Justine and her three children were Congolese refugees seeking a better life when they arrived in the United States in September, 2012.
At the Indianapolis Airport, there was no one to pick them up so they just stayed there, not knowing where to go, and not knowing whom to call. She was in a place with people who spoke a language she didn’t know.
It was rough beginning for Justine.
But when she showed up at First Baptist Church of Indianapolis, Justine found a place of love, compassion and kindness. “I find family here, I find friends here. This church is my house. My family is at this church,” Justine said.
Justine lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo until she was 11. Political strife and violence forced her family out in 1996 and they ended up in a refugee camp in Kibuye, Rwanda. Justine was pregnant with her third child when her husband died of malaria in 2009. The conditions were harsh in the camp and Justine wanted something better for her children. In 2012, she filed an application with Catholic Charities to come to the United States.
And with a day’s notice, she was on the way to Indianapolis. The family had little more than the clothes on their back.
Justine visited FBC Indy soon after she and her children arrived in Indianapolis. “After my husband died, I continued to go to church on Sunday. I continued to pray on Sunday,” Justine said. So finding a church in her new home was important. FBC Indy was near the apartment complex where she was living.
But it wasn’t a situation in which Justine came to the church and made an immediate connection and knew it was the place for her. In fact, there was confusion and bewilderment in adjusting to a Baptist church in the United States.
“It was different for me to see it the first time,” Justine said. “The language was different. Everything was different.” This included the worship service, which at her Pentecostal church in Africa often included drums and dance.
The first Sunday that Justine attended church it was impossible to communicate because of the language difference. Fortunately, Kenyan natives James and Grace are church members. They were able to interact with Justine and understand her native language of Swahili. That was a beginning.
Members of FBC Indy reached out to Justine and family with transportation, assistance with basic needs, helping her to find work, and familiarizing her with life in the United States. They also supported Justine when her 6-year old daughter, Fabiola, drowned in a pool June 25, 2013, just 10 months after arrival in this country.
“So many people from this church have tried to help in different ways,” Justine said. “With my kids, with teaching me English, with learning about life in this country.”
Justine had to acclimate herself to the language and the contrasting worship service style, but because she stayed at First Baptist Church she discovered something better. “The church is people,” she said. “Being a Christian is what you see in the heart. I see the good people here. It’s the same God, the Bible is the same. Everything is the same. Some things are different than at my other church (in Africa). Everything else is the same.”
Justine with Olivier and Fabrigace.
On June 5, 2016, Justine become a member of FBC Indy.
She is now making a life for herself in Indianapolis with a job working in customer service at Seven Corners. She has two sons who have grown up in the church – Olivier, 15, and Fabrigace, 9. “They are good boys,” she said.
There have been hard times in Justine’s life with the deaths of her husband and daughter, being forced into a refugee camp and dealing with the challenges of moving to the United States.
But God sent Justine to First Baptist Church and used the people to help her finally find a better life for her family. “Thank you for everything that church has done for me,” Justine said. “Thank you for me and my family. Thank you for praying. Thank you for everything. I am glad to say this is my church.”