Survivor Turned Samaritan: Sam’s Story
To his friends, he is known as Samuel Johnson. But to the people in the refugee camps of Guinea, West Africa, he has become a modern-day “Good Samaritan.”
Sam’s story was birthed in horror. Born in Liberia, Sam was awakened in the middle of night when rebel forces attacked his village. With his mother and siblings, he was forced to flee barefoot into the dark. Unfortunately, as the family would later learn, his father, who had been away at work, was killed. Sam still remembers that night. He remembers watching from a nearby mountain top as his village and home burned. He remembers walking through the wilderness for seven days with nothing but the clothes on his back. He remembers the thorns embedded in his flesh from that long and dangerous journey to safety. And he still remembers the pain. For years afterwards he suffered nightmares from that horrific episode.
For the next 8 years Sam would call a refugee camp in Guinea “home.” It was there that he spent the majority of his childhood days, growing up in a tent with little food (one meal a day) and no public assistance. Sam would make bricks and stack them around the tent just to keep the snakes and wild animals out. The camps endured continual attacks from rebel Liberian forces, and many Guinean citizens wanted the refugees to leave, arresting and beating them on sight. His family knew they couldn’t stay, but they couldn’t go back to Liberia, and their immigration application stalled for years. They had no options. They had nowhere else to go.
In time Sam’s family was arrested and place in prison for being refugees. Upon their release, his mother was wounded and eventually died from the injuries she sustained. A life that had been hard now became seemingly hopeless.
One month later Sam and his siblings were relocated to the United States and placed in an immigrant transition program in Atlanta, Ga. In the years ahead Sam would realize the good fortune of becoming the recipient of the kindness and generosity of many gracious people. Through a supportive network of local churches, educators, and strangers, Sam would graduate from high school and go on to Mercer University in Macon, Ga. This past year he graduated with 4 degrees (International Relations, Political Science, French, and Women & Gender Studies).
But that’s not the end of the story…
Sam recently returned to Guinea, determined to give back to the place he had called “home” for so many years. After working to save his own money, he traveled there and helped local residents build a much-needed well for clean water. He brought school supplies and soccer equipment to the deprived children living in that same camp. He brought hope to a place that was defined by horror.
Sam has started an organization entitled “My Vision: Bringing Hope to Guinea.” He short-term goals include more immediate humanitarian aid such as additional wells, school supplies, and shoes for the children. His long-term goal is to open a school in the refugee camp and help them develop a means of health assistance. Right now he is here state-side, sharing the work and soliciting prayers and help. He plans to return to Guinea in early March.
In closing, I would like to announce my public support for this amazing young man. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sam and starting what I hope will promise to be a lasting friendship. He is a humble man, one full of both zeal and compassion. In the weeks ahead I plan to help him and the people of Guinea by creating awareness, by enlarging the network of people who currently support this ongoing work. I will be sharing more blogs on Sam’s work, complete with videos, photos from his most recent trip, and specific ways that each of us can actively participate.
Today I’d like to ask you to do two simple things. First, pray for Sam. Sam is preeminently a man of faith, crediting his mother for her Christian influence and examples of compassion. Your prayers are a critical part of his ongoing success. Secondly, I have included two links for learning more about “My Vision.” The first photo will connect you to the Facebook page. The second photo will take you to website. Why do this? Because I know from 20 years of personal experience that those who labor in the field need support and encouragement. I want Sam to know that he is not alone. I want the people of the camps in Guinea to know that they are not alone. Together we can make a difference for both Sam and the people of Guinea.