Below is an email sent from Evelyn Lyles, our property missionary to Astoria Park and Greenacres, to one of the groups from The Fellowship of Huntsville who worked here during Big Week. This gives a glimpse of what some of the refugee families we work with have been through.
Dear Sharon and the Huntsville youth group mission team:
Thank you for coming to Amarillo and for working with our students at Green Acres/Astoria Park Apartments. They loved you! I could tell that some of the students really bonded with you; they always love the high school/college students that come. They always ask when more will come.
Sharon and one of the youth boys donated money toward back packs and school supplies for two families. I wanted to tell you this story that Morris’s father shared with me when I went to tell him of this donation.
Morris’s dad is named Jean. He has been disappointed that the apartment manager has not fixed a leak in his apartment—a leak that is leaking a full stream of hot water into the tub and has leaked full stream for over a month and was a smaller leak before that. There is mold growing and the bathroom is very steamy. This family has been going across the street to another apartment rather than using their own bathroom. On the first day of your Mission group, Morris’s dad was not available for Morris when the backyard Bible club ended. Instead he had taken baby sister to the doctor as she had slipped into the bathroom unnoticed and got too hot and went limp. While they were at the doctor’s office, a neighbor called dad and said an unknown man had Morris and they were scared. Dad took a taxi and came back home as quickly as he could because he was unsure who was with Morris. It was Jeff Parsons with Morris and they were looking for dad or a safe place to leave Morris. Jeff was on the phone with me and we were discussing alternatives.
The day I told dad about the back pack donation, he shared that he thought he would need to move because of the bathroom (although the City of Amarillo is intervening now to get repairs made). Since the hot water ran for well over a month, the electricity bill is very high. Another reason for a possible move is that Jean fears some of the troubles in the Congo have followed him here to America. He is fearful and paranoid. He believes someone is trying to harm his family. He is cordial to friends there at the apartment, but he does not allow himself to get too close to them as he is unsure who he can trust. Someone has turned him in to CPS 4 times and CPS has threatened to take the children, but after researching it, they can never find anything wrong. I have noticed that Jean and his wife are good parents.
His trouble in the Congo was due to his being “mixed”. He explained that his father was Congolese and his mother was Rwandan. There are many ethnic wars in Africa. Jean lived in the Congo, but with his ties to Rwanda, many were suspicious of him that he had political ties to the Rwandan people. His father’s mother also was not Congolese, so it was complicated. His parents owned a compound (small farm with 2-3 small houses). Soldiers and rebels kept harassing the family on this compound. Once Jean had to be away for a couple days. When he returned, he found that the rebels had killed his mother and hung her head in the tree outside the house. Inside he found that his father, elder brother, and younger brother had been killed. He was angry and hurt and wanted to go kill the bad soldiers. He said to himself that he could not go after them because he was “under God”. After a short time, soldiers came to the house where Jean lived. His wife told him to hide under the bed and she would get the soldiers to leave. She told them that he was volunteering at the Youth Center. The soldiers left. Jean knew he needed to go into hiding. He left his family. After a few days, he sneaked back home. He learned that his wife had been stabbed and left for dead while she was washing the clothes at the river. She was pregnant. A neighbor found her and got her to the doctor. Two days later she “put out the baby”. The baby was born healthy and the baby was Morris. Another time the soldiers came and they killed Jean’s first-born son and cut out his organs and threw them about. Jean and his wife knew that they must seek help. They appealed to the United Nations. They went “under the UN” and began a wait. They were in a refugee camp where they were interviewed and the story had to be substantiated. Then they waited for a country to “want them”. The United States arranged for them to come to America. Before they left, they were also “wanted” by Australia. They declined Australia as they were already making their plans for the United States.
They are happy here. Jean had an injury while working for Tyson Meat Processing and has been out of work for 3 months. His wife works and he takes care of the children. He is looking for a new job. He knows he needs college. He finished the university in Africa and was ready to start his master degree, but here in America, he must start over and get a GED. He plans to start GED training in the fall semester. His children are doing well in school. Morris will start school this fall. In all of the time that Jean told me this story, he remarked numerous times of how God is with him and how glad he is to be a Christian. His faith is strong regardless of his losses. He was wearing a T-shirt with the saying, “Christ died for me, so I could live for Him.”
It is stories like these that make it rewarding to work with these families. I hope that you also felt these rewards as you came to work for a week with our Amarillo families and make repairs for native Amarillo people. May God continually bless you as you have blessed others!