By Reverend Bafel Paul Gak Deng, Sudanese Evangelist,
Dec 31, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — Life in America requires three foundational structures to enhance the chance for new immigrants to survive and thrive:
- Building for worship (church)
- Building for living (good home environment)
- Building for education (school and college)
Brief background on the Deng family immigration to USA:
Sudan is the largest country in Africa by area and is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups. The primary group in the northern part of the country is Muslim Arabs who have traditionally held control over the ethnically diverse black people of the Southern Sudan. With many different languages being spoken, southerners are principally Christians and traditionally religious. Sudan is a divided country. South Sudan region has been negatively affected by three civil wars since Sudanese independence: From 1955 to 1972, the Sudan government fought the Anyanya rebel army during the first Sudan civil war, followed by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA/M) in the second Sudan civil war in 1983, for more than 21 years resulting in the internal displacement of 4.5 million Sudanese. Over 400 thousand refugees moved to other lands including the United States of America in which I currently reside. Over the past 19 years some 2.5 million people have died as a result of war.
South Sudan Efforts for Independence:
Efforts for a long term peace have historically been unsuccessful. The United States government passed the Sudan Peace Agreement Act (SPLA) in an effort to promote peace in Sudan. The peace accord was signed on January 9, 2005 in Machakos, Kenya and was witnessed by international community leaders, and even General Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State of the United States of America under President George W. Bush. The churches of Sudanese Christians in Diaspora have called upon their brothers and sisters around the world to speak boldly and loudly for peace in Sudan, calling for even stronger pressure to ensure that all agreements are fully implemented.
The Independence of South Sudan:
On January 9, 2011 a referendum was held to determine whether South Sudan should declare independence from Sudan. 98.83% of population voted for independence (the result was released on January 30, 2011). These living in the north and expatriates living overseas also voted. This led to formal independence on July 9, 2011, although certain disputes continued to escalate. The regions of Abyei still remain as disputed territory. A separate referendum will be held in Abei on whether they desire join the primarily Arab Muslim Sudan or Christian South Sudan.
The third evil civil war in South Sudan: (December 15, 2013)
Within three years of independence the new nation of South Sudan went back to war. Fighting that erupted in December in South Sudan and is believed to have started with the presidential guard and then to spread to other army units and civilians among the well established ethnic fault line South Sudan. President Kier of South Sudan is from the Denka tribe and the former vice president Dr. Machar is from the Nuer tribe. Tribal differences with their cultural distinctions are often a recipe for conflict in South Sudan.
The United Nations and African envoys are trying to start up a peace process that will halt the faction fighting which has already killed thousands of people and resulted in a number of people massacred in Juba the capital of South Sudan. Nuer civilians were targeted in the unrest on December 15, 16, 17, 18, 2013. At least 1.5 million South Sudanese have fled their homes and become refugees again in neighboring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and many people are internally accommodated in United Nations bases within the South Sudan.
God help the nation of South Sudan and save us from the personal ambitions of leaders who are currently in authority. My prayer and my hope is that in the coming year of 2015, peace will prevail in South Sudan. We want to see the South Sudan become a place of worship and for the beloved citizens to receive the services that they need, such as hospitals, schools, water sanitation, roads and agriculture. We want to see the children of South Sudan playing sports and competing with other countries. We want to see the women of South enjoy freedom in society. We want to see the churches in South Sudan praise the Lord in dignity and the Muslim brothers enjoy the same privilege in unity and love in the federal state of the Republic of South Sudan. God bless South Sudan.
Migration to the United States of America (September 23, 1998)
In 1994, my wife and children fled the country of Sudan and came to Egypt as refugees. I managed to join them in Egypt on April 5, 1996. We stayed in Egypt till 1998, and by the time we were in Egypt I went to study at the Evangelical Theological Seminary and my children went to school studying the Arabic language according to the Egyptian’s curriculum. We worshiped in the evangelical church in Zagazig city with Pastor Rumazi. He was very kind and cooperative with us and he baptized some of my children. On September 23, 1998, the government of the United States requested a number of refugees for resettlement. My family and I were among those who were processed and accepted by the American government, and we came to America on September 23, 1998. We were settled in Southern Pine Apartments in Clarkston, DeKalb County, Georgia outside of Atlanta, and I enrolled my children in various schools (High School, Elementary School).
The primary challenge we found was that the USA is a big country which contains many nationalities, different languages and different cultures. There is great freedom in America and I had to be careful and thoughtful regarding how to raise my children in this multicultural life setting in the United States. I developed a plan to have three houses in my heart: house of prayer (church), house of education (school) and a house of living (home environment). In this regard I worked to implement these plans. On November 23, 1998 I began work for the Flexible Metal Hose Company and ultimately became a machine operator to increase my income. We lived in an apartment and I managed to take my children to the house of prayer. I was very glad to get up every Saturday and Sunday morning to take my children to Peace Lutheran Church for Bible study and confirmation classes until they were confirmed. Ultimately each of them became good Christians. We always had two services on Sunday. The morning service in English conducted with Reverend Dr. Victor. J Belton and the afternoon service with me, Reverend Bafel Paul Deng using local language that is Arabic for Sudanese African tribes and Nuer language for the Nuer congregation. My family and I were in service for 5 hours on Sunday because I wanted them to learn the Sudanese culture and not to forget our language. Reverend Dr. Victor J. Belton, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church and I had a good relationship and he was a faithful father to the Sudanese in metro Atlanta area. I worked for Flexible Metal Hose Company until I was able to buy a house in Stone Mountain Georgia on May 5, 2000.
After I settled my family in a house and in a good environment, they were amazed and happy and they continued their education in this good environment with good health, no stress or distress and they listened to us. In every situation, my wife Rebecca is prayerful and God is faithful to answer her prayers.
On October 1, 2001, I was employed by Peace Lutheran Church as a human care worker for the Sudanese Community in Metro Atlanta through a grant which was funded by Lutheran World Relief and Human Care. Therefore I had to leave the Flexible Metal Hose Company and concentrate on church and the community. On October 1, 2001 I was enrolled in Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri to study in the Ethnic Institute of Theology with the Reverend Dr. Victor J. Belton as my mentor. I was ordained a pastor in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to serve the Sudanese community on May 30, 2009. Pastor Victor and I worked closely with the Sudanese community in metro Atlanta. In 2009 I went back to South Sudan to help our brothers and sisters in the new nation, the Republic of South Sudan. I was primarily located in the Upper Nile State and was appointed on December 10, 2010 as a Director of Religious Affairs for Upper Nile State. On November 23, 2012, I was promoted and appointed as a Chairperson of Peace and Reconciliation Commission for Upper Nile State.
I came back to America on January 7, 2013, when the war broke out again as I mentioned above. From August 25, 2014 until September 26, 2014 I went back to Africa just to visit the refugees camps, mainly in Ethiopia and Sudan where I able to distribute the mosquito nets to the vulnerable South Sudanese who had been displaced. We’re continuing to help the refugees in the camps. Our future plan for 2015 revolves mainly around the students in refugees camps, for which we hope to provide school materials. We also hope to provide tents for classes and Sunday worship and perhaps some additional mosquito nets.
Thanksgiving to the Lord Almighty:
My wife Rebecca and I are always proud of our children because they have been so kind to us by listening to our advice and remaining linked to church. In this regard I would like to give thanks to God Almighty. He is so good to us in everything and we pray that God will continue blessing us and blessing our children as they continue their studies in various universities, colleges, and elementary school. I also would like to give especial thanks to God for the American school system and for my home church, Peace Lutheran Church of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for preparing my children to become good Christians and good leaders.
Some of our children have been able to obtain diplomas, certificates, bachelor and master’s degrees in different colleges and Universities and they are as follows: Lainkor Bafel Gak Deng- Kennesaw State University, 2011 (Georgia) bachelor’s degree of Business Administration in accounting and in 2014, she received a Masters of Science in accounting from Keller Graduate School of management (Georgia State). Nyawoor Bafel Gak Deng- Concordia University 2010, (Seward, Nebraska State) bachelor degree in Business Administration and Graphic Design – now enrolled in master’s classes in Human Resources at Concordia University, in Seward, Nebraska. Goldeng Bafel Gak Deng- Park University 2012- (Parkville Missouri) Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Information Systems. Nagity Bafel Gak Deng- Concordia College, Bronxville, New York (2013) Bachelor of Arts in biology- now enrolled in master’s classes expecting to graduate in 2015 with master’s degree of education in biology. Matt Bafel Gak Deng- Virginia Technical College 2006 (Alabama College) – associate degree in Automotive Technology and Industry Management. Nyahok Bafel Gak Deng (Lincoln Community College) expecting to graduate with associate degree in 2015. Thichot Gak Deng- Bachelor of Science in nursing, University of Nebraska 2014. Guamaar Bafel Gak Deng General Education Diploma classes. Naydeil Bafel Gak Deng , currently enrolled in Lincoln Community College. Nyalom Bafel Gak Deng – currently enrolled in Lincoln Lutheran High School- a senior and expecting to graduate in 2015 with diploma and attend a university. Changkouth Bafe Gakl Deng- born in America- enrolled in Lincoln Lutheran Schools, for elementary through eighth grade. Finally I thank God for the great things He has done for me and my family. Our prayer is that all our children in America and in South Sudan will follow the three foundational building structures mentioned above. God bless you all!