I first met Lara* a year ago when I was asked by a local refugee organization to help with a program to support teen mothers. Her story was very similar to many of the other over 100 unaccompanied minors in the program. At a young age, she fled from a country at war only to find herself living in a second war zone, before landing in our country. She rode questionable buses and walked for days while searching for a new life and new hope. Our country was not all she had hoped for.
Shortly after arriving, Lara, like the majority of those in the program, became a victim of sexual violence and found herself alone and pregnant in a new country. As an unwed mother she was shamed and forced out of her neighbourhood. She had no support during her pregnancy and birth and needed the help of a refugee organization to hire a lawyer to navigate the difficulties of getting a birth certificate for her daughter in a country where a birth without a father is not recognized.
Lara had been chosen by the refugee organization to be one of four young mothers to participate in a breastfeeding support training program. I would train these four women so they, in turn, could meet with and support other young, single refugee mothers. When I first met Lara, her daughter was six-months-old. Lara was very shy and soft spoken, she was a fast learner, soaking up the teaching with enthusiasm. She quickly started implementing what she learned while meeting with other young mothers in the program.
After several weeks of training, I found myself alone with Lara for the first time as we waited for the others to join us. It was clear Lara wanted to talk. She removed her face veil, making it easier for me to see her face and understand her words as she spoke a different dialect of Arabic than I had learned. Her face was full of emotion and her eyes filled with tears as she shared some of her story with me. I sat and listened, unsure of how to respond.
When she finished, she sighed and shook her shoulders like a weight had been lifted off her. With inquisitive eyes she asked me, “Why would you come here? Why would you ever leave Canada and bring your daughters here?” This led me to share a bit of my story and of my desire to follow God’s good plan for my life. This was just the beginning of the many conversations I have been able to have with Lara and the other trainees about God and His deep love for them. I have been able to pray God’s blessing over them and they have shyly asked if I could put their names on the prayer wall in our apartment.
These days I meet with Lara weekly. I continue to do training on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and nutrition. We have also added English lessons to our training. Lara and the other trainees have flourished in sharing their knowledge and training by supporting over 100 other single refugee mothers from their people groups. Lara has also finished high school and has a dream to study and become a doctor specializing in maternal health.
There is light in Lara’s eyes these days as she has begun to dream and to believe she is loved as the small seeds of the Gospel are slowly being planted in her heart.
Dave and Jen serve a unique group of least-reached people called North Africans. After graduating from Ambrose, they served at an Alliance church. In 2012, Global Ministries approached Dave and Jen with a wonderful opportunity to serve in the Desert Sand region as international workers (IWs). They have served there with his family for six years. Learn more at cmacan.org/djd