Sunday, December 14, 2008

A child soldier's life . . .

This Sunday, God opened my eyes to a story that is amazing, troubling, and soul-stirring.I had previously met John (above) in church, and I knew he came from Sudan. Today he greeted me in Swahili. I expressed surprise because few Sudanese people speak Swahili. John told me that he had lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for many years.

After the service, I asked John to tell me more about his life. His story came pouring out -- as though he had been holding it inside until someone finally asked.

John, agreed to let me share his story. Though the pictures that follow are not John's, they are of boys just like him.

When John was a very little boy in Sudan, his father got sick and died. Later his mother died, too, leaving John with an older sister and a younger brother. John had no food and no protection, so when rebel soldiers captured him, he had no option but to join. He went through a period of training. Then he was handed a gun.John doesn't know how old he is, but he estimates he was about 10 when he became a soldier. He spent many years fighting. His body is peppered with scars from bullets. Many of the bullets are still inside him. He has one in his neck and several others that he showed me.After John had been fighting for several years, he was walking one day with 2 other boy soldiers. They set off a land mine. John was severely wounded. No one thought he would live. John felt sure he was going to die.The Red Cross took him to a hospital. While John was recovering, he met a Sudanese woman named Suzana. She was married to an important man and they had three children. Suzana loved John and told him not to return to Sudan when he was well. She wanted him to join her family as a son.

When he recovered, John moved into Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. He stayed with Suzana's family until time came for him to be resettled. Suzana cried many tears when she said goodbye to John.John has lived in Atlanta for more than 2 years. He has a job at a meat factory. Everyone told him to save money to buy a car. John said he did not want to buy a car. He saved his money so he could go back to Africa and visit Suzana.

This fall, John finally got his green card, his travel documents, and his ticket. Suzana now lives in Kampala, Uganda. John will fly there in January and return in March. Suzana will take him back into Sudan so he can try to find his sister. John's brother was killed, and his sister is mentally disturbed from the trauma and suffering she experienced. John wants to see her again, along with his uncle and other extended family members.

While I listened to my new friend, I could hear the pain in his voice and see the tears filling his eyes. Please pray for John -- for safety as he travels on yet another long journey, for healing in his heart and body, and for all the boy soldiers in Africa.So, one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" has found a home. Not only does John have friends in Africa and America, but he is a Christian who holds his faith in God close to his heart. Those of us who follow Christ know that this world is not our home. We are just passing through -- sometimes with unimaginable suffering -- to our true home in the arms of Jesus.

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