By Jordan Haney
CLEVELAND, Ga., “The Lord has blessed me with compassion for people who are hurting because I can relate to them. I want to be there for someone who is hurting,” says Lillian Firth, a sophomore Nursing major at Truett McConnell University (TMU). Firth shares how she hopes to use her past experiences to help others, both now and in the future.
A childhood that built compassion
Firth spent most of her childhood in a little town called Lugazi in Uganda with her mother, father, and older sister, Agnes. “Most of the town was owned by an Indian man who had a huge plantation. Numerous young men came to the town to work for him, and he gave them housing. It was not as uncivilized as many places were in Uganda, but there was a high crime rate.”
The family was hit with a tragedy in 2005. “My dad got really sick, and he was taken to a hospital far away. It was about 11 or 12 hours from where we lived, said Firth.” During this time, her mother stayed with her father in the hospital while she and Agnes stayed in Lugazi. “They left and were gone for a year and a half or so. In 2006, my dad passed away. When my mom came back, she said that my dad had passed away because he had AIDS, which meant she also had AIDS,” said Firth.
“My mom had never gone to school and never had a job, yet she had to support two girls and keep herself healthy by buying medicines.” Firth explained how her family went through “a rough time” after her father’s passing.
A chance to succeed
“We couldn’t afford to keep going to school,” she said. Firth explained that a man, who was the director at a local orphanage, offered to pay for their schooling if she and her sister would go to the orphanage. This was a blessing for both Firth and her sister Agnes. “The orphanage director, William, was awesome. I called him my dad when I joined the orphanage,” said Firth.
Now, that the sisters’ education was paid for, Firth explained that life still was not easy. “There was a lot of ambiguity with not knowing what was going to happen next. Getting through school was hard. All people did was go to school and end up working where everyone gets the same amount of money no matter what education you had received,” said Firth.
“When I came to the orphanage in 2007, the people who are now my parents here in America were my sponsors,” said Firth. The US family felt called to adopt, and the Lord led them to the orphanage where Firth lived. “They sponsored my school all those years, and in 2011 they came to visit on a mission trip, so we got to spend a lot of time together. They came looking to adopt two babies, a boy and a girl. The Lord worked on this trip where they ended up adopting just me, a 15-year-old. In June 2013, everything was finalized so that I could come here [to the US].”
Paul and Katie Firth have four biological children: Cason, Braden, Ella Kate and Chloe. When they adopted Lillian in 2013, she became the oldest child in the family. Since then, the Firths also adopted a sixth child named Sawyer who also lived in the same orphanage in Uganda.
A call to Cleveland
As Firth ended her time in her Christian high school, she began to envision what she wanted in a college. “My [high school] teachers were not only academically challenging but also spiritually inspiring, and I wanted that in a college, too.” After looking at several colleges, Firth realized that TMU was that college for her.
Firth explained that the nursing degree at TMU was an answer to a calling she had felt since a young age. “As a child, I always wanted to be a doctor or a nurse so that I could be there for those people. I really wanted a school where I could pursue nursing or medicine but would also strengthen my faith. When I talked to the professors and students at TMU, I knew this was the place I wanted to go.”
Firth praises the faculty at TMU for preparing her for life outside of college. “My professors really help me to grow. They are there outside of class to ask questions about the Bible or anything else I need to have answered.” Not only are the faculty a source of growth but also Firth’s fellow peers are an encouragement to her. Firth said, “I have friends here who are mentors and who keep me accountable. At Truett, I am surrounded by so many people who encourage me and who genuinely care about me. That has helped me grow a lot in my faith.”
A future of service
Firth shared how Jeremiah 1:5a has been a huge encouragement for her throughout life. The verse says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”
She explained how the verse has guided and blessed her attitude about life. “I reminded myself that every time I look back, I am here because of the Lord. He knew me in my highs and my lows. Anytime I go through something, I remember that God was there at every point in my life and that He knows each one of us and loves each one of us.”
Though it is still quite some time from now, Firth has a few ideas of what she wants to do post-graduation. “After I graduate, I would love to go back to the orphanage in Uganda or go to Lugazi on annual mission trips, where I could bring a medical team to give medical services to the people in the villages.”
Jordan Haney is a TMU senior Business major and intern with the Communications Department.Return to News Archive