Koffa’s sisters is hoping to be able to join the family with her children soon.
“They’re not only surviving, but they’re thriving,” Morrow said.
Furkay still struggles to write and read English, but gives back in the ways she knows how. When she heard of any community members who had a death in the family, Furkay was there to comfort them.
Koffa is a custodian with Lincoln Public Schools. He has helped First Lutheran Church with his brother Julius -- giving out the same school kits they received as children in Africa. Together they reach out and connect others with services they've taken advantage of at First Lutheran.
Before Koffa's hard work in America, he had to work hard to land his dream girl. Not long after they met, he told Amelia he would marry her.
"I did good, didn't I?" Koffa said to the friends he made in Lincoln as he watched Amelia walk into the airport. "I told her I would get her."
Amelia's immediate reaction to Lincoln: "It's very cold." Despite her distaste for the weather, she's ready to start her new life in her new home.
“It’s awesome; everyone is rejoicing,” she said. "Seeing Jones with flowers in his hands and coming to me -- I was so excited. He’s a good man. He encourages me.”
Reunited with the love of his life, Koffa said the possibilities are endless.
“This is life, you never know where’s it’s going to take you,” he said, smiling.