Mariama* was deeply depressed. Her future looked hopeless. She wanted to die because living seemed so hard. Jessica shares Mariama’s story
Mariama was in danger in her homeland, and that’s why she came to Ireland. Her history is a drawn-out tragedy. When she arrived, she had nothing except her daughter, who was about to be born in a foreign land. The midwife who helped with the birth was kind, and so Mariama’s daughter was named after her – a traditional Irish name.
When the first round of restrictions hit in 2020 and everyone had a travel limit of 5 kilometres (and we thought the pandemic would probably last a few weeks!), our Bible study group offered to help bring supplies to residents at a local refugee centre. That’s how we met Mariama. She needed some basics for her baby. When I dropped them off, I told her about our group.
The next time, I offered her a Bible, if she wanted it. She said yes. Then more people wanted them. Now we have given away more than two dozen Bibles to refugees who asked for them. We have done Bible studies with some as well, including Mariama.
When we met Mariama, she had been in Ireland for a couple of years and had yet to receive her initial interview to determine if she would be allowed to stay. Without official status, employers did not want to hire her. Without work, she would not be able to find a place to live outside the refugee centre. She was stuck.
We worked for months to advocate for her but with no progress until early 2021 when we heard that she was finally being scheduled for an interview. But then Covid numbers soared and all interviews were cancelled. After that, all we could get were repetitive answers about closed offices and safety, and “we are not providing remote interviews at this time.” We told Mariama we would pray, and we all did even though we couldn’t see a way through.
… she saw the hand of God at work, directly answering her prayers in a powerful way
Then one day last July, the news came: Mariama finally had a new appointment for her interview. We were all delighted, until news came through that they had decided to postpone it again. We kept on praying, and God answered: the original date was restored at the last minute.
We knew that afterwards there would be more waiting. Decisions on refugee status take months in Ireland, sometimes a year or more. After that, an official letter has to be issued, usually adding more months of waiting. But not for Mariama: her positive decision came through in three weeks, and her official letter a few days later. No-one at the refugee centre had seen anything like it, and they refused to believe it until they had seen the papers in her hand!
Mariama – who by this time had started attending our church and reading her Bible daily – was overawed as she saw the hand of God at work, directly answering her prayers in a powerful way. Her new faith in God was strengthened as she experienced his obvious care and provision for her.
Now, Mariama is in nursing school, and every Sunday she comes to church with her daughter. She still lives in the refugee centre and her life is still difficult in many ways, but there is a difference: it doesn’t feel hopeless anymore. As she put it recently, “For the first time in my life, I feel happy.”
*Names and identities have been changed
Photo above: Jessica and Seth bring fruit supplies to the refugee hostel. Main photo: Ifrah Akhter/Unsplash.
Seth and Jessica Lewis, with their three children, work in church planting in Carrigtwohill, Ireland.