I met him in 2001 when I moved to Calgary. When I agreed to officiate at his funeral, the title of a book, Longing for a Homeland, written by my friend, Lynn Anderson, kept going through my mind.
He was born in 1974 in South Sudan. When he was a very young man, soldiers from the north shot his father, who died in his arms. He was shot too, but he escaped into the bush and eventually made his way to an Ethiopian refugee camp. He finished his elementary schooling there and received a scholarship to a United Nations high school. After he finished high school and some college work, he went to another refugee camp. In 2000 he was granted refugee status to Canada, and made his way to Calgary.
I believe his heart was still in South Sudan though, the Promised Land as he called it, and in 2007 he returned for a year. When he returned to Canada he was ill and didn’t completely regain his health.
He died on November 28, and on Saturday I stood behind a podium looking out on 150 or so South Sudanese and talked about Searching For a Homeland. Because he spent most of the thirty-eight years he lived doing just that. He lived and loved and cared and learned and worked and searched and didn’t give up. People helped him along the way. And those who did learned and cared and loved. He found his home land – not in power and prestige or wealth or property, but in a place where people are able to practice their faith and be respected for who they are. His search began in Africa, moved to Ethiopia, then to Canada and ended in eternity.
His search led me to reflect on mine.
The journey is what is important and it has led me to a place where I feel loved and am able to love in return, where I can help and accept help, where I can learn and share and be blessed by people from many countries and cultures. It has led me to a place where I am confident that, even with all of my warts, God loves me and I am free to love and accept others with all of their warts and idiosyncrasies.
My prayer is that you too will be blessed as you search for your homeland.