Cultural Clash: South Sudan to America

Christina was born in Juba, Sudan (now South Sudan). As the civil war intensified, she moved first to Kenya and then Uganda before coming to the US as a refugee at 9 years old. She is currently a consultant with an international consulting firm.

Can you tell me about where you grew up and how that shaped you ? 

I was born in Juba Sudan (now South Sudan since the country has split) and lived there until I was either 5 or 6. In South Sudan, my family was well off; we lived in a gated mansion and had people to serve, and drive us around if needed. The kids attended a private Arab school so my first language to read and write it was Arabic. As the war become more terrifying, my father decided to leave so he headed for Kenya. We were unable to secure a home in Kenya, and so we left for Uganda six months after arriving in Kenya. In Uganda, life became hard. My family became the family people saw on the discovery channel; living in a hut, walking around with no shoe, starving, exposed too many forms of sickness that brought each member of the family near death at different points but the Lord kelp us. We struggled until one day; the Lord provided an opportunity for my family to come to the US as refugees.

I came to this country at the age of 9 and wow! Things were different. It was a complete culture shock for my family and me, but we have survived and are still surviving by the grace of God. Outside of the African countries, I have also been to Canada, England, Scotland, France and Ireland, so my perspective on life is different from most. I have a very accepting personality because of my background and most of all faith in the Lord. Additionally, I have an appreciation for life that most people may not because I came from nothing. I know what it’s like to have it all and also have nothing. Because of my background and faith, I value the things that I cannot replace in my life, the things I cannot give myself, the things only God can grant; love, family, people, kindness, giving, worth and security. Everything else is nice to have, but it is not a must.

Can you tell me about one of the most difficult things you’ve had to overcome? What did you learn?

The most difficult thing I could have ever gone through was being raised as an African girl at home (suppressed, dependent, not given an opinion, owned, beaten, put down) but living a life as an American girl at school (educated, independent, free to express, and challenge, allowed to make her own choice). The cultural clash was the most difficult thing to me because I battled trying to figure out who I was; was I Nykanyirri? Christina? Or a daughter of God? There were many moments in my life when I was torn; do I listen to my parents/South Sudanese culture, do I listen to the American girl inside or do I listen to God? I asked myself that question with every struggle that came my way and what I learned from all those years is that my God is enough. He is sufficient for me to put my full faith and trust in because he WILL NEVER fail me. I learned that he was the only man responsible for my wellbeing and protection. I learned that his approval was the only one that mattered coming from a culture where your worth is judged by what you have and the fake perfect picture you let people see. I learned that my worth came from him, security came from him and identity resided in Him. I was and is always his daughter, and nothing that he does not allow can harm me. He is in COMPLETE control.

If you could give one piece of advice to your 9-year-old self what would you say?

I would say “You are beautiful Christina, so beautiful! Beautiful enough to die for and honey don’t you ever let anyone tell you any different. You are smart, capable and able to do the things that people think; you think you cannot do because your strength comes from God and it’s a supernatural strength. It’s something only saints can access; those who belong to God and you belong to God so tap into that girl. Take it, use it, and run with it. Don’t worry able pleasing people; not mom, dad, teachers, friends, boyfriends, or culture. Live a life that is honoring to God and if you fail, don’t run away, run to Him. Always run to Him. Consult God and not people because they will lead you to their will but God will lead you to your destiny. In all things Christina, make sure you bring glory to God first. Enjoy life and smile more. Guard your heart always and only open up when your Father has perfectly check things out. Stay ever so close to him and continue to work hard. DON’T GIVE UP because hard work has never killed anyone one, it just made them stronger.” That’s what I would say to the younger me.

 

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