‘Lost Boy’ finds way back into mother’s arms
For years, Abraham Deng’s life was a series of searches.
He searched for safety, for food and shelter, for peace, for hope and comfort from God, for education in America and for his family in Africa.
This summer, after 19 years of separation, Abraham Deng found his way back into his mother’s arms.
Deng, a pre-med student at Southern Wesleyan University, is a native of Sudan. He was torn from his family at age 6 as the result of a civil war in his home country. Along with 20,000 other boys and girls, Deng walked about a thousand miles in search of a safe place to live. Known as the Lost Boys and Girls, thousands of these children died before finding their way into refugee camps.
“We were trying to look for refuge as we were in the jungle,” he said. “Most of the kids didn’t have clothes. I was lucky to have shorts. Some were eaten by the lion population.” Others were killed by soldiers or died of thirst or starvation.
“God has a special purpose for my life,” Deng said. “Perhaps if I didn’t suffer, I might not know God.”
One of 4,000 Lost Boys and Girls chosen by the United Nations to travel to America for an opportunity to earn an education, Deng arrived in the United States five years ago to search for knowledge. In doing so, he found Southern Wesleyan University and moved to its campus in Central.
“I prayed to God about going to a Christian institution and he answered my prayer,” Deng said.
As the Southern Wesleyan University family got to know Deng, the institution found out that he had searched for and, in 2001, found his family in an Ethiopian refugee camp. The campus community, along with numerous benefactors from the Upstate, pooled enough money to send Deng to Ethiopia to see his family during his summer break this year.
Along with his cousin, Peter, and Aaron Tolan, a Southern Wesleyan University alumnus, Deng traveled to an Ethiopian refugee camp and was reunited with his mother, Mary Ayduk Mayen, and four siblings. When his mother saw him, she gathered him up in her arms.
“She lifted me up with my sister, Ayen, and ran into the house,” Deng said with a wide smile. “My world was completely changed when I saw my mother’s face for the first time in 19 years. God has answered my prayer.”
During their first moments together again, Deng’s mother called him all his boyhood nicknames, while he was at a loss for words.
“She kept crying, crying, crying,” he said. “She said, ‘I thought you were dead.’”
Deng’s language skills were a little rusty, but his native Dinka language soon came back to him, as did the other languages he speaks -- Nuer, Swahili and Arabic.
Today, Deng has found his family in Africa, as well as a new family at Southern Wesleyan University. Now he searches for other things, like a way to continue his education so he can become a doctor and help those suffering in Africa. Deng is hoping to attend Emory University after he graduates from Southern Wesleyan in May of 2007.
Deng sleeps four or five hours a night and has a 3.7 grade point average, despite a 19-hour pre-med course load.
“As I returned to Africa, my heart was broken,” he said. “In so many countries in Africa, there is so much suffering. I know God is going to use me in a number of ways. I’m going to help people spiritually and medically.”
So Deng also searches for new ways to tell his story so he can inspire people to have faith and not give up their dreams.
“God saved my life from different kinds of atrocities in order to impact the lives of other people who think their world is torn apart,” he said. “I know those who come to Southern Wesleyan University are blessed. God answers our prayers. It may take a number of years, but he will find the perfect time.”