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By Kathy L. Gilbert*
July 12, 2006 | FAIRFAX, Va. (UMNS)

Elizabeth Anok Kuch, a “lost girl” among the “lost boys” of Sudan, speaks at a national reunion. UMNS photos by Jay Mallin.

What gives a 5-year-old the strength to survive the slaughter of her family?

How does a 6-year-old walk a thousand miles and survive by eating leaves and mud?

Where does a 7-year-old get the courage to jump into the crocodile-infested Nile?

Elizabeth Anok Kuch, Angelo Maker and James Garang will tell you in one word: “God.”

Like thousands of “lost boys and girls” from Sudan, they have stories of unimaginable horrors they lived through as children.

Garang’s parents were shot in front of his eyes. He points to the scar on his head left by a bullet that was meant to kill him as well. He faked his death by lying between his dead parents.

“God has a purpose that is greater than I am,” he says. “I don’t know why I survived and my parents were killed. God gave me a life.”

Children -- some as young as three years old -- were forced to leave their southern Sudanese homes in 1987 by soldiers from the north. Many died along the way, killed by wild animals or crocodiles, starvation or exhaustion.

They walked for more than a 1,000 miles to seek refuge in Ethiopia and later in Kenya. They became known as the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan,” named for the orphans who followed Peter Pan in J.M. Barrie’s tale.

Maker says he and his fellow brothers and sisters have gone through things that “shouldn’t have happened to any human being.” Because of his experience he is determined no more Sudanese children should suffer again.

Lost boys found!

Maker and Garang helped organize “Lost Boys: Found!” a reunion for lost boys and girls of Sudan who have resettled in the United States. The July 7-8 event was sponsored by Crossroads United Methodist Church, Ashburn, Va., and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society on the campus of George Mason University.

The purpose of the national event was to provide a platform for the lost boys and girls to speak out for peace in their homeland and express appreciation to the United States for all that has been done to help them resettle.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf talks backstage with some of the “lost boys” of Sudan.

“All we can do is tell our stories to Americans, we have no funds,” says Maker. “God will reward you in heaven.”

Event planners were hoping to gather 100 survivors but only 20 were able to come to the Virginia campus. Despite the low numbers, the event included an impressive number of dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.); Manute Bol, a former National Basketball Association star; and representatives of international crisis groups and peace and justice organizations. The Sudan People Liberation Movement representative to the U.S. also attended.

All the speakers encouraged the now adult refugees from Sudan to band together and become their country’s future.

“Lost boys, you need to provide the leadership,” Wolf tells them during the gathering. He is the co-chairperson of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a bipartisan organization of 200 House members that works to alleviate human right abuses worldwide.

The Congressman has been to Sudan five times. “I have been praying for Sudan every night since 1989,” he says. “Bin Laden walked the streets of Khartoum from 1991-96.” The people of Sudan were the first victims of the war on terror, he adds.

He implores the men and women to “pick up the banner and be the George Washingtons of your country, be the Esthers (referring to Esther 4:14) -- you are here for such a time as this.”

James Garang, an organizer of the “Lost Boys: Found!” reunion fled the country as a child in 1987 after seeing troops murder his parents.

James Winkler, top executive for the Board of Church and Society, points to the lost boys and girls as “the future of Sudan.”

“War and death has scattered you and now you are here,” he tells them. “I pray this gathering will move the world to peace for Africa.”

The whole faith community needs to help, according to Winkler.

Wolf echoes the thought. “It is important for churches to be active in causes like this.”

Meeting the Methodists

The United States has accepted more than 3,000 displaced children from the Sudan since 2001. After spending years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia and later in Kenya, Maker and others were sent to the United States.

“I didn’t choose to come to Virginia,” Maker says. “I didn’t choose to become part of the United Methodist Church. I think God made it possible.”

The lost boys and girls were resettled mainly in Texas, Arizona and Michigan, and religious organizations took responsibility for their care. Maker says he was chosen by Wellsprings United Methodist Church, Williamsburg, Va. Garang was sponsored by a Catholic church in Virginia. The two were reunited and Garang now also attends Wellsprings.

“All we can do is tell our stories to Americans, we have no funds, says
Angelo Maker.

“When I came to this country I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to speak my mind,” Maker says. He found people willing to listen at the United Methodist Church.

When he expressed his desire to rally support for Sudan, the pastor of Wellsprings put him in touch with Cathy Norman at Crossroads United Methodist Church, a church near the nation’s Capitol involved in mission work in Africa.

Norman went to the Sudan in 2004 and felt God was calling her to work for peace in that country. Traveling on the bombed out streets of Yei, she was devastated to realize people had been living destitute for 20 years.

She was given two messages to bring back to the United Methodist Church, she says.

“They said to me ‘Tell people we are here and we have hope for our country’ and secondly, ask them ‘What is the United Methodist Church doing about Darfur?’”

Maker and Garang have ignited Crossroads to work on bringing awareness and change to the struggling country of Sudan. The church has started a national organization, Voices for Sudan, to establish an education fund for lost boys and girls who want to return to their country for the purpose of addressing the issues of justice and peace.

“Meeting Angelo and James was the beginning and the end of the story,” Norman says. “It is all about relationships and God’s mysterious call.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or


Cathy Norman: “Let them know we are here.”

James Garang: “God gave me a life.”


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Crossroads United Methodist Church

Voices for Sudan

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Lost Boys: Found!