The following story is from Missy Ward, who was commissioned as one of CBF’s field personnel Thursday evening at the 2012 CBF General Assembly. Ward will be serving full-time in Uganda, where she served in 2010 with the Fellowship’s Student.Go program for college and graduate students.
In the fall of 2010, I had the opportunity to serve for a semester in Kampala, Uganda, with CBF field personnel Jade and Sheila Acker. I just fell in love with Uganda. I fell in love with refugee work. I fell in love with my students, and I just really connected with them. I became a part of their families.
I would frequently spend time with my students outside of the classroom, whether that was drinking coffee or sharing a meal together. And I loved spending time with them and building relationships.
I had a couple of students who approached me as we built trust over a course of several months, and we built trust with one another. And these students approached me and shared with me their stories and shared with me how they were still being affected by violence.
One student – a Rwandese refugee, a young girl who was 18 years old. And because she only spoke a few words of English she couldn’t be placed in the larger English classes. So I tutored her; and we worked together for about an hour a day, several days a week. She worked to learn conversational phrases, such as “My name is Mary. I am from from Rwanda.”
It was just really beautiful because over time, although we didn’t share the same language, we built a relationship, and we built trust with one another. So after about five or six weeks, Mary came to the center one day, and we were just about to start class that day. And, she was flipping through her notebook getting ready to start our conversational phrases. I saw a lot of writing in her notebook. I said, “Mary, what is this?” And she just handed it to me. It was a letter addressed to me, but it basically outlined the story of her life, and explained that she grew up as an orphan in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
She was born during the genocide in Rwanda, and her parents fled as refugees from Rwanda into the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. And then the war started three years later. She was three, and her parents made the difficult decision that a lot of refugee parents have to make is – how do we flee in this war with children. And I’m not sure if they had other children.
And unfortunately, they did leave her. And she grew up without adequate shelter, without adequate protection, without adequate food and experienced sexual violence and experienced physical violence.
She wrote this all in this letter. And at the end of the letter, she said, ”I’m in Kampala now, but the family that I’m staying with are moving, and they can’t afford to house me, they can’t afford to feed me. She said, ‘Teacher, please help me. I want to be able to have a good life. I want to be able to be productive in my society. I want to be able to give back to my society. Teacher, please help me.’”
And that was just one of the most difficult experiences to hear. About how her life had been so profoundly affected by war and violence and how there were no resources for her to help her in Kampala; there were no resources to assist female refugees who were effected by violence or who are continuing to experience violence.
And her story has definitely continued to impact me. It’s continued to inspire me because God has broken my heart for Mary and the Marys of the world, particularly those that live in Kampala, Uganda.
So many have experienced so much trauma in their lives, who have experienced so much injustice and who continue to experience injustice.