Alafia Refuses to Let Setbacks Define Her
Alafia is a first-generation American who has led a life that refuses to be limited by the obstacles that confront her. From long-term obstacles that test one’s endurance, like her lifelong battle with sickle cell anemia, to the sudden setbacks that often expose one’s true character, such as becoming homeless.
Alafia’s parents moved from the West African country of Sierra Leone to the Washington, D.C., area before she was born. She grew up and earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and master’s certification in desktop publications from Towson University in Maryland.
Upon graduation, Alafia felt called to put her education to work in full-time ministry. This led her to come to Orlando in 2005 to work with a ministry start-up. The organization provided housing and a stipend in exchange for her work as creator and manager of their website and print publications.
Alafia was born with sickle cell anemia, a disease that causes flare ups of extreme pain in the joints, chest, and abdomen. This caused her to make multiple trips to the hospital each year to manage the pain. It also meant her small stipend each month went towards paying those bills, leaving her with no savings to fall back on. But Alafia wasn’t going to let sickle cell or her small income stop her from serving the Lord the way she felt called to serve.
Then something changed. Three years after she moved to Orlando, her organization started taking on beliefs that didn’t line up with Alafia’s. “I felt so divided between what I was learning in the Bible verses and what I was experiencing at work,” she remembers. “I knew in my heart that I needed to leave.”
Alafia knew that by leaving her job, she would lose her housing and income as well. A friend told her about the Orlando Union Rescue Mission and she was able to move in by April 2008.
“God provided a place of refuge when I had nowhere to go,” Alafia said. Within two months of living at the Mission, Aquila found a job at a process server company doing data-entry. Her goal was maintain this job so she could volunteer at her new church and save enough money to move out on her own.
Despite finding a home at the Mission and a new job, Alafia also experienced one of the worst years of sickle cell flare-ups. “Sickle cell anemia gets worse when you are under stress,” she explained. “Though my heart was confident that God would pull me through this season, my body was still under the stress of lots of transition.”
After her fifth visit to the hospital within one year, her company let her go.
The doctors and Mission staff suggested an option to Alafia that she had avoided up to that point: apply for social security disability. She was resistant because she always felt like she was able to work. It was becoming evident, however, that the standard workload expected by employers only made Alafia’s flare-ups worse.
Those around Alafia pointed out that she could apply for disability and volunteer as she was able, or she could try to support herself and endure the unpredictable flare ups that lasted from anywhere to a few hours to a few weeks. She realized it was time to receive for assistance. Her application was approved and Alafia was able to move to an apartment in the Conway area, where she lives today.
Alafia stays active by volunteering almost every weekday at her church, doing what she feels created to do: web and publication design. She has learned that while sickle cell may explain her circumstances, it doesn’t define her.
“I’m thankful for the provision God showered me with during my time at the Mission,” she concluded.
Alafia was able to heal and get back on her feet during her time at the Mission. Each day, O.U.R. Mission Home offers life-changing care to nearly 33 families. Your gift of $26.82 provides a hot meal and a day of care for a homeless man, woman or child in Central Florida.