At the end of December, 1980, my husband was born in a small town in central Alabama to a nurse and a lawyer. On the very same day halfway around the world, another boy was born into a growing family in a small, rural Sudanese village.
Three years later, 1983, I came along, the third child to a military family stationed in the Philippines. Meanwhile, my husband was getting used to being a big brother and learning to share. In Sudan, that same boy was being torn away from his family as a vicious civil war broke out, scattering children and parents into the black night, fleeing gunfire and senseless violence.
In 1983, I was a Newborn. In 1983, Hubs was a Big Brother. In 1983, Jimmy Makuach was a Lost Boy of Sudan.
I was learning how to smile and how to hold my head up. My husband was learning the alphabet and maybe how to spell his name. Jimmy was learning to survive in the thick African wilderness, walking by night, hiding by day, hundreds of miles and even years away from finding refuge.
Years later, Jimmy was “adopted” by a church in Maryville, Tennessee, where he attended college, played basketball, and earned his degree. I came to know Jimmy, the boy from Sudan we called Uncle D, through my husband, who was Jimmy’s roommate. We are honored to call Jimmy a close friend.
Since we graduated several years ago, Jimmy has returned to Sudan and has worked tirelessly with the non-profit organizations South Sudan Production Aid and ChristianAid to better the lives of his countrymen, in a desolate part of Africa considered to be one of the poorest and most violent war-torn regions in the world. (Darfur, one of the more well-known regions of Africa as far as humanitarian efforts, is in Sudan.)
The Sudanese Civil War that displaced thousands of Sudanese, separating over 20,000 children from their families over the span of two decades, came to a tentative end in 2005, when the northern Muslim region and southern Christian region of Sudan formed a volatile peace treaty. On July 9, 2011, southern Sudan declared their independence, now the Republic of South Sudan, becoming a democracy and electing by majority vote Salva Kiir Mayardit as their first president.
Our good friend Jimmy, intelligent, well-educated, passionately loyal to his country and envisioned with a brighter future, was appointed President Kiir’s Personal Aid.
A couple of weeks ago, we were able to meet with Jimmy, who took time from his American tour, between addressing students at our alma mater and meeting with the United Nations and President Obama in D.C., to have dinner with us.
It’s a bit of an understatement to say we are so proud to be counted among his friends.
Jimmy is doing amazing, life-changing work in South Sudan, a fragile but determined new country insisting on freedom and restoration and peace. And there is much work to be done, the very least of which is raising worldwide awareness of South Sudan’s steep uphill battle toward self-sufficiency and global reputation.
Politics aside, Hubs and I have seen firsthand the resilience and dedication of the Sudanese people through Jimmy and many like him, refugees rescued from the horrors and brutality of war only to take their education and opportunities back to Sudan, to bring their people hope, to actively work toward change.
And it is a beautiful thing.
What can you do to get involved?
Above all, Learn. Learn what you can about South Sudan and what they are up against. The birth of a new nation, no matter how far removed from our lives, is news indeed, and you’ll be sure to find articles about what is happening in Africa. Watch this video about the annual Peace Olympics held in Twic, Sudan, and meet our friend Jimmy.
In addition to being the newest country in Africa, South Sudan is also considered one of the poorest countries with some of the worst health conditions in the world. Here is a list of non-profit organizations that are working to eradicate poverty and promote education (Christian and non-faith-based alike):
Sudan is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people. And I’m lucky enough to know one of her most beautiful souls.