Friday, April 24, 2009

A refugee story . . .

Just when I think I have grown accustomed to the rhythms of this life in Georgia, a woman pours out her heart and shakes me from my serenity.

Today I was working with the bead class in the auditorium and several women in the sewing room. As the day drew to a close, only a single elderly lady and I remained. We are friends now, after many weeks of working together in The Refugee Sewing Society. We were chatting in Swahili about our families, about America, about this and that. Then I asked a single question. "Did you live in Somalia many years?"

Suddenly she began to talk with great animation and emotion as she acted out a story complete with sound effects. I followed, trying to understand Swahili phrases I had forgotten or never knew. I asked many questions, wanting to know exactly what had happened to her. Here is what she said.

I was asleep in my house with my husband and children. Soldiers came into our village. The Shufta -- AK47-toting renegades --began to burn houses and shoot people. I yelled to my children, "Run! Run!" They ran into the brush outside the village. The Shufta dragged my father from his house and shot him. With my own eyes, I saw them shoot my father! Yes, with my own eyes! Then they took me from my house and tore off all my clothes. Three of them raped me.

Dead people lay all around me. I crawled on my hands and knees through the dead people. I was badly injured, so I could not stand up. I had no clothes. Finally, I took some clothes from a dead person and put them on. At last I found my children and my husband. We went to Kenya and stayed in Kakuma Refugee Camp on the border of Somalia. I was very sick and in much pain.My daughter and her family flew together with me to Omaha, Nebraska. It's very cold there! I went to the doctor. He saw my bad injuries. He gave me some medicine, but I told him that the real wound is in my heart and in my spirit. I can never heal there. I cry a lot, and my children ask me, "Mama, why are you crying?" But I can't tell them what happened to me.

Now we live in an apartment in Georgia. My husband is still in Kenya in the refugee camp. I want him to come to America, but he can't. His papers are not right.

This is what I want to know -- Why? Why did this happen to me? For what reason? I always ask God why! Why? Why? But I do not hear the answer.

As she finished speaking, I put my arms around her and held her. I don't have the answers to her questions. I can't heal the wounds in her heart and spirit. But I do know Someone who can. Please pray for my friend.As I was leaving, another Somali friend came into the room. She wanted to say good-bye to me, because her family is moving to Arizona. We hugged and then parted, and she looked into my eyes and spoke a Swahili proverb. "Two mountains cannot come together. But two people can come together." Amen.

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