30 Jan Helen’s story, Refugee from Eritrea
When I was a 16 year old girl, I was conscripted into the military. In Eritrea, military service is indefinite for both men and women – you could serve for years and years, with no hope of going home.
One day, my superior found my Bible under my bed in the barracks. I was immediately arrested and imprisoned. The military prison conditions were abhorrent – many people I knew died from malnutrition and disease. After 4 months in prison, I was forced to sign a paper promising not to practice my faith in order to be released from prison. I eventually escaped from the military after serving for seven years. I continued to practice my faith in ‘safe houses’ – until there was a raid and I was arrested again.
During my second term in prison, I was ready to die. One day, me and the other prisoners were collecting firewood in a far off field, and I saw a hole in the ground. I hid in the hole. I knew it was a big risk and I could die if they caught me, but I didn’t care. They searched for me, but they didn’t find me. When I came out, I didn’t know where I was or where I could go. A man happened to drive by who was delivering bread for the soldiers – he took pity on me, fed me bread, and helped me find my cousin. My cousin was an important government official, and he was able to help me obtain a passport to escape to Egypt. I lived in hiding until the day I flew out. Every step of my journey was risky. But I was ready to risk it all.
Do you know why I’m here today? Because God provided a way for me, over and over again. I have been through the fire, but God has never left me.
God provided a way for me in Canada, too. I crossed the border alone with my three young children and my son was very sick. We received a hospital bed for 3 days, and a small couch in a shelter to sleep in after that. When I finally arrived at New Hope, I saw that they had prepared the apartment for me with furniture and sheets on my bed. I felt like I was at the Hilton Hotel. Thank God for all the ways he has provided through the staff and volunteers at New Hope. My children are so happy here. My daughter says that New Hope is her favorite place in the world.