My name is Maciek. I have a story that might be like yours, or like those you see on TV or read about in the Bible. I am one of the war–time children of the world, born into a civil war in 1987. The war started in 1983 and continued until 2005, the year peace came to South Sudan. My story is similar to the children of World Wars I and II and of the Stolen Generations.
I grew up in this environment until 1996. When I was nine years old I ran away. I became known as one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
The closest safe place was in Kenya, where I found refuge in the Lutheran World Federation camp of Kakuma. It was a journey I did with my peers, through dangerous routes, which were full of very dangerous wild animals too. I was helped most by Samuel Acuek, who was older and knew the route to the camp. Nowadays he lives in Perth.
In Kakuma we were educated, protected and taught how to pray. I lived there from 1996 until 2003. While in the camp I was thrilled to learn that my mum, one sister and four brothers were still alive in South Sudan. Sadly my father, two sisters and twins had died. We suffered physical pain, mental pain and the pain of being alone, without our parents; like the children of the wars and Stolen Generations who suffered before us.
My experience reminded me of Job. He lost his family and all he owned. But Job was older and wiser, with experience about life. We children of war had little experience. But our faith in God gave us hope and determination for a better life one day.
During the Sudanese civil war, families were scattered everywhere. They escaped to Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, similar to the way Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaped to Egypt, in the time of King Herod.
In Kenya many of us, who were lost and living in darkness, received help from the lights of the generous people of God, as it is stated in Matthew 5:15,16:
‘no one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house’ (NRSV). Furthermore, God gave light to us and others through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
The lights of God shone upon us because the whole world, through the people of God, had put their lights on the lampstand. Those lights brought some of my people and me to Australia, and others to America and Canada.
Up until then, my life was about vulnerability and struggle. I know now I was not the only one. Today
I see young people, children and adults still having a hard time as I did. When I see them suffering at the corners of the world, I relive the struggle for a good life. Our world is still not at peace.
When people like me are given refuge in Australia, they also need friendship, education, human services, and support from the church.
A relative introduced me to St Matthew’s in Footscray. They made me feel very welcome, by helping me find accommodation and blessing my home, writing references, supplying me with a green bicycle and giving me the opportunity to share my story and serve on the church council.
Maciek Nek is a member at St Matthew’s Footscray in Melbourne. One of the Lost Boys of Sudan (the name given to the more than 20,000 boys displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War), he will complete a degree in criminal justice this year. You can read a story about another ‘Lost Boy’, David Jock, whose story featured in the November 2005 edition of The Lutheran.
This feature story comes from The Lutheran March 2016. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.
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