Faith and Fortitude: My Father’s Remarkable Journey - MetroFamily Magazine
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Faith and Fortitude: My Father’s Remarkable Journey

by Sasha Hughes

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Father’s Day is a time to celebrate and reflect on the incredible journeys of our fathers. For me, it’s a poignant reminder of the remarkable life of my father, J. Nyema Elliott III. His story is one of resilience, courage and unyielding hope, from a childhood in Liberia through the ravages of civil war to rebuilding a life in America.

My father was born on April 1, 1958, in Monrovia, Liberia. His early years were filled with joy and hardship. He faced the struggle of watching my grandfather become a political prisoner in the 1960s. After that, my father’s family home was demolished by the government, forcing them to move and rent rooms. Despite these challenges, my father showed entrepreneurial spirit early on, negotiating credit to buy cane juice (a local alcoholic beverage)  to sell to the locals. My grandmother sewed and sold clothing and meat to support the family. After my grandfather’s release, a program in Liberia helped him travel to the U.S. for his master’s degree. My father continued to help support the family by selling drinks to afford his and his siblings’ school fare for the next day.

The civil war in Liberia began in 1989, and my father’s life, along with his fellow Liberian’s lives, was turned upside down. While staying with my grandparents, the rebels took over their area. He did not reunite with his father until 1992, for his funeral. The war tore everyone’s lives apart, with my father making the heart-wrenching decision to split up my family to increase the chances of survival for us. When my father stayed behind, he faced consistently dangerous situations. One day, the home he and his friends were staying in was set on fire with them inside in hopes they would come out and be killed, but miraculously, everyone made it out. Instead of dying, the rebels ran out of bullets and he lived to see another day. Despite the chaos, the kindness my father had shown others paid off, with people offering their last dollars to help him through the war. We all eventually fled Liberia, and my father found refuge in Israel before reuniting with us in America.

In 1994, my father arrived in the United States seeking a new beginning. The transition was far from easy, but his resilience and determination were unwavering. Despite the trauma and loss he had endured, he was committed to providing a better future for his family. In America, my father worked tirelessly to rebuild his life. He took on multiple jobs while starting over in college because he didn’t have proof of his degree because of the war. He would often work long hours and late into the night to ensure we had everything we needed. His work ethic was impeccable, a testament to his character and values. He always reminded us of the importance of education and hard work, values he had lived by all of his life.

Growing up, my father’s demeanor was often stern and his expectations high. As a child, this was difficult to understand, and there were times when I felt he was too hard on us. I remember thinking, “Maybe I’m not his child.” It wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I began to comprehend the depth of his love and the reasons behind his tough exterior. My father’s strictness was a product of his own experiences and the harsh realities he had faced. He wanted to prepare us for a world that he knew could be unforgiving. His discipline was his way of ensuring that we would be strong, resilient and capable of overcoming any obstacles.

As I grew older, I started to see beyond my father’s tough facade. I began to understand the man beneath—the loving, kind, and caring human he truly is. The stories of his past, which he shares sparingly, painted a picture of a man who had endured unimaginable hardships yet remained steadfast in his faith and principles. His life is a testament to resilience and hope. One particular story that stands out is how my father’s kindness to others came back to him. People he had helped along the way offered him their last dollars to aid his escape. This taught me a profound lesson about the power of kindness and the impact one person can have on the lives of many.

Today, I look at my father with deep admiration and gratitude. His journey from a young boy in Liberia to a husband and father in America is remarkable. His story is one of survival, strength and the unbreakable bonds of family. This Father’s Day, I honor my father not just for the hardships he endured, but for the incredible person he is. His story continues to inspire me and serves as a powerful reminder of the strength of the human spirit. Thank you, Daddy, for everything—for your love, your sacrifices and your unwavering hope. I am proud to be your child.

Sasha is a proud Liberian woman now living in OKC, a wife, mother, full-time student and employee. She loves cooking, working out, helping people and showing other moms they are fantastic no matter what! Connect with her on Instagram @SashaHughes and Facebook @Sasha Nyemadye Hughes.

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