Sometimes when reading a book one gets the extraordinary sense of God’s presence. Such has been the case for Kristi and I as we have just finished God’s Refugee, The Story of a Lost Boy Pastor, by Rev. John Chol Daau and Lilly Sanders Ubbens.
Many accounts have been given on the lives of the Lost Boys of Sudan. It is estimated that 30,000 young boys fled from their homes due to the Second Civil War of Sudan with only 10,000 surviving the journey. Stories usually include young boys having to walk incredibly long distances, being hunted by the military from the North, travelling for days with little water and food, being attacked by wild animals, crossing crocodile infested rivers, and being forced to live in refugee camps for years on end.
The boy John Chol Daau’s story is no different. What perhaps sets his story apart from other accounts is how his life is clearly marked by God from infancy. He is named after John the Baptist by one of his uncles, an unusual name to be given. Moreover, as an infant, he would not stop crying, driving his mother and family to exasperation. Finally his Uncle Johnson comes and gently holds a Bible over young John’s head. John quiets and reaches for the Bible. His Uncle Johnson then prophesies that one day John will preach God’s Word.
John becomes known as the drummer boy in his village, carrying his Uncle Elijah’s Bible and following him everywhere. The two would lead church services under a tree, where John would play his drum with rapturous joy. Their efforts, however, were not appreciated by most villagers until John’s Uncle Paul is miraculously healed. A second intervention of God during a difficult pregnancy solidifies the power of Jesus over the Jak (local spirits or gods) in the hearts and minds of villagers. People begin to flock to the church and begin burning their shrines to the local deities, local deities who had been exacting huge sacrifices on the people for generations.
When John’s village is attacked, he and others ran…and ran…and ran. Much of his account focuses upon life in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, where life is harsh for everyone. Yet, in these places of suffering and humiliation and pain, God makes Himself known to thousands upon thousands of Southern Sudanese refugees. What some missiologists refer to as a “People Movement” becomes the norm in these camps. Thousands begin flocking to different refugee camp churches to worship. The Holy Spirit begins inspiring these new Christians to create new songs, songs which are written and composed daily. Believers are given new names which represented new life and freedom. John writes, “We began to see that we were not displaced unknowns, but God’s people. We were refugees in God. We sensed that what had been lost to us, our dignity, had been returned. We received a new status – one as real persons.” The refugees were given new life in Christ. They were given a new community and a new family. They realized that even if they didn’t have parents, God was their parent.
After years of living in the camps, serving God but being separated from his family, John is miraculously given the opportunity to study at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya. His world opens up as he learns more about the Bible, about servant leadership, and about community development. He returns to the camps where he teaches others and helps equip those serving as church leaders in the camps. Finally, after seventeen years, he is able to return to his home village of Baping where he is reunited with his Uncle Johnson and learns more about the fate of other family members. Of course there is more to tell, but we won’t give more details away!
If you are interested in South Sudan or just simply want to be inspired by the manifestation of God’s miraculous power to redeem brokenness in our world, we encourage you to read this exceptional story. You can find God’s Refugee, The Story of a Lost Boy Pastor on Amazon at this link, or go to a local bookstore and see if they have it in stock or ask if they can order it for you. Happy reading!