Walking Through the Fire: 3 Lessons from Refugees
When I stop and really think about it, I take many aspects of my life for granted. I wake up from an untroubled sleep in a comfy bed. I take a shower without worrying about where my water comes from. Then I look through a closet full of clothes and contemplate which outfit I want to wear for the day.
Daya and Nyanpal know what it’s like to be without any of these comforts.
They’ve lived without clean water, a safe place to sleep, or a change of clothes. When war came to their homes, it tore away the lives they knew and turned them into refugees.
The challenges and dangers that Daya and Nyanpal experienced are far beyond anything I have gone through in my life. Yet despite that, both women have so much hope and enthusiasm for their lives.
Today I’m sharing three lessons I learned from my Facebook live conversation with Daya, Nyanpal, and Alicia in honor of World Refugee Day.
Lesson 1: God uses your struggles
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Daya and Nyanpal’s lives were upended by war. In the blink of an eye their childhoods, homes, communities, and hopes for the future were destroyed. While our struggles might not match those of these women, we each experience troubling times in our lives.
In John 16:33 we are told that we will experience trouble. But we are also told that God has overcome the world.
How we react and live during our struggles can impact our lives for years to come. And as Christians, how we respond in times of trouble tells us a lot about our faith.
Here’s what Nyanpal and Daya had to share about their faith in God during the difficult times in their lives as refugees.
Kim: How was your faith affected by what you went through?
Nyanpal: “I will say that when you go through hard times sometimes you question God. You ask, ‘Why is this happening to me? To us?’ There’s some doubt in that moment too. But the only person you can turn yourself to when you go through difficult times is God. In that moment you build so much of a relationship with God.”
Daya: “I would say my faith grew. The conditions in which we lived…without faith, it is so hard, you cannot have the strength. You are coming from a place where you are settled, like my parents especially. We didn’t have that—we weren’t hit so much by being a refugee at a younger age because we didn’t understand what it was. As long as we had mom and dad by our side, yes, we just felt like we were moving from one country to another. But we didn’t know what it means to be refugees. So, to me, I saw it in my parents how having faith was the only thing that kept them going. And when I reached the point at a certain age, I also learned that faith truly is the tool here. So, I would say from that time, my faith really kept growing.”
Takeaway: The next time you experience hardships, turn to God and He will carry you through it.
Lesson 2: You don't have to do it all
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
I come back to this verse several times a year.
There is so much comfort that I take away from knowing that God has prepared things for me to do. He knows my strengths and my weaknesses. And I am always blown away by the fact that I get to wake up each day knowing I get to work for the best Boss ever.
Many of us, myself included, can get sucked into the idea that we need to be in control of every element of our lives in order for our plans to take shape. But God doesn't operate according to our will. He operates according to His will.
Here’s what Nyanpal and Daya had to share about how their dreams were impacted by their circumstances and how God was able to use it all for His good.
Kim: Could you share what you wanted to be when you were little?
Nyanpal: My dream back then, I grew up on a farm. I’m not a city girl. I always just dreamed that I am going to have a big house with my kids. Education back then was not something that was for the girl, it’s not something you could get and then go dream about. But I always dreamed that I could help others too if needed. And still, that’s my dream. That the will of God one day I would be able to go and be there for them.
Daya: Growing up I had a dream. Being inspired by these social workers that were working in the camps and doing all this work. All the work that they did I admired from a young age. That is what I wanted to become since then. What I feel in my heart is to work with people. To work with the needy and help them. I achieved that dream. I’m a social worker as we speak. My other dream is that if I finish this, I have something to give back to the refugees. I want to go back one day one time. And that dream also happened in 2019, when Kingdom Workers made it available for us to go and volunteer.
So I would say the dreams that I had, one as a social worker, and two to go back and give to the refugees, I already achieved them. And I am happy to be where I am at right now. And it all started in the camp. If it was not for that I couldn’t have been who I am or where I am at right now.”
Takeaway: God has a plan for your life, even when it doesn't seem like it.
Lesson 3: Take time to be thankful
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7
One of the most amazing lessons I took away from my conversation with Daya and Nyanpal was their ability to have hope for the future. I could tell that both women were so full of God’s love that they couldn’t help but speak His truths. They live every day and appreciate every moment, understanding it to be a gift from God.
Kim: Can you share what that was like for you—what emotions you experienced getting to go back home?
Nyanpal: Yeah, I went last year. And getting ready, getting prepared, I was super excited to go and overwhelmed. Alicia helped drop us off at the airport, I think she knew how unprepared I was in a way. I just wanted to be in Gambella because that’s where my family were or are now in a way. Seeing my brother, my cousin, my uncle for the first time…at first, I just froze. I don’t know if I should just hug them or just cry or what. But after 27 years of not seeing them, it was overwhelming. And seeing my mom as we went home to where she lives, I just cried and cried and cried. And my little one asked, “What’s wrong mum I thought you were supposed to be happy meeting your family. Why are you crying?” I said that these were happy tears, I am happy to see them. These are happy tears; I am not sad.
It was beautiful. It was blessed. And my mom of course, she’s a role model. She just knows that God is the only way for life. It was beautiful and I’m grateful that God guided us and that we finally got to meet.
Daya: I would say it was a combination of some emotions. Both happy and sad ones. The one that was emotional was meeting my uncle’s wife. My mother’s younger brother who was killed in 2014. As soon as we arrived, the church members were there singing they had water in the basins to wash our feet. That welcoming was so emotional, we could not control it.
It was so emotional for sure, but it was a happy moment, like Nyanpal said, it’s tears of joy. You’re meeting people who are your close family members, but you’ve not seen them before you see them for the first time.
Takeaway: We are surrounded by things to be thankful for. Life would be so much different if instead of worrying or complaining, we took time to thank God for all He has done.
Talking with Daya and Nyanpal was such a blessing, and I was so thankful that Alicia Cortright, our South Sudan Field Manager was able to be there too to share her thoughts and insight. I hope that you also gained something by listening to their conversation or by reading some of their lessons here.
My other hope for you is that you take time to listen to the people around you. Take time to understand another person, take time to hear someone’s story. As you do, I’m certain you will begin to see the many ways in which God is using us to share His love with people around the world.
Kimberly Magsig is the Content Specialist for Kingdom Workers. She enjoys getting to share God's word each day in her work. In her free time she enjoys spending time in nature, trying her hand at cooking new recipes, and having friends over for a game night.