The Early Years
My name is Lazarus Ruba John. I was born on November 15, 1975. When I came to America, my birthdate was changed to January 1, 1967. This was a randomly assigned date because in my birth country, Sudan, birth certificates were not filed at that time. I came to America on May 3, 1998.
Growing up in Sudan, I was the 15th of 19 children born to my mom and dad. My home country was already accustomed to much warfare. South and North Sudan have been at war basically since 1956. This is primarily a war between Muslim and Christian groups.
According to our culture, we were not a poor family. We had a lot of cows and farmland. I remember working with the cows and the farmland as a young boy. My dad was working in the Sudanese government. My mom was a home keeper.
When I was 7, I came down with polio. I was told I was walking until I was 7. I do not remember anything else with this illness, such as being bed ridden. Our country did not have a polio vaccine. I remember my parents giving me a cane to try and walk with. This was not successful for me. I was generally just crawling. It wasn’t until I was about 17 that I was provided a wheelchair.
When I was a young man, before 17, I would cultivate our garden. I would cut wood, take care of cows, and cut hay. I did not go to school until I was 13. I started learning how to read Nuer, my native language, at that age. I attended school from 13 and finished high school when I was 20. By that point, I had learned Arabic, but only to speak it, not write it. After 20, I learned to speak Dinka and then Amharic, which is Ethiopian language. I learned English at 16 and 17.
At 17, I got a job with the Sudanese government. I worked in an office doing different things. I worked the government job in Khartoum, the capital city of Sudan. I worked in the government office until I got a call from God. I had been going to church since I was a kid and as far back as I can remember. I was going to a Presbyterian church. Persecution was going on against the church by Muslims. All the Christian churches got shut down.
Carried by God
I left Sudan when I was 19. The church building was burned down. Prior to the burn down, the church was attacked, and we were warned two separate times not to do this “church” thing. The second time they came, they killed my three uncles in front of the congregation. I was also an eyewitness to this horrible scene. We all scattered, but I was caught. They told me that we will leave you alone for now, but if you do this church again, we will kill you. I told them if you kill me, I will go where I am supposed to be... heaven. Then they told me they will put me in prison.
I began to mobilize the people again, around the age of 19. I told Muslim people to be Christians after I had returned to the city of Bentu, South Sudan. The church grew. I went to visit another village. The soldiers attacked the church before I arrived, warned the people, and destroyed the church building.
They were looking for me. I told my family I needed to leave. I went to Ethiopia. I crawled for nine months to reach Ethiopia. Using a wheelchair was out of the question since the path was neither paved nor continuous. This is normally a three or four month walk. God took care of me. People would feed me and shelter me for a period. I did not share anything with people as to why I was fleeing. I was insecure. I would tell them I was from an hour or so away. Thinking I was a long-distance traveler, they might turn me in.
I told God that if you keep me alive, I will never let you down or leave you to do a different way. I will come back to Sudan and rebuild your church, to spread the word of God in Sudan.
In 1983, war became intense between North and South Sudan. Persecution against South Sudan had started in 1956. South Sudan were the forgotten Christians. During these years, there was not much teaching going on for Christians. South Sudan got independence in 2011.
I started a ministry in Ethiopia in 1982. I was training leaders and sending them to South Sudan. Most of these were already people from South Sudan. I trained them in Bible studies, servant leadership and administration. Leadership were the ones who could see things from far away and administration took care of what was going on now. They work together but are separate in function. Servant leaders serve the people and work for the people, not serve over them with demands. This is how Jesus led. Culturally, in the world, leaders were the ones who sat in chairs and told people what to do. Jesus washed people’s feet and that is the thinking of servant leadership.
I worked in Ethiopia until 1998. We were in refugee camps. I was commissioned by the UN to do part time work at the camps. I worked with refugees as a liaison with the Ethiopian government. I had my own ministry of doing ministry training. While engaged with the UN, I was able to establish relationships with Americans, Canadians, and Australians.
