In March 2003, our stringer in Nairobi e-mailed me a story concept about refugees in Africa on behalf of a colleague. "This chick can write and is an awesome photographer," she said. More than a year later, we showcase the outcome: an eight-page photo essay, "Saving Strangers," by Denise McGill.
Sometimes we should look at the trees instead of the forest. There are 13 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. We take you into the lives of four of them: Muridi Mukomwa, his wife, Halima Husseini, and their two children.
Many refugee camps around the globe provide a bare minimum of support. Each calorie of food and each swallow of clean water may mark the difference between survival and eventual starvation. Many refugees have been in border camps for 10 years or more. Agencies may provide them with about 1,700 calories per day and other basic care. But disease and starvation are never far way.
Last fall Denise traveled with an armed convoy to Kenya's barren Kakuma camp, where she spent 17 days interviewing and taking photographs among the camp's 60,000 refugees. Many of them are Muslims. She says, "There are known al Qaeda sympathizers in Kakuma. So just for me to go there and be a Christian was a fairly significant risk. I felt a special guiding of the Holy Spirit."
Denise will never forget one Kakuma experience—meeting Noel, a Christian refugee from Burundi. Inside the camp, about 100 Christian refugees formed their own congregation. They commissioned Noel to be their missionary to the Somali Bantu in another part of the camp. One day, Noel rode his bike, with Denise teetering on the back, to his mission church, where Somali Bantu Christians shared with Denise how they came to know Jesus. Some were new to Christ. Others ...