The Lost Boys of Sudan

60 Minutes recently updated a heart-pounding story they reported 12 years ago about the Lost Boys of Sudan. As I watched the show, there was one interaction that particularly gripped my heart. I’ll share that with you in a minute, but first some background.

Sudan is an ancient country located in eastern Africa just south of Egypt. The “Lost Boys of Sudan” refers to more than 20,000 young boys (ages 5 to 11) who fled for their lives because Muslims were slaughtering Christians during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005).  It is estimated that more than two million people died during that civil war.

Many of these boy’s watched as their parents were brutally hacked to death and then saw their sisters carried away to be sold into slavery. Countless boys were also killed, but thousands of them fled. They left their homes barefoot, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Twelve thousand of them made it to Ethiopia after 3 months of walking.

Four years later they were kicked out of Ethiopia at gun point and herded to the Gilo River. In the process of crossing that river, somewhere between one and two thousand more boys died. Some were shot, many drowned, and many were eaten by crocodiles. Five years after leaving home, the surviving boys began arriving at a refugee camp in Kenya.

This human tragedy went largely ignored by the world community until our government, under the leadership President Bush, launched the largest resettlement project in American history. 3,000 of these war weary and abused young Christian men were flown to the United States to begin new lives.

The NBC documentary about these boys is very well done. If you missed it, you can see it on the Web at Search for “The Lost Boys,” and the a link for the show will appear part way down the page.

Bob Simon, the NBC correspondent, interviewed many of these young men and followed their lives from Kenya to America. Most of them are now hard-working and productive U.S. citizens.

The one interview that left the most lasting impression on me was with a young man named Abraham. Bob Simon talked to this boy as he was preparing to leave Kenya for America. Here is how that exchange went:

Narrator: They had four days to pack their luggage. They took little, left less behind. Abraham was taking a book he’d been carrying for 10 years.

Bob Simon: You still have the Bible that you carried from Ethiopia here?

Abraham Yel Nhial: Yes. It’s my life. I have been called a lost boy. But I’m not lost from God. I’m lost from my parents.

I wish you could have seen the glow on that young man’s face as he uttered those words. He was lost, but not really lost. Even though he had experienced unimaginable suffering, Abraham Yel Nhial had a real and vital relationship with Christ that gave him joy in spite of his circumstances.

The story about the “Lost Boys of Sudan” did two important things for me. Their suffering showed me how little I really suffer. When I think of those boys, it keeps me from whining about my struggles. God has been so good to me.

The “Lost Boys of Sudan” also reminded me that when Jesus Christ finds us and adopts us into His family, we will never be lost again (see Ephesians 1:5). When we give our hearts to Christ, He sets us free so that we are no longer slaves to sin and its eternal consequences. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!

[or ‘daddy’] Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:14–18).

No matter how comparatively “easy” your life may be here in America, if you have not turned to Christ, if you are not one of His children, you are lost from God. He is calling you right now to turn from your own sin and follow Him.  He will give you peace and a joy that will carry you, like it did Abraham Yel Nhial, through every hard circumstance you face in this world.


David Scudder is the senior pastor at Bethel Chapel Church.

The Lord has given him a great opportunity to minister to Juniata (a neighborhood in Philadelphia) via a weekly article. This article gives him an opportunity to evangelize the lost and edify believers through the medium of print journalism. To read his prior article click HERE.