The Ethiopian government had a regime change and a new government came in. They were closely tied to North Sudan. Ethiopia divided in 1991 into Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Sudan government was trying hard to get me and send me back to Sudan. I was encouraged to get out of Ethiopia and go to either America, Canada, or Australia. I was given forms to fill out and apply. America was the first to accept me. There were interviews and an investigation including an immigration judge. This investigation went on for four years. Finally, I was given an opportunity to go to America.
On May 3, 1998, I flew to Memphis, TN. This was covered by the US government through a loan, which I eventually paid back when I got a job in Memphis. I was alone and did not know anyone in Memphis. I had been processed through Catholic charities. I was met at the airport by a case worker for Catholic charities and they drove me to an apartment. The apartment had clothing for me, furniture, food, water, and soda. Nine people were there to welcome me and throw a big party. It was an amazing experience. Quite the setting compared to a refugee camp.
After everyone left, I went into my bedroom in this apartment and thought, wow, I am truly blessed. I thanked God for providing for me and prayed that he helps me not to forget him and to remember my commitment to serve him and share him with others. People from Catholic charities worked with me for at least six months to help me settle in and establish myself. I had to apply for social security, human services, and Medicaid. There were other church groups helping me like United Methodist, Lutheran church, and Evangelical Free church.
I shared that I was Presbyterian and that I don’t rely on doctrines, but on the Bible. I told the groups this. All I wanted was for them to help me share with others if we agree on what the Bible says.
I got a job within five months. I was working in the police department as a dispatcher full time in the night shift. I had a friend in the fire department who trained me how to drive a car with hand controls.
Within about a year, there were more Sudanese who migrated to Memphis and some other Sudanese families, already living in the US, moved to Memphis after hearing about me. I eventually became a volunteer in Catholic charities to help Sudanese get to appointments so they could get processed into systems in the US, as I had gone through.
We eventually started a ministry with seven Sudanese families. We were using the Evangelical Free church building. We were mainly considered Presbyterian in our teaching.
In 2001/02 I received 38 “lost boys” in Memphis to work with as their case worker. When they arrived in the city, I would find them an apartment and help them get connected to different sources for help getting clothes, furniture, etc. I had been able to purchase a car and was taking them to clinics to get health checks; to social security for application and other human services; and often to get to English classes. Occasionally, we would go to fun places like parks.
After three months, many of them would go to school for education or trade. We would also get them connected to employment agencies for finding work.
I was doing this kind of work from 2001 until 2003. In 2003, I moved to Omaha. While in Memphis I was working so I was able to buy a car. I was being paid to be a case worker and I worked full time with the Memphis Police doing dispatch. My jobs gave me three days off per week. I would do outreach activities with a Sudanese group, a Sunday worship service and bible studies. I started this group in 1998 and by the time I left, we had about 75 in the church.
Going to Omaha
I decided to move to Omaha because it had the largest Sudanese community in the US. I knew some folks in Omaha when we were in Africa. In 2002 there were those from Omaha who came to see me in Memphis, and we started talking about needing to move to Omaha. I came to visit and saw that there was a need.
I applied for a job with Metropolitan Community College as a student ambassador. I was helping to work with foreign people who had come to Omaha. Many of them were just coming to the US to learn, but not migrate here necessarily. When I came to Omaha, we had 3 families as part of a church that met in my apartment. That number grew to about 50 in two months. I would often visit other churches as well.
By 2005, when my living room was packed, I met with a man named Randy Littlefield, whom I had met through Brookside church, part of the Evangelical Free Church. Randy was part of an E-Free church in York, NE.
Randy and I met in Columbus NE at a meeting with other church leaders. I shared with him the need to get some space to meet in. Randy asked if there were any churches in Omaha who could share their space. Through that, I met with a guy named Dan Moore. He said he would share their space with us at 93rd and Maple. Randy was my “coach”.
We met at the building at 93rd and Maple until they wanted us to leave. Sharing space eventually led to some problems. There were some people who did not like the Sudanese there. We tended to get blamed for anything that was going wrong with the building. The church belongs to God, not a local organization. We stopped meeting at that building after about two years in 2007. At this point in time, the church was about 80 people.
