“It was powerful to be right beside Chernoh when he stepped foot on his native soil for the first time since he fled the war. Our charity has given me the opportunity to connect to Chernoh’s country and his story while giving back.”
Everyone’s story is important and here at Hill City we want to celebrate people, where they’ve come from and what they’ve been through. Jennifer and Chernoh Wurie have been married for four years, and are parents to an 18 month year old boy named Jamessin, with a baby girl on the way. Jennifer was born in Manassas, Virginia. Chernoh was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa. This is their story.
The Sierre Leone Civil War lasted from approximately 1991 to 2005.
Chernoh, his parents, and his three brothers were born and raised in Sierra Leone. They were raised Muslim. In 1996, the rebels, who invaded the city, forcefully entered their home and demanded personal possessions. Chernoh, his mother, and two of his brothers fled the war and temporarily re-located to the Republic of Guinea without his father because he was not allowed to leave due to his position in the government. They remained in Guinea for 6 months, where Chernoh learned how to communicate for basic needs in French.
Soon, he and his family were able to receive visitor visas and migrated to the U.S. as refugees seeking asylum in 1997. He celebrated his 17th birthday in the U.S. soon after they arrived.
“It was surreal growing up through the war. We stayed indoors the majority of the time because there were a lot of curfews and other restrictions. During the war almost everything was shut down. There was limited electricity, food shortages, lack of health care, etc. My parents were very strong. They tried their best to provide for us even though there were shortages on basic necessities. Sometimes we would go a night or day without eating, but that was few and far between. My parents always provided. Leaving my home country was very challenging and scary. I didn’t know anything beyond Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone was my home and I miss it very much to this day.”
Chernoh describes his transition to the U.S. as a culture shock.
“My brother and I were enrolled at a High School starting 11th grade, which was a different educational system than Sierra Leone. The food, clothing, environment, temperature, and the language… they were very different from what I knew in Africa. It took us a while to get acclimated to the American culture.”
Chernoh’s uncle was a pastor in the U.S. After arriving, Chernoh joined his uncle’s church and came to know Jesus.
“I grew up a Muslim, as my father is Muslim. My mother is Christian.
I used to attend both Mosque and church. They have been married for over 35 years and religion has never been an issue between them. Growing up as a Muslim, I prayed; although, I did not feel that my communication with God was being heard. I craved an easier way to communicate with God. All my mother’s brothers are Christian pastors. I started to experience the power of Christ while attending my uncle’s church in the U.S. My main reason for converting to Christianity is the fact that I felt comfortable communicating with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, at any time. I also witnessed first hand the power of prayer as God answered prayers of myself and others.”
Jennifer grew up in Manassas, Virginia with her older brother and parents. She was raised Catholic. “As I got older, I was always craving something more. I wanted to have a deeper relationship with Jesus and I craved a relationship with a church family.”
While in graduate school at VCU, she was attending Catholic Church in Church Hill. “I felt like Jesus wanted me to make new choices that would bring me closer to Him. He started to lead me down a path that brought me such freedom, joy, and peace. My decision to live for Him has been the best decision I have ever made.”
Jennifer and Chernoh met in June 2009. They pursued a long friendship and got married on May 11, 2012. Their faith was tested leading up to the wedding as Jennifer’s father’s health was ailing. He passed away just four short months after their wedding. Their faith in God and support of friends got them through one of the most difficult times in Jennifer’s life.
Since 2010, Jennifer and Chernoh have operated their Virginia charity, Barrels of Hope International, Inc. (www.barrelsofhopeintinc.org). Jennifer and Chernoh’s charity helps support St. Peter’s Women’s Vocational School in Sierra Leone, established and operated by Chernoh’s mother, Annie Maude Wurie.
The school was initiated after the war in Sierra Leone by Mrs. Wurie, who is a philanthropist with a huge heart. She established the institute to provide a place for female victims that were sexually and physically abused during the war. The school is a place where they can feel comfortable and make something of their broken lives. The students are put through two to three years of rigorous training in cooking, sewing, catering, traditional clothes making, etc. Upon graduation, they obtain a certificate and sometimes job placements at hotels and other establishments where they have the opportunity to use their learned skills.
Barrels of Hope International, Inc. was solely founded by Jennifer and Chernoh. Their vision is to empower and support the women of St. Peters Women’s Community Vocational Center, while promoting education, independence, and freedom. The charity provides donations that support vocational skills training and personal evolution, and runs off a system of volunteers that assist with packing and loading barrels with tangible items to be shipped to the school.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.”
“Supporting the women of St Peters Vocational School has brought me so much joy. The women are so motivated and determined to make a better life for themselves despite the tragedy that most have experienced. They continue to encourage me. When Chernoh and I visited the school in 2010 it brought us so much closer to the charity’s heart. We witnessed first hand how the women of Sierra Leone were impacted by the war.”
The Wuries also attend Hill City.
“When we first visited, we felt like there was something to experience here every week. We love how welcoming the climate is, and the music is a hit. We are so excited that our children get to grow up in the environment that’s been created here. Almost immediately we felt that Hill City would be our church home and we wanted to dedicate our son Jamessin to Jesus, along with the support of our community, which we did in January 2016.”
Despite coming from different cultural and religious backgrounds, God brought the couple together from across continents as part of His master plan. They have established a unified dedication to living according to that plan. They have experienced personal and collective tragedies and challenges, but give God all the glory for where they are today.