A Christian Science perspective: Reflections on visits to Sudanese refugee camps.
I remember crossing the border into southern Sudan from Ethiopia in the early 1990s. My job with the US government required me to visit refugee camps on both sides of the border and to monitor the care and education of young people in the camps. Ethiopia's communist government had recently fallen, and the refugee camps were more at peace than they had been during the country's civil war.
Little did I know that 20 years later my memories would flood back with all the stories of the Lost Boys of Sudan (see cover story) – more than 20,000 orphaned boys who survived the wars, deprivations, and threats to their lives and are now living successfully in the United States and other countries.
Remembering one visit to the refugee camps before the great migration of these young men, I recall the hope and expectation in their eyes. I climbed out of a United Nations aid vehicle and was surrounded by these slender young men who'd known only nomadic and rural lives. Christian missionaries provided them havens, and I was impressed with the camp workers' calm, dignity, and commitment to good works. The young men showed us classrooms and living quarters, happily trying out their English on us.
The Christly attitude of the aid workers, mostly older women, touched me. They didn't see hardship – living almost as simply as the boys, with few amenities and limited water and electricity. I came away from that visit, which included a "tea" with the aid workers, impressed with their humanity.
This statement by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, comes to mind when I conjure up those scenes: "The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 25). Certainly I saw the humanity and Christlike love of these refugee camp workers, good Christian women supported by their stateside churches, providing care and education for these boys.
Fast-forwarding 10 or 20 years doesn't enable me to know what happened to those young men, or whether some of them became the Lost Boys who fled when armies of Sudanese rebels forced young men into service or killed them outright. But I do know that our prayers for all the children of the world, the refugees at risk, and the individuals fearing persecution, can bring about results that we can't imagine.
During the next decade in Africa, although I didn't take on refugee children, our family expanded with four orphaned and at-risk children, and I watched Mrs. Eddy's words take hold within our family: "Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear" (Science and Health, p. 506).
There was nothing forced about the adoptions of our four beautiful children. It was God working within all of us, enfolding us in His plan, bringing us together. And for the Lost Boys, who have felt love and open arms and attitudes, the "petals of a holy purpose" are opening for them. The love that is God-driven touches many lives.