During my tenure as a job coach over 25 years, I have had the experience of meeting quite a few remarkable people. Some memorable for negative reasons, but some are memorable for very positive and inspiring reasons. I’d like to tell you about two of them. I have changed their names.
First is Marie. She was living in The Congo with her husband, who was in the military. She said that he had a beautiful voice and would often sing Christian songs on the local radio station. They had eight children, and Marie was about eight months pregnant with their ninth. Early one Sunday morning, her husband received a phone call from his commanding officer, telling him to report to work. This was highly unusual. He told her to take the family to church and he would meet them there later. He never arrived.
She called around looking for him with no results. Finally, she felt impelled to check the morgue and there he was, killed. She immediately became fearful for her family and rushed home. They were safe but shortly after arriving she saw some men from her husband’s unit walking toward the house. Afraid again for the children, she told them to stay inside and she went out to meet these men. As they came close to each other one of the men hit her with a machete in her face. She fell to the ground and pretended to be dead, hoping they would not go into the house. Thankfully, they didn’t and walked away.
The injury caused her to lose a lot of blood and she had the baby early. With the help of friends she and her family escaped to Cameroon. From there, she received help from the Catholic Church to get to Utah. She came to work with me in the production area of the Deseret Industries, knowing very little English…..speaking mainly French.
In the years since, she has earned a degree in social work from Weber State University and is currently working in this field.
My second story is about Kim. He and his family are from Cambodia where he worked for the government. He could speak five languages fluently so he would be assigned to accompany different visitors coming to the government for different reasons. He told me that the government knew that he and his family were Christians, and he always felt as though he was being watched.
At one point he was assigned to work at the Cambodian embassy in Bulgaria. At first his family was not allowed to accompany him. He felt this was an action to keep him in line, so he wouldn’t try to escape. Eventually, his wife and children, except for one son, were allowed to join him. During his translating work with various visiting dignitaries and business people, Kim met an American with whom he started a friendship. They had many discussions and eventually started talking about getting Kim and his family to America.
After his son joined the family, talks began in earnest. His wife had a relative in Chicago so they applied to visit this family member. After a long wait, this was granted. They were to visit Chicago for a specified amount of time and then return to Bulgaria. However, with the help and connections of his American friend, Kim and his family traveled instead to Utah.
Here, they moved into a basement apartment of an older lady and Kim came to work with me in the new furniture area of the store. He would dust the furniture every day and make certain that the department looked organized.
Kim also translated during General Conference, putting to good use his fluency in five languages. He and his wife were looking forward to having their own home but were afraid that it would show disrespect to the kind lady they lived with.
Both of these good people faced incredible challenges. They both did what it took to come to America, with the help of others. They both accepted humble jobs to take care of their families and performed them quite well.
One of the many thoughts I have while remembering Kim and Marie is that you never know whom are looking at. Any one of us can have the most amazing story, a story that most of us only see in a movie or read in a book. I have met many such people during my working years and each has left an impression upon me. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that offers so much hope to people of other countries and so grateful to have worked in a company that enabled me to work alongside them.