Justin’s job eventually required him to take a business trip to Los Angeles for training. While there, he received a call from his wife. She told him that it was not safe for him to return, as those who had tortured him in the DR Congo were looking for him again.
Unable to return to Africa, and unable to work in the U.S., Justin wasn’t sure where to turn. “When I first came to the United States, I was in Los Angeles for some weeks. I suffered so much again. I was crying and wondering why I came to a country where many adult people sleep in streets, homeless. I moved around looking for a place to sleep, looking for something to eat but in vain.” Justin went to a refugee resettlement agency in Los Angeles, but they said they couldn’t help someone in his situation and recommended him to a shelter for the mentally ill. Justin stayed there for five days until someone recommended that he go to San Diego, where it might be a little cheaper than Los Angeles.
In San Diego, Justin met a “French boy” who gave him rides to various nonprofit organizations. “Everywhere I went they told me that I was a refugee in Africa, but I was not a refugee here in the United States and that I had to start the asylum process. I passed through fire and water!”
Justin began seeking asylum. He wasn’t allowed to work, so he volunteered with resettlement agencies and Unified School Districts. “I knew that through helping others Heavenly Father [would] remember me and my family again,” Justin wrote. “I serve with faith and with all my capacity and all my energy.” Eventually, Justin received a work permit.
In 2016, Justin, who had always believed in God and Jesus Christ, was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized in May. His wife and children were baptized into the Church in Uganda in June of the same year.
Shortly after his baptism, Justin was asked to speak at a fireside. It was there that he met Dan Collins.
The Collins Family
The story of Dan and Carrie Collins’ involvement with helping refugees began many years ago in the 1980s when Carrie read an Ensign article about foster care. “I knew that one day I wanted to be in fostering,” she wrote to LDS Living.
It became a life-long dream, and in 2007, when the youngest of Dan and Carrie’s eight children turned four, Carrie attended the necessary classes and screenings to become a qualified foster parent.
The Collins’ first foster child was Charity, “a beautiful six-month-old Sudanese baby girl, daughter of a refugee from Sudan,” according to their website. Over the course of nine years, Dan and Carrie were able to adopt Charity, along with her older siblings Emmani and Pepor. They later adopted two other children.
The Collins family
In April 2016 general conference, the Church announced their "I Was a Stranger" initiative and urged members of the Church to help in the growing refugee crisis. “There are more than 60 million refugees, including forcibly displaced people, worldwide. Half of those are children,” said Sister Linda K. Burton. “It is our hope that you will prayerfully determine what you can do—according to your own time and circumstance—to serve the refugees living in your neighborhoods and communities.”
Shortly after these addresses, Dan and Carrie Collins were presented with an opportunity to help a refugee family from Sudan. “We were anxious to help because three of our adopted kids are children of a Sudanese refugee, and we were excited to connect with them,” Dan wrote to LDS Living.
With the help of friends, Dan and Carrie collected clothing, food, and household items for the family. They collected so many items, in fact, that they decided to hold some back in case they had other opportunities to help additional refugees. They had little idea of just how many lives they would get to bless.
Catholic Charities got wind of the Collins family’s generosity and asked if they would be willing to become volunteers and help additional families. The Collins family accepted, and a few weeks later they were connected to three new families. Three families turned into dozens, and Dan and Carrie found themselves starting a mentorship program to connect refugees to individuals and families all across San Diego.
“We could see the hand of the Lord in all the work we were doing, not just in humanitarian work but spiritually as well, as there were many opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who were seeking it,” Dan wrote.
Several of the refugee families were from the DR Congo, and that’s when Dan called up Justin Bisimwa after meeting him at a fireside. According to their website, “It was a match made in heaven and the two of them found themselves together virtually every day assisting Carrie as she coordinated the activities in servicing the needs of the refugees.”