Randy helped me find another location at 72nd and Cornhusker in Papillion. We reached 150 people. We were meeting in a Nazarene church building on Sunday afternoons after they used it in the morning. 100% of the church was Sudanese. We used three languages, sometimes Arabic, sometimes Nuer and sometimes English. The Sudanese people were made up of several different tribes from Sudan.
My role in the church was to lead. We called that role “pastor”. This was basically a teaching elder. There were also ruling elders, which oversaw the structure and management. My role was leading the teaching and preaching.
In June 2017, I went back to Africa. The church in Omaha gave me some support through fund raising. This paid for my ticket to go, cover travel expenses, and to buy bibles back in Africa. I started out in Ethiopia, then Sudan and then South Sudan. The original plan was to spend two months in Africa.
Only God Knows Why...
After two weeks in Ethiopia, I went to Sudan. I was doing a teaching for about 175 people in a building in Khartoum. After it was over, I went to the house where I was staying. Many people followed me home and the yard became full of people. This was during the period of Ramadan in Sudan. There were “traditional” people in that group. “Traditionalists” do not like Christians or Muslims. Traditionalists represent different tribal religions and practices with elements of Christianity and various pagan and ancestral religions.
One of these traditional people came up to me and shook my left hand and placed his other hand on my left forearm and was rubbing my arm. Like America, we have different kinds of greetings. I don’t really recall what this person looked like, but within a matter of minutes, my small finger on my left hand began to bubble and then my other fingers did as well. It kind of looked like blisters. After about an hour or two, I decided to call Veronica, my wife back home in Omaha and tell her about it. I thought it would eventually go away.
I went to sleep that evening around midnight, but then woke up. My hand was swollen and burning. At this point in time, it was painful. My skin was like it had been grilled. My skin started to come off. We went to the hospital, but it was closed due to Ramadan. I went back home where I was staying. The next day, my body was shutting down. I went to the hospital. I began to throw up. I stayed in that hospital eight days and continued to get worse. My flesh on my hand was gone, only nerve and bones were left.
I was in a coma. I heard a choir singing and woke up and went back and forth between a coma, hearing a choir, and waking up. My nephew was able to get ahold of Randy Littlefield. Randy said we would work in finding someone to come and bring me home. A missionary from America working in the Philippines was able to come over with Veronica. They were not allowed to go to Khartoum from Ethiopia, however.
I connected with a nephew in Khartoum, whom I had supported in school for ten years. I also performed a marriage ceremony for him and his wife. He came to visit me and help, but he ended up taking all my money, my clothes and my phone and left me in the hospital because he thought I was going to die.
I kept praying and praying for help to come. Doctors told me they would not let me fly anywhere without someone coming to help me.
On the 9th day, I was able to leave the hospital, but still doing very poorly. My body was wracked with pain. My fingers on my left hand had fallen off, except my thumb. My whole left arm from the elbow down was completed bandaged.
There was a young woman in the hospital that knew me, and she helped me complete a form to get discharged from the hospital to try and fly back to Ethiopia. There were some language barriers to her filling out the form properly, so some questions were not answered correctly. As a result, when I got to the airport, they would not let me fly out.
Meanwhile, this American missionary to the Philippines and Veronica were both waiting for me to arrive at the airport in Ethiopia. It was over a 12-hour delay in Sudan to get the form filled out correctly. A young man who worked at the airport spotted me and came over to help me out. He was very shocked to see my condition and wept for me. He was, however, able to get the form corrected for me so I could get on the next flight.
Because of my overall condition, the airline was very hesitant to allow me to fly. I know I must have looked dreadful. I felt so horrible; as if death was upon me, but I still had the will to live and my hope in God to provide.
When we finally landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I needed to have $50 to cover the cost of a visa, which I did not have. I met with an Ethiopian guy and told him to go outside and if they see a white man with a Sudanese woman, go to them and get the money from them. They had been waiting all day long for me to arrive. I had landed in Addis Ababa around 6 AM, and it took a while for me to identify someone who would go outside and find this white man and Sudanese woman. They were finally able to connect around noon.
