By Ayom Ayom
I was born in South Sudan while the second Sudanese Civil War was raging around my family’s village. My father had left to fight in the war before my birth, leaving my mother to care for my older sister and I. She was forced to flee to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, carrying a two-year-old and newborn. She faced many difficulties along the way. We spent the first seven years of my life living in that refugee camp. We awaited news of my father, but none arrived. Eventually, my mother remarried and gave birth to two more children. Our family moved to a little town outside of Asosa, one of the larger cities in western Ethiopia. Life began to settle-in just a bit; my mother got a job working for the United Nations while my siblings and I attended school and were heavily involved in church. During this time, I accepted Christ and was baptized into the Catholic Church.
But this season in my life was a difficult one; my stepfather was physically abusive towards my mother and us kids. Thus, when my mother was given the opportunity to move to America, we packed up. On November 3, 2005, we landed in Chicago, Illinois. The next day, we boarded a small plane headed for Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was so cold and snowy! My siblings and I enrolled in school, and we quickly picked up English between our studies and episodes of SpongeBob. We also became members of First Evangelical Free Church, where my faith was nurtured.
A year after we arrived in the United States, my mother became very ill and my siblings and I spent much subsequent time taking care of her. Our family was separated and we each bounced between The Children’s Inn and foster care. I became angry and questioned God’s faithfulness. Though my family eventually was reunited, I continued to struggle amid all the instability.
Some of my best friends attended Northwestern College so I quickly made my decision to come here to NWC. I loved going to school with my best friends and I loved the independence that came with college, but I struggled with severe depression my freshman year.
What remained unnamed for quite awhile, I eventually named as intense feelings of abandonment and grief. As I struggled, I found the strength to reflect on my own life. And as pondered, I began to see signs of God’s faithfulness throughout my life. There was so many times that God had placed his people in my life during the most difficult times.
Looking back over my life, I remembered several older women from our Ethiopian refugee camp who would take my siblings and I to church every Sunday and watch over us when my mother left for work. One particularly kind woman read to me until sleep overtook me every night at The Children’s Inn. In high school, a few families made sure I always had a ride to church. My youth pastor and I had lunch together once a week and he became a trusted mentor. When I was experiencing depression, my girlfriend continuously prayed with me and encouraged me to find my identity in Christ. My best friends at Northwestern College became brothers as they walked beside me on a daily basis. A father figure and his family displayed Christ’s love by taking me in as a son and providing me with stability and support.
The unknown looms ahead, but of one thing I am sure: God will be faithful through it all.Ayom, amen! Your story so powerfully and vividly points to the good news that He truly is faithful. “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens; Your faithfulness to the clouds.” (Psalm 36:5)