Author and preacher Abraham Yel Nhial will present the third annual Wesley Lecture at Reinhardt College. The public is invited to join students, faculty and staff to hear "One Thing: Luke 10:41-42 & Luke 18:22" at 2 p.m. on March 30, 2006, in the Hagan Chapel (Waleska United Methodist Church) on the Reinhardt campus in Waleska, Ga.
Nhial has an incredibly harrowing story, yet his writings are reflective and factual, not sensationalized or vengeful. Now living in Atlanta, his birthplace is half a world away, in southern Sudan. At age 9, he was orphaned when northern Sudanese fighters destroyed his predominantly Christian village. Tending livestock far away from the attack, he escaped, but he became one of approximately 35,000 "Lost Boys from Sudan" who spent a perilous four months walking hundreds of miles through the desert to presumed safety in Ethiopia.
Without adults for guidance or protection, the young boys fought disease, starvation, dehydration, animal attacks, enemy soldiers, fatigue and despair. Abraham and others succeeded in reaching Ethiopia, but their hard times were not over. After several years in squalid refugee camps, they were chased back across the River Gilo into Sudan by tanks and armed militia when unrest broke out in Ethiopia. Again, thousands of the Lost Boys drowned, were eaten by crocodiles or shot. The survivors walked for more than a year through Sudan to Kenya. Emaciated, dehydrated and parentless, some 10,000 of the original boys arrived at Kakuma Refugee Camp in 1992. Most were between the ages of 8 and 18. About 3,600 of the Lost Boys were brought to the U.S. by the federal government in 2001, and as they settled in American cities, local communities, churches and non-profits stepped forward to augment the assistance provided by the government.
Reinhardt Chaplain the Rev. Leigh S. Martin is looking forward to Nhial sharing his "amazing story and testimony."
"The faith he has shown throughout life's challenges is a real testament to the perseverance of the human spirit," Martin said. "The political unrest in Sudan is not ancient history, it is still in the news today! His message is just as relevant as it is inspirational."
Despite his harrowing ordeal, Nhial recognized that he became "a lost boy no more" when he discovered real salvation through Christianity. "Giving my life to Christ is the one true thing I need," he said. He is often asked how he can be so forgiving. For him, his generosity of spirit is easy to explain.
"Christ taught us that we should forgive," he said. "Despite everything, I still have a spirit of forgiving. We must pray and work together. We must believe in Christ's love."
The book Nhial wrote with DiAnn Mills, "Lost Boy No More," includes the complicated history of the area now known as Sudan. The complex causes behind the two decade-long civil war that has killed more than 2 million and displaced another 4 million are also outlined. "We have lost so, so many people," Nhial said. "We have been killed like animals. Politicians don't want to talk about it; they don't want to call it genocide... but it is still going on today."
He is regarded by many as the Lost Boys' spiritual leader for his commitment to working on their behalf. He speaks for college, school, church and community groups around the country about the Lost Boys and the plight of the Sudanese. In addition to studying humanities and Christianity as a full-time student at the Atlanta Christian College, he also pastors a small Clarkson-based church for 150 of his Sudanese brothers. He hopes to enter the seminary after completing his bachelor's in 2007. Paying living expenses is often a struggle, and he also has responsibilities for his wife and five-month-old daughter, who are still in Kenya.
Nhial still has hope for southern Sudan. In the summer of 2006, he plans to return to the area, and he is raising donations to build orphanages, drill wells and supply food to the ravaged area.
Dr. Sherry Korthase, a Reinhardt professor of English, said she was moved by Nhial's courage, his hope of a better life, and his stalwart faith. "I selected his memoir for my English Composition 101 classes to read this year as part of Year of Africa," she said. "When [Chaplain] Leigh Martin asked that his talk be designated as the Wesley Lecture for this year, that was even better."
For more information on the Wesley Lecture, please contact Rev. Martin at 770-720-5634.
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