When I finally got out of the airport, I went to a hotel with them, but soon was taken to a hospital. I was in the hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for 4 days. They were wanting to cut off my whole left arm. My condition was worsening. I was in and out of consciousness.
In the hospital I said no to removing my arm. I had fluid building up in my arm. There was severe infection. When I said no to removing my arm, they took me back to the hotel. This was about two days. Something told me if I stayed in the hospital, I would die. I had been losing a lot of weight.
The doctor in the hospital told me they would not accept me on an airplane to fly out. I told Veronica to go ahead and book tickets back to the US. We’ll try and fly out and if they say no, we will deal with it from there. This all happened within one day.
When we were at the airport, we spent two hours checking in. We needed an Ethiopian doctor to fill out a medical form for me to fly. They told me the paper we had from Sudan did not qualify. The American missionary to the Philippines began shouting and praying out loud on his knees. He was the only white guy around in the airport. Everyone thought he was crazy. We spent an hour going around the airport with me in a wheelchair, looking for a ride to get to the hospital to update the form for physical allowance to fly to America. The American continued praying in the airport.
We found a guy I had met in Ethiopia in 1994. This guy was a taxi driver and he drove me and Veronica to the hospital in Addis Ababa. This was around 11 PM and the plane was scheduled to leave Ethiopia around midnight, for Newark New Jersey.
When a doctor at the hospital saw me, he knew I was in serious condition. He filled out the form in detail, signed it and sealed it and gave it back to me. I think he knew I needed to get to the US for the best treatment. Finding this doctor to help us was so random. God answered our prayers.
When we got back to the airport around 11:50 PM. I was thinking we would miss our flight. But the plane had mechanical problems, so it was delayed for two hours. Therefore, I did not miss my flight. Me and Veronica and the missionary flew back together to the US. I was feeling very badly. Part of me wanted to just die I was so miserable.
The Ethiopian flight people made connections for me with United Airlines and told them I was in very critical condition. So, when we landed at each US location, there were always United people rushing me from gate to gate. This happened in New Jersey, Dallas, and Omaha. It is almost 14 hours to fly to the US from Ethiopia. It took me another 6 hours to get to Omaha.
When I landed in Omaha, I was incoherent. Feeling very badly. I went immediately to Methodist Hospital. I was in isolation for the first two weeks. There was surgery right away on my left arm. All I really had on my lower left arm was bone and nerves. They operated on my arm and were thinking of inserting it into my stomach for a period to help the arm and hand grow back muscle and flesh. They were able to bring in some transplant material that allowed me to grow muscle back in the lower arm. They then took that away and started a process of skin grafting from my left leg onto my arm and hand.
How I managed to survive all this time before being in the hospital in the US is truly miraculous, truly God.
I was in Methodist hospital for a total of six months. They sent me home and I had a visiting nurse that came every day for about two months. Then they cut that back to twice a week for a couple of months. I was treated for a total of 10 months.
I started to get better. I decided that this was a temptation from the devil to stop doing what I felt called to do: teach the word of God in Africa. So, I began to make arrangements to go back and continue the teaching. I was raising money for the ticket and support to be in Africa for two months. I promised God that if he kept me alive, I would stay true to my vow of preaching and teaching his word in Africa.
I went back in March 2018. I went directly to Ethiopia. I was planning to teach leaders in the church and government connections in Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan. I first landed in Ethiopia around 3 AM. I was waiting for wheelchair assistance. I gave my US passport to an attendant so they could assist me. I gave them $50 to pay for the visa. They put us in a place where we were waiting for the process to complete. They eventually came back and gave me my passport. I put it in my pocket but did not check it for the visa, assuming they already placed it in my passport. Without the visa, they are not supposed to let me out of the airport. I would find out later, there was no visa in the passport. Much trouble lay ahead.
