Fleeing Home: Finding Hope in the Gospel

Debbie's trip to AIUMy journey to Africa International University began with a desire to prevent suffering for people like Esther.* Esther fled her home in Liberia when civil war wracked the country. She sought refuge in neighboring Ivory Coast, only to flee again when that country experienced significant political unrest. Ghana provided Esther with temporary shelter in a refugee camp while she waited for “the powers that be” to determine her fate. She could not return home, so where would she go? Eventually, she was sent to the United States for permanent resettlement.

I met Esther while working at a refugee resettlement agency in Minnesota. She was studying to be a nurse’s aid. Unfortunately, because of her strong West African accent she couldn’t find a job, even when she received her certification. This meant she also couldn’t afford to pay rent, and her landlord wanted her out. Esther had worked so hard to settle in the United States, but she had exhausted her means. Fortunately, I found a nonprofit that provided free housing to women without children and agreed to take Esther in. She would have one year to become financially independent.

While at the agency, I met many other refugees. Starting over in a foreign land was extremely difficult for some of them, especially the older ones. They went from being engineers to factory workers, from doctors to nurse’s aides, or—without English—to unemployed. As I came to know how drastically their lives had changed, my life began to change too.

I knew that helping refugees settle in a new country was very important, but I realized that it was only a “Band-Aid.” It did not prevent the violence that caused the trauma of being a refugee. Prevention, I believed, would only come through changed hearts that refused to participate in destructive, oppressive practices and chose to fight them instead. This level of change ultimately comes through the gospel.

I wanted to help bring that heart change, so I enrolled in AIU’s Christian Education program. My goal was to lay a theological foundation on which I could pursue Christian publishing. This is an area in which I, as a Westerner, can contribute to the dissemination of God’s word in Africa.

While at AIU I met other students who were partnering with me to root Africa in the gospel. I know that they will do more for this cause than I ever will. Since graduation, my classmates have gone on to start a Bible school in Liberia, to help lead a denomination in Burundi, to pastor a church in Uganda, to teach Muslim outreach in Ethiopia, to represent the Mennonite Central Committee in Uganda, and to help coordinate a leadership and reconciliation ministry in Kenya.

These are the leaders whom you have equipped to save lives in Africa—spiritually and physically. Thank you! By partnering with these leaders, you are bringing the gospel to people who receive eternal salvation and a new life here on earth. May their new lives help prevent violence and spare refugees like Esther the tragedy of fleeing their homes.

In Christ,

Debbie Johnson
CLA Board Member

PS – Don’t miss the opportunity to help more refugees like Esther live in peace. Provide a scholarship for an AIU student, who will transform hearts and lives through the power of the Spirit.

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* Name changed for privacy.