Sifa Ndusha was living with her family in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998 when masked militia entered her home, killing her mother and taking her father.
The militia separated Ndusha and her 14 siblings, and for years, Ndusha feared her father, a teacher whose name is Ndusha Mwesha, had also died.
Nearly 15 years after the losses, a Lexington case worker at the Bluegrass Chapter of the American Red Cross helped the refugee find her father.
A few weeks ago, Ndusha, now 35, and her sister Marie Ndusha, 30, received letters from Ndusha Mwesha and talked to their father for the first time.
"I am very thankful," Sifa Ndusha said Wednesday. ''When I heard the voice of my father when he called me ... he said, 'Are you really my children? Are you alive?'"
Ndusha said she first asked her father about his health and appearance, while he wanted to know if he had any grandchildren.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is a large country in central Africa. The country has experienced internal strife since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960, Red Cross officials said Wednesday in a news release.
Fighting involving at least six other African nations began in 1998, spurred by violence in neighboring Rwanda, the release said. There were large refugee movements with many family members separated.
More violence followed Ndusha. Ndusha said she was attacked by the militia and her husband was kidnapped in 2007. She still does not know her husband's whereabouts.
Ndusha said she went to neighboring Uganda in 2007, and in 2011, she traveled to the United States as a refugee. In all, eight members of her family, including children and siblings, now live in Lexington.
In 2012, Ndusha met another woman in Lexington who had seen Ndusha's father in Uganda. Ndusha contacted the Red Cross in Lexington for help finding any living relatives in Uganda.
Through Germaine O'Connell, a volunteer American Red Cross case worker, Ndusha and her sister Marie sent letters for their father. Red Cross officials in Uganda delivered the notes.
O'Connell said she works on about six cases each year to reunite families from war-torn countries.
In Ndusha's case and others, a Red Cross volunteer in the foreign country spends time "knocking on doors and trying to find out who was the last person who may have seen the family member," O'Connell said.
Ndusha said she is now studying at Kentucky State University. She hopes her father can come to the United States soon.
"I could work to take care of him," she said. We miss him a lot."
Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears