Between 1987 and 1989, thousands and thousands of children, many who were young boys, traveled on foot to flee from the brutality of the civil war in Sudan. Those children became known as "The Lost Boys."
In 2005, the book They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky came out detailing the plight and trials of three of these young boys.
I bring it to your attention now because the crisis behind the story, the civil war in Sudan, is still a crisis that threatens that country. The United Methodist Church - in particular the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church - has taken special interest in this part of the world and its struggles. We still send mission teams, pastors, volunteers, doctors, and aid to Sudan. But for many, we have forgotten the struggles and the trials that created such a humanitarian crisis.
And with the growing number of refugees from wars and violence across the world, this book should probably be back on our radar.
I found this book to be an engrossing read. It is full of suspense, danger, escapes, and close shaves. If it were an action film, it would be tremendous. Yet when we come to realize that this was a real story, a real series of events, the idea of an action film becomes a thin means of escaping the brutality that this really happened.
The struggles these boys went through is almost beyond belief. They had to endure hatred, warfare, the elements, the heat, and all without knowing what awaited them, if anything, across the next patch of sun-baked land. It is truly an amazing story and one that will have you both inspired by the resilience and tenacity of these young men and the triumph of the human spirit as well as brought to tears by the fact that humans can treat one another so horribly.
It presents a story of life that many of us will likely never know or have to know. Yet it makes one wonder - how would I fare in such conditions? How would I hope to be treated? Likewise, it makes one ask, "How do I treat the stranger? The sojourner? The refugee?"
Towards the end of the book, there is the story of some of the survivors in a Sunday School class.
"The children danced, narrated poems, and composed a lot of simple but reasonably good songs to entertain the audience. My favorite song was the one below. To sing it, the teacher stood in front of the children who were organized into groups representing continents or countries. The teacher began the song by asking the question. 'Who are you?'
One group of children would answer, 'We are the Africans.
We are the Asians.
We are the Americans.
We are the Australians.
We are the Europeans.
We are the Arabians.
Forget those names. We are all the children of God."
Perhaps if we could learn this lesson, stories such as They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky would become a thing of the past.
I would encourage you to visit the website for the book and for the Lost Boys of Sudan who continue to speak around the world. It can be found at www.theypouredfire.com
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky
Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak, with Judy Bernstein
New York: PublicAffairs