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'Lost Boy' Pastor Tells Heroic Story of Death, Life, Faith and Hope

'Lost Boy' Pastor Tells Heroic Story of Death, Life, Faith and Hope

By David W. Virtue, DD
November 7, 2017

What's it like to grow up in the midst of a Civil War that never ends? What's it like to see people die every day of bullet wounds, hunger, starvation, malnutrition and sheer hopelessness? What's it like to see a nation torn in two over oil, and when it is finally resolved, watch as tribal wars begin and the bloodshed just goes on and on.

The Rev. John C. Daau knows. You see he is one of Sudan's "lost boys" and he has seen it all first hand. He was one of over 40,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War between 1983--2005, where nearly 2 million were killed and millions more were displaced. Of the 30,000 Lost Boys only 10,000 survived, John was one of them.

Fr. Daau dodged death on more than one occasion, saw his village invaded and destroyed, became an orphan, ran and hid in the wilderness and refugee camps of East Africa. As an orphan and refugee John was denied every advantage of life. But then God stepped in and made a way for him in the midst of the carnage and miraculously he received an education and a call to be a minister of the gospel. Christ transformed his life. In 2004, John responded to the call on his life and became an Anglican priest.

At that time, he founded the Good Shepherd Leadership Training Center in Kaduna Refugee camp to empower lay leaders and Anglican clergy. The demand for his teaching spread all over the refugee camps pf East Africa, with over 1,000 students completing his classes.

John began teaching the Christian faith to thousands of refugees and displaced persons from across East Africa. In the words of his uncle who prophesied at John's birth, that he would be, Choi Makeyn, "a true compensator for his people."

Fr. Daau appeared at Christ Church Anglican on Philadelphia's mainline recently, where I met him and listened to his story to a growing CANA/ACNA congregation.

"My country has had 50 years of civil war. Until 2008, Sudan was in a civil war with itself fighting over oil and religion. (The north is predominantly Muslim, the south Christian.) In 2008 there was a referendum and two countries were formed, but then tribal civil wars erupted and the country has since gone into decline even as the north wants to exploit us for the oil they were deprived of since the country was divided into two."

Undaunted Fr. Daau saw the 4.5 million displaced Sudanese, many affected by famine, and his heart went out to them. He started a school and refugees flocked into it. He became the founder director of the Good Shepherd Foundation.

Fr. Daau married and moved to Nairobi and now operates his school in Juba, South Sudan.

To this day he carries memories of the terrible things he witnessed in the world's youngest country with a population ranging from 8 to 12 million.

"We have a population of 70 percent people below the age of 35, located in some 64 tribal groups. Eighty percent of South Sudanese are Christian, with Muslims making up less than 2 percent. Traditionalists make up 18 percent.

"The biggest crisis the country faces is illiteracy. 75 percent of the population is illiterate. Some 95 percent of the population cannot read or write. The country has a high mortality rate with a life span of 50. More than 70% of school age children are not attending school. Violence and civil wars have taken their toll on the country.

"I have watched the despair and suffering of children and women. The South Sudan civil war has gone in phases. For a while we had a brief peace and now we have tribe to tribe issues. Before it was a Muslim verses Christian war, where the fighting was over resources. South Sudan experienced successes with oil and working with the Chinese. Christians are also an obstacle to Islamic expansion. The recurring violence has seen more than 2.5 million killed and another 2.5 million have been displaced. Last year some 30,000 were displaced near Juba.

Hunger and hardship still prevail. Relationships have broken down. War has made people hate one another and poverty rages across the land. Famine is in the wind and the risk of starvation grows daily. There is no sign that tribal tensions will ease any time soon.

The question is how do we respond. People respond in various ways, he says.

For Fr. Daau, raising and equipping servant leaders through his Christian-based education for transformation and the building of a peaceful society is foremost in his mind. To that end he started the Good Shepherd Foundation.

Two years ago, Fr. Daau built a school. He called it the Good Shepherd Academy. It is packed to the hilt each day. School for children is held in the morning and in the afternoon, he teaches pastors. The tribes don't get along, but the pastors do, he says. Fr Daau started with 117 children, now the school has 238. This year 335 had to be turned away, there was not enough space and no capacity. He says he has to feed the children, because many can't get enough food in their homes and they come to school hungry.

You would think that despair would be so overwhelming that Fr. Daau would simply give up. But the priest refuses to despair. There is no room for it, he says.

The church in Sudan has experienced many changes as well. They have known the joy of revival, but are now confronting a country in upheaval. Now, as much as ever, they are fighting for peace, unity, development, restoration and redemption. They have lost many leaders and resources. His country desperately needs theological education and formation. The country needs peacemakers to meet the challenges. For these reasons Fr. John remains committed to his vision of raising Christian shepherds throughout South Sudan.

A book on the life and ministry of Fr. Daau written jointly by Fr. Daau and Lilly Sanders Ubbens called God's Refugee captures his life as a Lost Boy, his finding Christ can be obtained here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CTANZP0/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support the ministry of Fr. Daau and his school in Juba, you can send a donation to:
Attn. Barbara Nelson
921 Bashford Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314

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