Mercy Hill Church - A Special Story from Hope Academy Blog

A Special Story from Hope Academy

Last week Mercy Hill community group members partnered with local ministries to serve all throughout the Triad as a part of Mercy Hill Serve Week. See below for a story from one of our ministry partners, Hope Academy.



“My Life” by Lilian Ishimwe 

I grew up in the Congo in a city named Goma and lived with my parents and my siblings. We lived in an apartment that looked like a house but didn’t have electricity, water or a bathroom. Several times a week my mom would send me to the community fountain to get water. I would get in line with my bucket or big bottle and wait my turn in long lines to fill them up. Because the water was heavy it would take hours to carry it home. The water was used to wash dishes, cook and take a bath.

It was hard to go to school.  I walked about 1- 2 hours every day by myself. I would leave home at 6 am walking to get to school by 7 am. When it rained, I had to take a different trail and the trip would take 2 hours. Learning in class wasn’t easy because the classrooms were crowded with 30-40 students in each class. In the Congo it was difficult for my parents to find jobs and take care of us.  My mother never went to school, and my father took a few classes and stopped going to school. My mother worked hard to provide us with food.  My mom would work for other people, doing jobs like cleaning houses, washing dishes or washing clothes. She did not get paid a lot but she would take the money, go to the market and buy food. My dad helped farmers take care of the animals. He made little money doing this.

In 2009, the war began. We had to pack our stuff and move away.  My parents could not find work so my dad thought about taking us back to our old village, but instead he went back to see if the war was still going. We waited to hear from my dad to see if it was safe to come back but my mom never heard from him.  My mom believed my dad was no longer alive so she moved us to Kenya because she heard it was safe there. It was difficult for my mother to find work, a place for us to stay and food to eat. It was tough for my mother without a husband supporting her, and it was hard for my siblings and me to live without our dad. We went to a public school in Nairobi and still had to walk about 1-2 hours to get there.   Because I was mostly shy and quiet in class it was hard to make friends. Not speaking the language made it even more difficult. Growing up without a father was hard for me because my father would help me with homework every day and encouraged me to do my best work. He always said, ” Lilian, be the best you can be”. My mother wanted to come to America so we could have a better life because in Kenya we were refugees.  We stayed in Kenya about 4 years. We never heard from our father.

On December 6, 2012, we came to America. My mother didn’t speak English, and my siblings and I spoke very little.  In Greensboro the immigration workers helped my mom find an apartment and a job, but we changed schools 3 times. At one school I was bullied so badly that for two weeks I skipped school by hiding behind my apartment building until my mom went to work. My mom found out and her American friend went to the school to talk with teachers about the bullying. It got better for while but never stopped. 

My mom was told about Hope Academy. I had an interview and the next week my siblings and I were accepted.  I started Hope Academy on August 17, 2015. Before I started Hope Academy I thought I would be bullied by other students. I was wrong. My classmates have been very nice to me. Being at Hope Academy has been fun, because I like the small classes. I have also made good friends here. Some things I really like at Hope Academy are teamwork, the opportunity to submit my prayer requests to my classmates and my teacher, and field trips. At Hope I learned how to read carefully and have increased my vocabulary. Being at Hope Academy prepared me to work hard, set goals and work towards achieving my goals.  Lilian’s story was written April 7, 2016 

Lilian has been accepted at Bennett Middle College and will be the first in her family to graduate from High School. There is no doubt that Lilian will go on to do great things.  Lilian is a living example of the scripture from which Hope Academy gets it’s name:  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper  you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We are honored to know Lilian and help educate her and her younger siblings who attend Hope Academy.

-Lilian Ishimwe (8th grader at Hope Academy)

If you’re interested in supporting Hope Academy with a gift to help students like Lilian reach their fullest potential and excel above the challenges and obstacles life brings, please visit Hope Academy’s website here. You can also mail checks to

Hope Academy
PO Box 10616
Greensboro, NC 27404