Zera's Story

Still Looking for a Home

“We ate dirt to live. We ate whatever we found. It’s disgusting, but it fills you up. We would go to the garbage and find whatever we could,” Liberty University Freshman, Zera Ntahonirukiye said.

Six years after her birth in Berundi, Zera, her sisters, and her mother fled to Tanzania as the war broke out in her homeland. They were forced to leave their father behind, possibly never to see him again.

“My dad and I fled differently. When [the soliders] were trying to kill us, my dad told my mom to take us and run. He distracted the soldiers while we ran away,” Zera said.

During the excruciating journey of finding find a new life in the refugee camp, the Red Cross helped Zera, her sisters, and her mom come face to face with their father after three years of living in the mystery of his whereabouts.

With fire in her eyes and joy enveloping her tone, Zera continued to verbally paint her childhood through tragic memories, sheer anguish, and ultimate redemption. As a result of Zera’s experience, her perspective on life is far different from the norm after spending ten years in an African refugee camp.

She watched as fellow refugees, neighbors, and children committed suicide and even starved to death. She went to sleep every night unsure if she would see the sunrise.

Zera even attempted suicide multiple times due to her immense hopelessness, but the Almighty God was not finished with her yet.

“I would actually go to the jungle in the dark where lions and tigers would be. I would just go so that something would attack me and kill me. I would go there and stay there, but nothing would ever come.”

Zera’s mom, a woman of faith, encouraged her daughter to pray and have hope in what is unseen. ‘How long is this gonna take,’ Zera would complain time and time again as tangible gloom continued to overpower her faith.

The reality began to set in that other children’s relatives were missing or even dead. She watched as young boys and girls slept in garbage and starved to death, and her complaining began to diminish.

“You know what, I think I’m blessed,” Zera said.

Zera surrendered her life to the God who, as the prophet Isaiah declares, “forms light and creates darkness, who makes well-being and creates calamity.” Although she could not understand why He gave her the life He did, she continued to seek God and endure through the suffering, all the while holding on to the hope of eternity.

Zera’s family eventually left the refugee camp and moved to San Diego, California. She attended a public high school and became exposed to new challenges and hardships that come with this culture of excess and entitlement.

Bullied by American children, Zera battled within herself to understand why people who seemingly had “everything” could be so mean to her.

“What kind of people are these who are ungrateful for what they have,” Zera said.

After moving to a Christian school in San Diego, Zera hoped in vain for a more encouraging atmosphere

“Here [at the Christian school] you expect everyone to know their faith in Jesus, and here they are bullying me. It did not make sense to me. Why would happy people be so unhappy?” Zera said.

After hearing about Liberty University through a representative at her high school, she decided to attend this year as a freshman. She takes great hope that the LORD has a plan for her life and has blessed her to be a blessing to others.

 “I feel like my mission starts here. I want to get an education, go to the nations and start building schools for the kids who don’t have education around the world,” Zera said.

Her desire is to be remembered as a woman of God; one that glorifies Him in everything she does and follows Him wherever He leads as she seeks her Homeland to come.

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14

Hannah Taylor