Coming to America
Boys of Sudan" find a home at TCU.
days when the sun sets TCU aglow -- grass green, breeze blowing -- Ray Brown
likes to walk to lunch. If he's lucky, he spots "the guys."
When he does,
the impulse to embrace is usually overwhelming. Brown, suit-clad, white,
All-American dean of admissions, always envelops these Sudanese friends.
It's a sight -- the men are all extraordinarily tall by U.S. standards (one
towers at 6-foot, 11-inches), dressed in hand-me-down-work clothes, skin
as black as night. But when one greets Brown, both men have ear-to-ear
it's an odd-looking sight, but it's one I cherish," Brown said, controlling
the tears that well up as he talks about these refugees, men who have
experienced war and personal hardship in ways he will never understand.
this story is what life is all about. It's about overcoming obstacles
and about people coming together to help and serve other people. This
is how friendships are formed and memories are created."
met the five men in May when they arrived in north Texas from a refugee
camp in Kakuma, Kenya. His church, St. Paul Lutheran, is one of a number
of organizations working to bring many refugees, known as the Lost Boys
of Sudan, to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
He said he
has been nothing but "awed, inspired and humbled" by the men he now calls
friends. Brown helped these friends find work at TCU, and said his whole
family has been blessed by their interaction with "the guys."
"I have been
one of the coordinators of sorts," he said. "My wife and my family have
been instrumental too. We love to have the guys over to the house, or
sitting next to them in church. It blesses my life and warms my heart."
Matthew Marial, Peter Ajok, James Ajith and Mach Apach say they have two
sets of stories.
do you want to hear?" Apach asks. "We have our time in Sudan and our journey
here, and there is the time here so far, three months. We have much to
say about both things."
the others are among thousands of Sudanese boys, now men, who fled the
country on foot in the late 1980s. Battling constant civil war, harsh
environmental conditions, starvation, rebel troops, animal attacks and
the deaths of friends and family members, they studied English in the
refugee camps and dreamed of a better life in the America.
journey to TCU has been a long one.
do not see death every day," Mac said. "Here people are at peace and happy."
He said sometimes they miss the homeland, though it's hard to miss a place
where death and worries were so constant.
talk easily about their days here when Brown, members of the church and
TCU faculty and staff rallied to their aid. In just three months, they
found an apartment, furnished it with castoff TCU furniture, landed temporary
jobs with the university's grounds crew and started learning about their
up the group's experience best when he said: "We are not sad here. We
are encouraged. We don't see war every day or hear that a friend has died
and know there is nothing we can do.
to the United States for education and opportunity. We have found friends
and learned a lot. The people we have met show they care about us and
we are happy to be with them."
still lie ahead, however. The men say they are lucky to have jobs. Many
of the more than 50 other Sudanese refugees in the area are not so fortunate;
and yet, employment for these five still is not permanent. The men say
they are "working hard for education," but there are still language barriers
and general educational development (GED) classes to be taken. Brown said
he worries "the guys" might be facing sensory overload from all the newness
their new life.
they have experienced since May has been a miracle, but even blessings
can be overwhelming sometimes," he said. "I know they can handle any challenge
with tremendous courage."
"We are not
afraid of these things," Marial said.
do well to take care of all these things," Mac said. "It is why we are
here, why so many have helped, why we have worked so hard. This is our
dream and our life, you understand, now we have to live it."