My name is Evariste Emmanuel. My friends call me Eva. I work for Free City International. This is my story.
My visa was approved, and I came to the United States with my brother. We landed in Miami, and then came straight to Dallas, our home destination. I was 19. We went to this agency called the IRC, and they have refugee programs that run for 3-6 months. They have a lot of cases – one case manager can have 10 to 20 cases. And those cases might be different numbers of people – I might be single, but someone else might have a family with 6 or 10 kids. We all have needs, which can be very overwhelming for those people, but I didn’t understand that at that moment. I felt like, “how come I never see this guy?” So my mind convinced me that this was the same thing I’d felt before. I thought, “This guy doesn’t value me. He just sees me for one or two days a month. If this is America…” I started hating again, feeling pain, and wondering when it was going to stop.
And it was at that time, in 2008, that I met Jason Clarke. I call him JC. I first met him at this African church where I was going. He sort of followed me, and I said, “Stop following me.” He was like, “No man chill, I just want to talk to you.” And then we became friends. You know, sometimes God uses people to cure someone’s wound. I had lived in America for like a month, but I still had the wound. The pain, hatred, complaining, hopelessness. I found someone who told me I wasn’t alone, that I was who God created me to be. That was awesome.
Since meeting Jason, my life changed. I found someone I can be close to, call my brother; someone who invites me over and introduces me to his parents. I was like, “Whoa. This is the thing that I always missed. This is incredible.” There’s no better thing in life, than someone who will love you for you. It’s not about material things – it’s someone who appreciates you being around them, and you appreciate them being around you. His love toward me changed my life totally. It changed the vision that I used to see myself. I could see that the life I was living was a lesson for me, and that it would probably help others in the future, so I’m able to feel what they’re feeling. In order for me to feel other people’s struggles and suffering, I had to feel the same thing that I was going through.
And I’ve learned one thing – love covers everything. I used to hate. I would see stuff, and it would bring me back. But now instead of hating, it’s love and understanding. No judgment. Once I reflect back on my life, I ask myself,
“Who am I to judge? Who am I to hate? Who am I to not forgive?” We’re all human beings, and the teaching that I got from Jason Clarke – is that it’s all about love, and that’s an awesome thing.
That’s when I told Jason, “I need to work with you, man.” Because there’s nothing I can do that is better than helping people. I don’t like to see someone go through a lot of suffering. I wish I could have at least a little bit of power to stop it – and I can’t. But if you are suffering, I want to feel what you’re feeling. I want to go with you through this journey. I want to be a part of your life. I want to be that guy who loves you, laughs with you, feels with you. I want to be with you through everything – I’ll be there, you can talk to me.
What exactly do you do for Free City?
My title is Community Engagement Officer, and I do much more than my title. I kind of do caseworker roles, but not just that. I love to get involved with my fellow – I don’t like calling anyone refugees anymore – my fellow internationals. I just want to love them regardless and feel what they’re feeling and just be involved in their lives. And if I cannot help, that’s why we bring mentors and say, “You know what, we need you. Be a part of this person’s life.”
That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about material things. It’s about the oppression that people are going through. They’re carrying those wounds with them, so they need a doctor. And really the doctor is love. With love, even though you don’t have anything, it feels like you have everything. It’s not just saying stuff like that, but acting on it. I can say it, but saying is not really me – I always act. Actions can say everything. If I act, then that will tell you.
Do you have any hobbies?
I go to the gym, and I play soccer.
What would you say that you’re most proud of?
I’m proud to see people come to know the truth. When I get involved and get to see people start loving one another – that’s the thing I’m proud of the most.
When we talk about the pain, we bring conflict. There has to be something that causes that conflict. There might be this tribe or this group fighting, and they think they’ll never get along. But what I’m proud to see – what I’m proud to see people accomplish – is to reconcile those people and bring what’s called love. And in love there’s forgiveness. Even though someone may have been a certain way, still someone can change. I was a child solider. Once you come to a knowledge of understanding, you don’t judge anymore. Instead of gossiping, it’s about being able to protect one another—“Don’t talk about that guy, that guy’s awesome.” Honestly, the people that I’ve seen the most are the people that killed my mom. But since I’ve learned to forgive and understand and not judge—guess what, I’m there, I’m a serving them. That’s what I’m doing.
If there are people who want to help refugees here in Dallas, but don’t know where to start—maybe they’re afraid to start—what would you say?
This is what I would tell them: it’s a passion. Is it really something they want to do? If it is, just pray about it and be a friend.
When you start being afraid, fear brings judgment. When you’re afraid, you ask yourself too many questions. And then there’s no love – you don’t care yet. You can come up with a conclusion about a person, and you don’t even know him. I always tell people – don’t read the book from the outside, because you don’t know what’s inside.
If you know God, God always digs from the inside. To dig inside means to get to know someone, to see if that’s really who you were thinking or if that person’s kind of like yourself. It’s like the book of Samuel. God sent Samuel to Jesse, David’s father, and told him to go anoint the king. Samuel, who was a prophet, asked Jesse for his sons. Jesse brought Samuel his sons – very handsome, giant, strong men. But Samuel shook his head at all of them. Everyone was like, “Whoa – these would make really great kings, man.” But it’s simple. They were seeing from the outside. God told Samuel, “You can see from the outside but I see from the inside.”
So it’s simple. Do you really have a passion for these people? Just get to know them. Be humble, and take all your title out. Love can transform anything and change someone’s life.
What gives you hope for the future?
Jesus. Once you come to know Jesus – that’s the only hope we have. God is my hope.