By Chris Hughes
For Rosalie, the journey from the Congo to Fort Worth, Texas, has been filled with many obstacles and setbacks. But God’s providence and the faithful presence of supportive people along the way has made all the difference.
“God has sent so many people in my life. That’s how I’ve experienced God’s love,” she said.
Over 25 years ago, at age nine, Rosalie and her family had to flee from their home in Zaire for a refugee camp in Tanzania, where God sent United Nations workers to provide a tent shelter. During her 12-plus years in the refugee camp, God sent aid workers to provide food, dishes and blankets for her parents and siblings. When the family resettled in Fort Worth, God sent Catholic Charities and a Methodist congregation to help them find jobs, learn English and get drivers’ licenses.
And in 2012, as Rosalie was starting her own family and applying to college, God sent Karen Morrow, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving among internationals and refugees in Fort Worth.
“Karen shows Christ’s love through her humility and her willingness to help those in need,” Rosalie said. “That’s what we need to do as people in Christ Jesus. We need to be willing to help other people.”
Since 1996, Morrow has ministered to refugees who have been forced to flee their home countries due to violence and persecution, and helped them resettle in Texas. Through her ministry, she empowers refugees with early childhood and adult education, as well as resources for housing, health care and cultural transition with the support of the CBF Offering for Global Missions. When she met Rosalie 10 years ago, however, Rosalie had already overcome many of the toughest obstacles immigrants face in the United States—learning English, finding employment, and acquiring transportation and housing. But Rosalie wanted more than just survival for her family. She wanted an abundant life, and that meant investing in her education.
Morrow journeyed with her every step of the way as she made campus visits to the University of Texas at Arlington, helping her to navigate the application process, meeting with admissions and financial advisors who helped her obtain grants and scholarships, and setting her up for success. Rosalie poured herself into her education, graduating in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Amid her studies, Rosalie also focused on empowering her three sons, Norbert Emmanuel, Gilbert and John Emmanuel. Morrow’s flagship ministry—Ready for School—was vital to their development, as was her Hope Library, a free library that Morrow and local church partners developed for children of refugees. As school and work increasingly demanded more of her time, Hope Library became critical in boosting her sons’ reading levels and test scores.
All along, Rosalie planned to focus her work on paying it forward—to help refugees like her navigate the arduous journey of resettling in the United States. “It’s amazing to see where I came from and where I am now, and all the people who helped me get here,” she said. “I want to be a social worker because I know how valuable it is to have support. I want to help people get the resources they need to succeed in life and overcome all the obstacles they’re facing.”
But just as Rosalie was completing her master’s degree in social work, another obstacle sprang up as the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the globe in March 2020. The pandemic sent many organizations, communities and schools into lockdown, including the University of Texas at Arlington, where she was set to graduate in May. With her classes going virtual, Rosalie felt a familiar sense shared by many—the feeling that everything in the pandemic was suddenly much more difficult. “That really, for me, seemed like the work doubled,” she shared. “Our school work was, for me, tough, a lot more than going to school in person.”
The hardest part was missing out on a proper graduation. “That was really hard and impacted me because I wanted to walk across the stage when I graduated. I was so excited to finish and walk. So, when they said there was no graduation, I felt so bad. That really impacted me a lot.”
Despite all the difficulties, Rosalie has experienced a whirlwind of positive change in her life since graduation. In the same year, she graduated with her Master’s in Social Work, moved into a new home and began her career as a social worker. She also gave birth to a baby.
In late 2021, she even got the opportunity she had been hoping for—to start giving back to other refugees coming to the United States and working on crisis intervention with them. “As refugees, we experience so many crises,” she said. “So, I will be working in that role to help those in need, especially the refugee community.”
Throughout it all, Morrow’s faithful presence continues to impact Rosalie’s journey as she continues to keep in touch and show up for every important event in Rosalie’s life. “She visited during my master’s program. She called me during the pandemic, even though we couldn’t see each other face-to-face. When I was in the hospital to deliver, she was there. Even last year, she was able to come over here and see us and see the new baby.”
“That’s being present. Even though the pandemic is here, she didn’t stop checking on me and my family.”
As Rosalie continues to navigate a long and difficult journey from Zaire to Fort Worth, and from refugee to social worker, she hopes to get her license as a social worker, and potentially visit her homeland. “I’m hoping that one day, I’ll go back to my country or my mother’s homeland to see my other siblings, and other family members.”
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of fellowship! magazine. Read online at http://www.cbf.net/fellowship.