Finding home: Lydia’s story
The Salvation Army in the Middle East helps a young woman find freedom and self-worth.
as told to Major Heather Grinsted –
My name is Lydia and I am 19 years of age. My father died when I was 5 years old and my family is poor. I grew up in Uganda feeling lonely and was frequently told I was worthless and ugly. My life had been a living hell and I was so full of hate. But now I am one of the daughters of The Salvation Army in Kuwait.
After a man came to our market and told me about jobs in Kuwait, I decided to go there so that I could earn enough money to support my family and pay for college tuition. My family paid an agent $725 and, along with three other girls, I traveled to Kuwait to work in a hotel for $330 a month.
When we arrived at Kuwait airport an agent took our passports and I was told that instead I would be working as a housemaid. Despite refusing to do so, the agent took me to a house where there was a family of five children, and a mama (mother) and baba (father) who became my employers. I was expected to work from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. the next morning. This happened day after day.
The mama often shouted at me and beat me, giving me food only once a day. When I asked for my salary, baba told me that because he had paid a lot of money to the agent he would not be giving me my salary. I wanted to leave, but baba had my passport. He eventually said he would let me go and return my passport if I gave him $990. I called the agency but they told me not to go to them for help. Despite the fact I had no money and baba still had my passport and wouldn’t give it to me unless I paid him the money, I decided to run away.
I left the house very early one morning and a taxi driver took me to The Salvation Army.
Deciding to go to Kuwait was a big mistake. I encountered only disappointment and feelings of inferiority that made me feel worthless, dirty and totally useless. I used to say that I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again, but I don’t say that any more. Things began to change.
The Lord is good. The Salvation Army’s leaders in Kuwait, Majors Stewart and Heather Grinsted, who have been like parents to me, told me that I had to forgive. It was not easy but I prayed, and by God’s help I have forgiven everybody who has hurt me. I am now happy and my heart is free.
During my time in Kuwait my mother was very ill, but I thank God that through prayer she has been healed. The Salvation Army fought hard to get me home to Uganda without asking for anything in return. They have met my needs and given me a comfortable place to live. Before I came to the Army I was suffering, I had lost all hope, and was shy and lonely, but I thank God for The Salvation Army because it has changed my life.
I thank God for everyone at The Salvation Army. They have been so good to me—giving me a home full of life, love and wisdom. I pray that God will continue to bless the workers and the ministry undertaken at the center.
It’s amazing how God works. If there is one thing I am sure of, it’s that God watches over and protects those who trust in him.
Lydia has now returned to Uganda and is being sponsored to study for a business degree at a university, where she was honored as the best student of the year. She is the first member of her family to go to university and wants to use her education to assist other women in Uganda to stay and work in their home country.