Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NIV)
Imagine living in a hot, dry climate where drinking water is rationed. For the residents of the Ali Addeh refugee camp in Djibouti, unquenchable thirst is a daily reality. Due to overcrowding and a regional drought, the refugees struggle to get enough water to sustain life. But for one refugee, physical thirst did not overshadow his thirst for God.
After 22 years of exile, Arega Meshesha and his family came to the U.S. as refugees from Eritrea. Although raised culturally in the Armenian Orthodox Church in Ethiopia (now a part of Eritrea), a hospital stay in 1991 was the first time Arega heard about accepting Jesus into his life. Upon hearing the good news, Arega came to faith in Christ and dedicated himself to studying the Bible. However, being a follower of Christ in a country that identified itself as Muslim, was problematic.
Arega faced many challenges, but despite pressure from the government and imminent retaliation, he was able to study his Bible and go house-to-house sharing his faith. Eventually, Arega became a pastor, and through the support of other area churches, was able to plant churches both inside and outside of the refugee camp.
Ultimately, Arega’s actions drew the attention of the Djibouti police and he was targeted. They brought him to a deportation center and detained him as a way to suppress his preaching; however; Arega continued to share his faith. While he was being held, the UN Refugee Service intervened on his behalf. The family applied for refugee status and their petition was granted on the grounds of religious persecution.
After years in the camp, with no option of returning home, Arega and his family were resettled by WRDA in November of 2012. Knowing that speaking English was key, he and his wife were excited to learn English and begin ESL classes. When asked why learning English was so important to him, Arega said that his life is the Church. “The better my English gets, the more opportunities I will have to share my faith in Christ with others”.
Arega loves the people he has met in the U.S. and is currently praying about how God will use him here. He believes that the Lord brought him and his family to safety in America so that they can continue to share the Gospel and teach others about the persecution of Christians around the world. For now, he is thankful for his job packaging books and the opportunity to hold a weekly Bible study in his home without the fear of retaliation. One day, he hopes to go back to his home country as a missionary because, even in the face of persecution, people are very open and Christianity is growing.