I was in Addis Ababa for a week teaching. From there, we rented a car and went to Gambella, Ethiopia a border town to South Sudan, about a two-day drive. I started teaching in Gambella. You did not need a visa to get into South Sudan. I spent a month in South Sudan. I came back to Ethiopia and discovered there was a problem with my visa. The plan was to go to Sudan.
The airport people told me I did not have a visa and asked me how I got in without a visa, meaning I came in illegally. They sent me to the immigration office and tried to arrest me. I explained what happened. How else could I have gotten out of the airport originally without a visa. I told them about the guy who helped me when I first landed. They were never able to find this guy.
They held me up from leaving Addis Ababa. I went to a hotel in the city by myself. This went on for five months, with meetings about every two weeks with immigration. They eventually told me I would pay a $100 fine for everyday for five months. This was about $15,000.00.
I called my friend Randy Littlefield, back in Kansas in the US. Randy said he would find someone to find out what was going on. Every day, they added more money to the fine. A white American, a missionary in Rwanda, came and when we went to immigration together, they raised the fine to $30,000.00. This missionary had come with $5,000.00. But they were not accepting it.
I called the American Embassy in Addis Ababa. They told me I need to work with immigration in Ethiopia. This process had moved to almost a full year. I continued to stay in the hotel in the city. I was getting my social security money, so I was able to support myself off that.
I just kept praying for God to give me the power to not worry. I had been calling Veronica back home in Omaha, almost every day, but she was not taking me seriously.
I tried to cross the border from Ethiopia to Sudan, but every time they would send me back.
In total, I was stuck in Ethiopia until November of 2020, except for the one month I was teaching in South Sudan. This was about 20 months total since I had first come back to Africa on this trip.
When I met with immigration in Ethiopia and kept talking, I was finally able to have an immigration person get me connected to a driver and we went to Sudan. When we got to the border there was fighting going on between a region of Ethiopia, called Tigray and the government of Ethiopia. This is the fighting that is still going on today. We got locked down in that region due to the fighting, very close to the Sudanese border. We were in the city of Maitama. They took our car and left us near the border. I was with a team of people who were supposed to go to Khartoum with me. We had no food and no water for 10 days.
We were told if we had money, we could cross the border with a horse cargo during nighttime. I called Veronica about getting money, and she told me I had the money and she hung up.
I called a friend in Canada. He was able to send money to a contact I had in immigration in Ethiopia. My friend sent $100 Canadian. The person in customs was working at the border and when he received the money, he arranged for me to cross with the cargo. They put me in the horse cargo and pulled me with a horse while I was in my wheelchair.
During the almost two years I was held up, my electric wheelchair had broken down. Unless someone was able to push me, I was crawling most of the time on my hands.
When I reached the Sudan border, I went to Sudan immigration. They were not wanting me to come in given many in Ethiopia were trying to get into Sudan due to fighting.
I was getting sick. My blood pressure was way up, I was dehydrated, and my sugar was way up. Even though they knew I was Sudanese, they also knew I was American. This made them think in terms of money. They saw me as an American citizen they could take advantage of. I spent another 12 days at Sudanese border customs. They were telling me they would not send me back to Ethiopia, but they would not let me go to Khartoum.
I finally got a customs guy who decided to let me go, but on my own, to Khartoum after he heard all my story. He would not give me an official paper so he would not get in trouble if I were found, since I was technically illegal.
I was eventually connected to a guy who said he would send a car with five soldiers. He sent a car from Khartoum to pick me up at the border. I was in the city of Gallep. They picked me up at 9 AM and took me to Khartoum. We arrived in 5 AM the next day. This was November of 2020. When I arrived in Khartoum, I was still very sick. A taxi met us in Khartoum, and they rushed me to a hospital. My blood sugar was high, and my blood pressure was critically high. I had coughing, hick ups and vomiting. I was moved to three different hospitals.
I ended up in the hospital for 3 weeks, most of this time I had those symptoms. The vice president of South Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, was paying for all my bills in Khartoum. He is also the one who was arranging for me to get to a hospital. My connections with him went way back.
