Meet Abraham. One of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, he is a leader of a growing Episcopal congregation in Syracuse, New York.
I want to see in the future to be a church of everybody. That’s my dream.
My African name is Dut Deng; my Christian name is Abraham.
Abraham is one of 40,000 “Lost Boys” orphaned or displaced by the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005).
When the war destroyed his village in 1987, he and other children traveled on foot to the Ethiopian border. The journey took over four months. Many died along the way.
We lost a lot of children on the way because of hunger, because of disease, because of different animals were attacking us on the way. I still remember some of my good friends that were being caught by animals like lions and cheetahs. And you have to run, you don’t even… we didn’t have capacity to help each other.
Abraham learned about Jesus from an Episcopal priest in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. He was baptized thirty years ago today (November 11, 1987).
I begin to know that there was a God. That’s why I meet somebody who’s different in color or who is different from me, or who speaks a different language. And [they’re] giving me food, giving me clothes.
And I began to say “Okay that will be the God that I will choose, that will be the God that I will follow. That will be the God that I will depend on him. Because I didn’t know where my parents are.
So I was the first person actually to be baptized, to be a Christian in my family. And I was very proud. And I was baptized as an Episcopalian. From 1987 up to now I have been Episcopal.
It was a very sunny day, very beautiful. It was a bunch of kids being baptized at that time; more than 1,000. And when they begin to baptize us, the baptism began in the morning, about 6 a.m. And I was in the line. I was waiting for about 8 hours until I was baptized around like 2 to 3 p.m. Because I see the shadow was changing from this to that way.
Water was in short supply in the refugee camp where Abraham was baptized.
They come with a water tank they come and station it somewhere, under the tree. That would be your water for a whole month. And if it’s finished you have to wait until another month to get water. The water was very precious. You drink, but you don’t really drink enough. Yeah, it was a big deal, to use [water] for baptism.
Abraham came to Syracuse in 2000 after living for thirteen years in refugee camps. In 2003, the Bishop of Bor (South Sudan) visited him in the U.S. and invited him to new ministry.
And then our bishop talked to me. And he said, “Abraham, I want you not to forget your God.”
Abraham and his fellow Sudanese Episcopalians began to look for a new place to worship in their language, Dinka.
We live, most of us live in the city here. So we feel that it was a close church, Episcopal church here. So we choose downtown, St. Paul’s, to be our place for us to worship in Dinka. And we begin to worship in Dinka in 2005.
We have around 50 children. Yeah, we have a lot of children. And our average attendance every Sunday is between 50 to 75. I hold this church dearly to my heart. Because the church is my…The church is a part of my life story. It’s a part of the Sudanese history. And we keep it, we hold it close to our life. We know that we cannot do anything without God.
I wish and I hope, one of the day… I would like to see our church become bigger, become growing. I would like to see a big church where the children are happy, where every person is coming and praying, and to be a safe haven for them. I need to see a healthy, vibrant church. Where I can see the children, the women, the older… And not only to be a Sudanese–our church is basically–We teach the bible in Dinka but we translate into English and Arabic. And I hope in one of the day we can be a diverse church. Anybody can be a part of the church. We can have American citizens to be a part of our congregation. From different communities.
We start now as a Sudanese church but I want to see in the future to be a church of everybody. Yeah, that’s my dream.