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From Conflict to Community

August 14, 2017

At the age of 11 years old, my family and I migrated to the UK escaping one of the deadliest conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has since claimed the lives of over 6 million people.

We were lucky to make it out alive, many of our friends and family were lost during the conflict. We came to the UK under my dad’s student visa, who was then doing his MA in Conflict Resolution at the University of Bradford. His intention was to return home after his studies and utilize his new knowledge to equip the Conflict Resolution Centre, a community-based peace organization that he co-founded with my mom. Settling in the UK was certainly not easy and amongst the many challenges faced, the weather and language barrier were testing.

 

After going to school and being forced to learn, my confidence began to increase but I also had to come to terms with the trauma I had encountered as a child growing up in a war zone. Just as I began to make friends and when things had started to look up, my family received the dreadful letter from the Home Office – we would be deported in less than two weeks due to my dad’s student visa expiring. During the same period, family and friends in Congo were urging us not to return. Everything we had left behind was lost and the situation back home had deteriorated. The idea of going back looked bleak and we were stuck in a limbo of uncertainty. This was a very dark time for my family. I personally remember feeling very unwanted, rejected and out of place. I felt like I didn’t belong here in the UK, or in my home country. And yet, I still remember seeing a glimpse of hope and love in the community of people who cared for us, welcomed us into their homes and showed us kindness and comfort.

 

In this trying time we drew ever so close to God individually and as a family, for guidance, wisdom and a sense of peace. We applied for asylum and waited patiently to receive news. Thankfully only a month later, a period which felt like an eternity, we heard that we had been granted the leave to remain. Ecstatic and grateful, we now faced a new barrier to rebuilding our lives in the UK – employment. It took a very long time for my parents to secure paid work. I often remember having to rely on food donations as we had no idea where our next meal would come from. Again and again, we saw the mighty hand of God in our lives as the provider and lifter of our burdens. He met our every need in a miraculous way, day by day. A Radiologist and Psychologist in Congo, their professions were no longer valid in the UK. Despite their unemployment, both my parents volunteered tirelessly for a number of community organizations locally which helped them meet new people, gain new skills and improve their English.  Even in their distress, they still found time to serve others and this impacted me tremendously, and before I knew it I too began following in their footsteps at the age of 15.


Fast-forward 10 years and I’m now working for Reach Beyond as the Centre Manager for the Millside Centre in Bradford, the city I call home. Here, my passion for people meets God’s desire to transform lives through love and compassion. I’ve come a long way and could never dream I would be where I am today. Life has not been easy but God has always remained steadfast. That motivates me to keep serving, giving and seeing people through the eyes of Jesus. I’m always reminded to plant seeds of hope each day with each individual I come into contact with and to watch God do extraordinary things with my mustard seed faith. It’s a huge privilege to be the voice and hands of Jesus, and to have an opportunity to give back and know that I have something positive to contribute to my community, with the help of God.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu





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Written by Furaha Mussanzi