I was discharged and taken to a motel, where I stayed while they were working on my visa. The Sudanese government then took me to court, wondering if I was doing illegal activities. I was fingerprinted and background checks were completed.
I finally got my visa on January 7th, 2021. During this time, the vice president of South Sudan continued to pay all my expense. Once I got my visa, he also bought me a ticket to come back to the US. I arrived back in the US, in Omaha, on January 26th. I was still feeling very poorly. My wife Veronica picked me up from the airport and brought me to my home. This meant I had been away from Omaha for just shy of two years.
Help My Unbelief...
When I got back home, I found that my Medicaid benefits had been closed, so I had to go back through the verification and application process. My wife was not willing to provide information to help me complete the application. I was just lying in the bed all the time because I was so sick. I did not even have a functioning wheelchair.
My wife left the house on April 26th. Up to that point, she was not home very often. Leading up to this time, I was not in contact with anyone else in the Sudanese community. My kids were still at home, and they were helping me and bringing me food.
Around July of 2021, Steve Kong, a longtime friend, also from Sudan, came by the house out of the blue. Steve helped me and the kids do some shopping and continue to get food. I explained to Steve what was happening in the home. I was also able to communicate to Medicaid that our household income had changed as my wife had moved out. In July, they acted on my application and put me back into the system with an adjusted household income. Social Security did the same thing, so that my income was now just in my name. Veronica had filed for divorce on July 2nd. These agencies were able to check out the accuracy of my new household income as the divorce filing is public record.
Sometime in either the last week of June, or even in July, there was a meeting involving Veronica and I and several other people at our home. We also included through the phone my uncle in Canada and Veronica’s aunt in Kenya. This meeting was a result of Veronica contacting some people in our Sudanese community in Omaha that we knew. There were seven people at our home in person. This meeting was called to talk about what has happening with the relationship of me and Veronica. During this meeting, I offered Veronica forgiveness and to come back home. Everyone agreed, including the people on the phone that this should happen. Veronica chose to leave the meeting and not return home.
My friend Santino Tap, who lives in Omaha, had a brother pass away in Kenya. His name was George Riek Tap and he had been a presbyterian minister back in Kenya. George had been the minister of the church in Bentu, Sudan where I used to attend. I was contacted by a Sudanese guy in Omaha, named Daniel, about George’s passing. Daniel had asked me to consider leading a memorial service for George here in Omaha. I told him no originally. I had been struggling in my relationship with God at this point and with my marriage in the condition that it was, I did not feel I should be doing this. I had dreams and thoughts in my mind as to whether God was still with me and should I even be thinking of myself as a minister of the gospel.
Daniel went and shared this with others and after two days, he came to my house with three other people. They tried to encourage me to go ahead and do this; that the marriage situation should not prevent me from ministering since I was willing to try and make the marriage work. Breaking up the marriage was Veronica’s decision, and I should proceed with leading the memorial. I said I would think about it. That night, I went to sleep. I had a dream. I had kneeled in my dream and Jesus came and put his hand on my head. When I woke up, I realized God was with me and I called Daniel and told him I would do the memorial service. I did not tell Daniel about the dream. I did share that dream with a couple of people in the community several days later.
The memorial was held at Santino’s house. There were about 45 people there. Many of the people knew about my situation. After the memorial service, during the month of July, Steve Kong came again. I told Steve I now had a clear way, a vision to do ministry, but I needed to do it a different way. I needed to be part of a church that I could belong to. When I shared with Steve my story, I asked him if he was part of a church. He was trying to tell me about the Omaha Church of Christ, but he could not remember the name clearly.
When Steve came back to my house for another visit, he was able to share with me the church name. We drove over to the church which was not far from where I lived. We were able to pull up the church’s phone number. I had been looking on the internet at several different places to attend. On several occasions I picked up my phone to call the Omaha Church of Christ, but I did not. I was hesitant to connect. I was not familiar with the Church of Christ; what they teach, what they believe. But I kept getting these prompts in my heart to call. I had never heard from anyone of the Church of Christ or even of the Church of Christ. Even though I had been sharing the word of God across many denominations over the years, I never came across a Church of Christ. I was asking God to give me a denomination that could change me, change my ministry, something new. And he gave me the Omaha Church of Christ.
