Refugee Rebuilds Life

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While much of the world’s attention has been on Asia lately, one of Africa’s refugees has been quietly working to find a way back to his country. Lieu Dea had to flee his native Ivory Coast, and his family, after an armed rebellion. Now he’s studying agriculture in the states, hoping to go home again, with skills that can change his country. Reed Galin has his story.

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Lieu (“leer” soft r)  Dea (“dee uh”) is doing whatever it takes to make it through college.

Lieu Dea: “It’s a little bit hard but it’s good.”

This United Methodist minister left his African home to help his people.

Lieu Dea: “I’m here to study agriculture and theology and take the knowledge back and train my people.”

Lieu shows photo: “This is a pick up I used for my ministry…”

To improve the quality of life in his community, Dea has come 5,000 miles to Tennessee’s Hiawassee College to learn how to manage livestock and grow crops more effectively – hands-on skills his countrymen desperately need.

Lieu Dea:  “I don’t have money to buy rice for everybody but I can teach them knowledge so that they can put into practice and raise the food for themselves.”

Lieu tutors student: “You don’t pronounce the “s”…”

Between French tutoring and his own schoolwork, Dea’s got a lot on his mind.  But now he has a new worry – the safety of his family.

Lieu Dea: “I don’t know if with words I will be able to tell exactly what it’s like.”

Two years ago, the Ivory Coast exploded into civil war. 

Lieu Dea: “We have to run for our life.”

His wife and five children lived in the jungle for months and then fled to a nearby refugee camp.  There was no going home.

Lieu Dea: “I had to find my way to U.S. so that I can go back to school and maybe re-make our life.”

Lieu on phone with wife: “Oui…oui...”

His family found safety with relatives who now live in a government-controlled province.  For this father, that’s little comfort.

Lieu Dea: “I think a lot about my family, most of the time, are they safe?

Dea’s  greatest priority is getting his family to the United States so he can focus on his studies.  His mission remains the same.

Lieu Dea: “And so the future is I hope, to be able to go back home and help my people. This is my hope.”


Recent statistics say that one in five Africans now live in a state that is being torn apart by war.

The United Methodist church near Dea’s college has set up a fund to help move his family here. You can reach First United Methodist Church of Madisonville, Tennessee at 423-442-2471.