Innocent and Beatrice looked at each other, not sure that they had heard the news right. “We are leaving the refugee camp—and going to America?”
The official nodded. “You will leave soon. Be ready.”
Innocent and Beatrice had lived in refugee camps for 13 years. Life in the camp was difficult and often dangerous. Their home was plastic sheeting held up by sticks. Often they had little food or clean water. At times they slept in open fields to avoid gangs who roamed the camps robbing and killing. They wondered if their children would ever know a normal life.
Keeping a Promise
Innocent had grown up watching his father share God’s love with others. One day soldiers took his father away and killed him for his faith. Innocent promised God that he would carry on his father’s work.
During even the most difficult years that followed, Innocent and his family refused to let go of their faith. They shared God’s love with others, teaching them the Bible and leading them to Christ. When they could get permission to leave the camp, Innocent led a group who wanted to be baptized on a four-hour trek through the jungle to the nearest Adventist church for the baptism. After the baptism they walked back to the camp.
One day word came that rebels were heading their way. “We must leave!” Innocent told his family. Quickly they gathered what they could carry and hurried down the path. Behind them Rwandan soldiers followed the fleeing refugees, protecting them from the rebels who swarmed like angry bees.
For two weeks the family marched on with thousands of other refugees, exhausted, hungry, and desperate. But when they reached Tanzania, they discovered that the conditions there were even worse than those they had left behind. There was no food, no tarps for shelter, and no aid agencies prepared for their arrival. The children cried from hunger and suffered with sickness.
But Innocent never forgot his promise to God. Once settled, he helped organize Bible study and worship groups throughout the camp. Many people heard the story of Jesus through the family’s efforts.
A New Home
Then in 2007 the family learned that they had been approved to settle in America. Joy and uncertainty flooded their hearts, but they promised God that they would never forget how He had protected them during the difficult years they’d spent without a homeland.
The family traveled to America, a land they had heard so much about, a land filled with hope and promise. They were given an apartment in which to live and a few items to start their new life. The government helped them pay their rent and buy food as they struggled to learn a new language and adapt to a culture and customs they didn’t understand. But the social worker assigned to help them had far too many other refugees to help. So they struggled on alone.
The neighborhood where they lived was a dangerous place. A gang of teens threatened the children in school and on the street. One day as Innocent returned home from work, a gang attacked him. One of them threw a rock that struck Innocent in the head, permanently blinding him in one eye. But Innocent urged his family to forgive those who taunted them.
New Mission Field
Innocent and his family continue to cling to God. They seek people with whom to share God’s love. As they find refugees in their area who speak their language, Innocent invites them to his home for Bible studies. “Many people have questions about God, and they want answers. So it’s easy to find people who will study with us,” he says.
Beatrice is trying to learn English so she can share God’s love with the people with whom she works. “I give them a pamphlet to read and answer their questions,” she says. “My English is not so good yet, but I want my friends to know about Jesus.”
In the past three years Innocent and Beatrice have rejoiced as six people they have introduced to Christ have been baptized. Others are preparing for baptism.
“When I see my father again, I want to introduce him to the people I introduced to Jesus,” he says. “I know he will be glad.”
This quarter part of our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help fund a number of projects to help reach the millions of refugees who now make North America their home. Thank you for sharing with those who need to hear the message of God’s love. ⎭