I finally got the courage to call but had to leave a message. I did not hear anything back, so I called again and left another message. A few days later, Tim called me back. We agreed to meet on Tuesday August 10th, 2021, because Tim was back home from a Springfield, MO. mission trip.
When we met, I had a lot of questions regarding the Church of Christ. What do they believe, what do they teach, what do they do with women’s roles, how are the dealing with social and cultural issues of the day and what do they believe about the word of God? I also asked Tim about what’s the mission of the church. Are they the kind of church that does church inside a building or are they a church outside the building? We talked for over an hour, and we agreed for to meet again on Saturday and that Tim would also pick me up for church that Sunday. When we met on Saturday we had more conversation, with lots of questions between the two of us.
When Tim answered all the questions, I realized this was what I was looking for. We agreed on so many things in the word of God.
I went to church that first Sunday, August 15, 2021. The worship service was very impactful for me. I saw a real family. The people were friendly and welcoming. The church taught from the Bible, and this is what I was looking for. Even though I have obvious physical challenges being in a wheelchair and having suffered the loss of my fingers on my left hand and a Sudanese accent, I felt accepted and completely comfortable. It was amazing.
In all my life however, I have never felt different from others despite my obvious physical challenges. God has given me the identity that I am just like everyone else. I have accepted what I have and what I do not have in life, and even what has been taken from me.
On Tuesday, August 17th, Tim and I began just reading scripture together almost every day. Tim had to read it out loud as my eyesight has been significantly impaired because of my protracted sickness, malnutrition, high blood pressure and dehydration.
During that time after Veronica had left, my house got very dirty. Rats and or mice had also become common in my house, and this kept me from having an appetite, which did not help the situation either.
We began reading through the book of Acts. We would read a section and then talk about it. We would read from other letters and texts as topics entered the conversation. We would ask each other questions.
As we were going through chunks of scripture, I never thought about many of the things we were coming across in the Word. I could see the clear connection between repentance, baptism, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We studied out many scriptures on dealing with even sins of our heart and attitudes. When we came across 1 Peter 3:21, this passage was something I had never really contemplated before on my own or had been taught by others. I began to realize that my sprinkling experience as a Presbyterian was not the full picture of what God purposed in baptism. I saw that baptism represents a full emersion of my whole body. I know the scripture teaches baptism is not about removal of dirt, but I had this picture of being covered in mud, or sin, and that sprinkling would not remove all that sin, but immersion would through simple obedience to God.
As we had read through Acts and some other verses on conversion, I began to really wrestle in my heart about being baptized again. I had a dream one night. God spoke to me and reminded me that I asked for a church that would change me and since this is where He had me, I must be obedient to His word. That morning I woke up and I had great clarity about needing to be baptized. Tim and I got together that afternoon for my study and during this study, we were reading through another baptism story in Acts 19. I asked when will you baptize me? In my heart, I knew I would not be happy if he told me tomorrow or some other day in the future. When he said right now, I was very happy, but also surprised. This was an affirmation of the visions God was giving me and the prayers I have been offering.
Just over two weeks after my first visit to the church, I got baptized into Christ on Thursday, Sept 2, 2021, at 7 PM. There were several people in the church who came out to see my baptism. After my baptism, I felt a strong surge of recovery in my health and a strong vision for what I had been looking for in my life. I had clarity regarding God’s will for my life to continue in ministry for Him.
Since my becoming a disciple, we have continued to study and connect with others in the Sudanese community and those who used to be part of the fellowship I was leading. I have also been able to connect with many others back in South Sudan as well as Ethiopia. Many people are studying with us online from those places and we are helping to connect traditional church of Christ members with others in our fellowship of churches.
My health continues to be a challenge, but we are trying to stay on top of all that. Please be praying for health, continued improvement in my eyesight, and God to use me as a minister of reconciliation in all parts of the world, locally and globally.
God bless you all!