As Katherine describes her current job at RefugeeNet, you sense the word “job” is inadequate. “Calling” is more precise—a call that traveled many miles and years.
Katherine’s the eldest child born to a family living in South Sudan where her father was a police colonel and Governor of Unity State, South Sudan. The family was well-off, education-oriented and Anglican. Katherine always loved church.
For a time, her parents were able to shield their children from the knowledge of the civil war. But when Katherine was nine, their village was bombed. Katherine’s mother took her six children to North Sudan leaving home and belongings behind.
The family went from a privileged life to having nothing. For Katherine, this tragedy opened her eyes to the suffering of others and sparked her desire to help. She said that it was humbling as a young girl to see how quickly and dramatically life can change.
She did not see her father for six years. When he died a short time after the family was reunited, the family fled to Egypt, where Katherine was certified at a Vocational Bible College. She started a Sunday school for her three younger sisters. Neighbors began sending their children to the family’s apartment, and Katherine’s school grew to forty children. As she tells me this, her face radiates joy.
When the family came to the United States as refugees, Katherine expected to be able to go to school. But she needed to help her family. She and her widowed mother worked different shifts so one would be able to care for the younger children. Later Katherine worked two shifts, the earnings from the first went to the family and from the second went to save money for a car and school.
She got a job at the Polinsky Children’s Center as a caregiver for infants through teens. The kids helped her learn English. Later, when the recession hit, she was working in hotel customer service and lost her job—a traumatic experience for her.
While in training for work in the medical field, she was hired part time by RefugeeNet. Part-time work became full-time. She was promoted to supervisor and then to program manager. From her own experiences as a refugee, she understands the issues new arrivals face. She distributes food and supplies and helps people understand how to operate in America as they navigate paths to citizenship, jobs, etc. She is a liaison with the larger community and recruits volunteers.
At St. Luke’s, Katherine serves as a lay reader and member of the Bishop's Committee, she counts offerings and helps with audits and children’s ministries. For her, St. Luke’s is a family where we accept all and help all. Katherine is most aware of God’s presence through God’s gift of her daughter and the happiness she finds in serving God through other people.