God has greatly blessed my life through many of the refugees who have settled in my small hometown of Willmar, MN. Through a sewing program in my town, I have been able to meet and become friends with many of our Somali neighbors. I felt compelled to share my story with Arrive Ministries about one of these dear friends who has greatly impacted my life.

This is my friend Fatumo. We met through Rey’a Community Arts and have been friends for several years. As we have gotten to know each other, we have grown to love each other. We garden together, go out to eat together, practice driving together, our kids play together, I went to see her in the hospital when her youngest was born.

Photo Credit: Erica Dischino West Central Tribune

This week, for the first time, we went to a protest together. I am not sharing this story to get a pat on the back. I am not the strong or brave one in this picture, she is. I am not sharing this story to convince anyone of anything. This is the story that God has given me to share. So, with Fatumo’s encouragement, I am sharing.

After the murder of George Floyd, I wanted to DO something. I was so angry and I wanted action. I contacted a few community leaders and they invited me into a meeting to plan some protests here in Willmar. After the first meeting, I began to feel unsure. Was this really what I was supposed to do? Was this where I was meant to lead? Is this how my friends of color would want me to support them? I felt God asking me to take a step back, to stop trying to lead and allow Him to. I felt Him telling me that before I did something, I needed to repent for the sin of racism in my own life.

So I got on my knees. I went to church and prayed with a group of people. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. After praying and talking with a friend, I realized I had missed a very important part of this all, I had not yet asked my friends who are black. So, I sent several of them the information about the protests. Many of them could not attend, but encouraged me to go. Fatumo responded quickly saying she would like to go. So we went together.

As I laid on the field with her, hands behind my back, yelling “I can’t breathe!”, I allowed myself to feel the pain. All of it. As much as I was able. I allowed myself to grieve for George and his family, for my friends, for my children, for my community, for the police officers, for the church, for our leaders, for my country.

When the 8 minutes and 46 seconds was done and we stood back up, Fatumo turned to look at me. The anguish in her eyes made me forget everything else around us. In that moment, it was clear to me that she was experiencing a pain that I could never fully understand.

We forgot that social distancing was a thing. We forgot that people were watching. We forgot that there were cameras. We stood on the field, arms wrapped tightly around each other, and we wept. We went to the protest because we both want change. But we know that change does not happen without relationship. We know that change first happens in hearts. We know that change starts with us.


written by Jenny Groen, Willmar, MN