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'I can face whatever comes next'

"'I can face whatever comes next'" Continued...

Issue: "Space: Dawn of Discovery," Aug. 13, 2005

In October 1991, the Sudanese militia attacked Pochalla, so we set out again and walked for five months to Kenya. We reached Lokichoggio and camped west of town, but the local people kept stealing from us. Finally, in July 1992, the UN moved us to a new refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. At last, we were safe from our enemies.

In 2000, I was scheduled to be resettled in the United States, but I had heard many frightening rumors about America. We had been told that immigrants cannot become permanent residents and that they must work all day for only a little food and a few coins. We also heard that many people are shot on the streets, so less than half of the Lost Boys agreed to register to be resettled there.

Then, some who had gone to America began sending money, photographs, and letters back to us, describing a second heaven filled with food, schools, and people who love them. The photos showed the beauty and the wealth of America: boys lying on green grass outside their apartments, boys lying on big mattresses in their bedrooms, boys holding fruit and vegetables in bright kitchens, boys eating at beautiful tables with white families. Convinced that I was wrong about America, I applied for resettlement again in 2001.

As we waited to hear from the immigration service, my friend Aloung was killed one week before he was to leave for America. He was celebrating his resettlement in his hut with his friends when five gunmen heard the music on his radio and came to take it. Aloung was killed because he was standing by the door singing, offering food and drink to his guests. We mourned the loss of such an honest and wise friend who had been one of the encouragers during the trip of the Lost Boys. When he was only 9 years old, Aloung had given us hope by telling us that God is not a murderer who would kill all the children of the same generation in one day. He predicted some of us would die but some will live long, good lives. His words are still remembered.

On Sept. 10, 2003, I flew into Fargo, N.D. Workers from Lutheran Social Services (LSS) greeted us with flowers and money and settled us in our own apartment in a strange, cold land. Many wonderful things were given to us: furniture, a TV, and a washing machine. At first, I worried that I would have to return them but they were ours to keep.

Those first three months of adjusting to a new culture were challenging. Having only lived in grass huts, I did not know how to live in such a nice home. My bed had always been the hard ground, so I could not sleep on the soft mattress. I slept on the floor for many weeks. Making meals was another problem because the only American foods I knew how to cook were rice and chicken.

I got a job at a factory because I had already graduated from the UN school in Kenya. I wanted to go to college, but it seemed impossible-until I prayed and God answered. After I passed the college entrance exam, I qualified for financial aid, so I was admitted to North Dakota State University where I am working toward a degree in criminal justice.

Since I came to North Dakota, I have adjusted to many aspects of life. I do not know exactly what the future holds, but I trust that God will continue to guide and protect us as He did in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. My Christian faith has been tested and strengthened, so I can face whatever comes next with courage and joy.

>>Read more from Akol Maker

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