Easing a political refugee’s hard road to opportunity
Student Opportunity Scholarship provides resilient Rwandan American a chance to explore her vocation
April 26, 2012
Sometimes where God leads us is a very long way from where we started, and often when that is the case, we need a little help along the way. Josiane Micomyiza is now a freshman at Abilene Christian University, but she came to the United States when she was twelve, along with her parents and four siblings, as a political refugee from Rwanda.
Josie and her family do not like to talk much about their lives in Africa.
“I asked Joseph [Josie’s father] about it once, and all he said was, ‘Hotel Rwanda,’” says Cliff Stewart, senior pastor at First Central Presbyterian Church in Abilene, Texas, where Josie’s family settled after coming to America.
The reference is to the Oscar-nominated film about the tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples that led to civil war and genocide in the African nation.
One thing that was familiar to Josie’s family when they arrived in America was church.
“They were Presbyterian of sorts, whatever would be the equivalent of the Presbyterian church in Rwanda, and they gravitated toward us and came,” says Stewart, “and it’s just a really neat family.”
According to Josie, growing up in a Christian family meant they went to church every Sunday and Wednesday.
“Church has always been a big part of my life growing up with my family. They always took us to church. I was in all the plays; I was in youth and participated in everything the kids did,” she says.
Although the church does not usually let high school students teach Sunday school, Stewart says they made an exception for both Josie and older sister Marie because they did it so well.
“The people in this family, after you go through such hardship, you’re much more mature than your peers, because they’ve just gone through hell and back. So they are very articulate in their faith, and it’s great with children to do that sort of thing, so we put them to work,” he explains.
Faith still plays a large role in Josie’s life. She is active in campus life groups, where students meet to pray and encourage each other, and in Lynay (Love your neighbor as yourself), a university group that meets once a week to hear from speakers, meet with professors, and serve the community. She’s also working hard at her studies.
“I’m studying biology right now. Hopefully after this I’ll go to medical school,” she says. “That’s what I’m aiming for. I guess it depends where God leads me, but that’s the plan.”
She’d be following in the footsteps of older sister Marie, who is about to graduate from ACU and will go on to Galveston Medical School.
“They are really bright, smart people,” notes Stewart.
The only challenge is affording school. Josie and her family are hardworking but have modest means. Josie’s parents were hesitant to borrow too much money, for fear of not being able to pay it back.
Stewart found out about the Student Opportunity Scholarship offered by the Financial Aid for Studies office of the General Assembly Mission Council and helped Josie through the application process, which required her to write an essay on what Christian vocation means.
“I really liked her application for that scholarship,” he says. “Those were her own words, and she was a real quick study on it. I think she’s thrilled to have the opportunity to think about Christian vocation, or vocation in a Christian context.”
Ultimately, Josie concluded that Christian vocation is any work that gives witness to God. Her story of a mentor who inspires her by encouraging, discipling, and praying for students around campus earned her the help she needs to explore where God might best use her talents.
“I was very surprised when I got it. It’s really good, and I’m so thankful for it,” says Josie. “I think it’s amazing, and to not have to take as many loans as I’d have had to otherwise, I think it’s great. I’m very grateful. It has helped a lot.”
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Applications for the Student Opportunity Scholarship are due June 1 for the 2012–2013 academic year. Visit the website to download an application.
Toni Montgomery is a freelance writer who lives in North Carolina and also serves as secretary of First Presbyterian Church of Statesville.