Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three more years

by Jen Bradbury

Natalie with Jen and Doug
When we stepped off the bus in Kiziba Refugee Camp, the first person I saw was Natalie. We first met Natalie when we visited Kiziba with the 2011 team. At the time, Natalie was one of the members of JCM, the Christian youth group in Kiziba who International Teams partners with. She was an innovative entrepreneur, figuring out ways to make extra money in order to supplement her family's meager UN rations. She was eager and hopeful, sure that she and her family would soon be resettled in another country, able to start a new life there.

Three years later, Natalie is still in Kiziba. She's still an active member of (and leader) within JCM. She's still selling beautiful handmade necklaces and clothing in order to supplement her family's meager UN food rations. She's still hopeful that a new life will be found when her family is resettled to another country. She even knows this country will be Canada; She found that out two years ago. And yet, she waits - Stuck in Kiziba as she navigates the incredibly slow process of resettlement, waiting on things she cannot control herself.

In contrast, compare this to my life in the last three years. Since the last time I was in Rwanda, I've traveled... To Canada, the Grand Canyon, and other places. I've continued working in a job that I love, that brings me immense joy and fulfillment. I took several classes and conducted a major research project in order to complete a Master's Degree. I even wrote a book. In the last three years, my life has changed, in big and small ways.

Yet, in three years time, Natalie's life really hasn't.

Such is the plight of a refugee - a person with no place to call home. Like the other 18,000 refugees in Kiziba, as much as she might like to, Natalie can't go home. To do so would risk the safety of her family. Instead, she's stuck in Kiziba, waiting for another country to show her mercy & alllow her to resettle there.

In the midst of this, what continues to amaze me is Natalie's hope. The last thing she said to Doug and I as we climbed into our Coaster bus was "Next time I see you, it will not be in Kiziba!"

What gives a person who is, in every way, stuck such hope?

The answer, I think is best summed up by something another refugee, Grodya, the president of JCM reminded us of yesterday: "Jesus Christ is King everywhere."

Regardless of where Natalie and the scores of other refugees in Kiziba have lived, currently live, or will one day live, they know - absolutely - that Jesus Christ is King everywhere. It is that simple fact that sustains them, even when their actual circumstances lend themselves to despair.

I don't know how life will change for me - or any of those on our team - over the next three years but I do know this: It will change, rapidly.

In the midst of such rapid change, may we, like Natalie and Grodya, remember that Jesus Christ is King everywhere; That Jesus Christ is Lord - yesterday, today, and tomorrow.


  1. I wondered if you would see anyone you met last time. I bet you had a moment of happiness as you recognized her but then also felt disappointment for her that she was still there. Thanks for sharing that Jen.

    Also a big thank you to Doug for all the pictures!

  2. Jen, I hope I remember your writing and Natalie's story when I am in a position to "wait" for something. Impatience is not the best companion when waiting, Jesus is. Blessings to you all in the next week of your trip.

  3. Our lives do move at a fast pace. We complain about it all the time. And still we are impatient. We want more, bigger, better, faster, now! What are we thinking?

    This is good perspective.

  4. Jen, I'm sorry for Natalie that we were able to write this story. Thanks for putting the refugee situation into perspective for us. Natalie's hope through Jesus Christ is truly inspirational!

  5. Ahhh, Natalie. Selfishly, I'm smiling that you had a chance to see her again, even though I'm saddened that she is still waiting. Her response made me smile because it's so typical of a refugee. Every time, I hear someone say something like "I will see you..." I think, "How do they know? How can they say that with such certainty?" You are right, Jen, it's because they know that Jesus Christ is King everywhere. I'm humbled by their unwavering, unquestioning faith.

  6. I love this photo. I could not see it on my phone when I was traveling last week. Now I can see your faces, Natalie's beautiful clothes, the red earth and hilly landscape. Take it all in. You will be home before you know it. You'll want to hold these images in your mind for a long time. I am off to Toronto today, but I always look forward to seeing your pictures and posts from the road.

  7. Hope is in the mind. Hope is in the heart.

  8. Thank you and blessings!