A Portrait Series Featuring Immigrants and Refugees Who Call Nashville Home
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Jean & Helene

jean & helene |
democratic republic of congo




Jean Tela.jpg
Helene Tela.jpg


We came to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008. Our son was here in Nashville—and when we found out that Helene had uterine cancer, we wanted her to have the best medical care possible. There is no health care system than can help us in the Congo, so we had to come here. The United States and Siloam Health saved Helene’s life.

It was hard to leave the Congo. There were many tears. We never thought we would leave our home and live in the United States. We were not coming just for pleasure, but also because of Helene’s illness. When we got here, we found out that the cancer had spread to her liver. Other doctors told us there was nothing to be done, but when we came to Siloam, they didn't just help physically. They gave us hope. Helene has just celebrated her 70th birthday. We are getting better at our English and even working to become U.S. citizens.

The day our grandson graduated from Cincinnati University was one of the happiest moments of Helene’s life. He graduated when she was sick and going through treatments. She thanks the Lord every day for allowing her to see him graduate(and soon to see our second grandson graduate as well). To be here for that—to see him graduate and start his life as an adult—has been one of our happiest and proudest moments. 


Congo is a country with a beautiful and difficult story. Our country is rich in resources, but the political and social economic instability creates conditions that lead to the poverty that people must live in. So, in our country, we must care for one another as best we can. There is no health system that will help us. 


But the Congo is still a small part of God's creation, and everything we have is because He created us. Of course, we have a difficult history—just like any other country—but there is still so much life. Even the potatoes grow all by themselves. No one even planted them. We do not have freedom there like we have in the United States, but life springs up everywhere—even in unexpected places.