November 2017: Duncan
Duncan has no memory of his father. He was not yet a one-year-old when his father died. What he does know, is that his family is a casualty of war in South Sudan. Duncan’s father fled from what we refer to as the first war. The first war lasted from 1955 to 1972 and is called Anyaya One (which means snake venom or poison one). He was a child, running for his life. We do not know when his father fled exactly, but based on Duncan’s estimated age, it was toward the end of the first war.
Alone, hungry, and thirsty, he wandered the vast bushland of Northern Uganda. When he finally collapsed on a dirt road from exhaustion; the invisible hand of God sent Sara Angoma to find him. She took the starving boy home and her family took pity on him. Sara’s husband, Charles Angoma, raised him as their own son.
Duncan’s father grew up into a young man and he married a Ugandan woman. When they tried to return to the Sudan, life proved more difficult than they imagined. Because he did not remember the area he was from, he was always seen as an outcast. The couple had five children.
Shortly after Duncan’s father died, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began the war in Northern Uganda. Duncan can remember having to run when the enemy attacked in the middle of the night. When Duncan was only about five years old, a rebel shot at him. The bullet flew right past his ear; Duncan told me he was so scared, he passed out. This probably saved his life, as the rebels more than likely believed that they had killed him.
This young boy took off when he awoke and ran for miles into the bush. They have a certain kind of grass with a tip that is sharp, like a thorn. It is called spear grass. Running through the night left
Duncan’s feet all cut up and were bleeding badly. When he came across a family in the bush. The family asked where he was from, and why he was running. Duncan explained that the LRA had attacked, and he was separated from his family. The family told him to rest and take some food but he refused. He said that he needed to run. But they persisted until he stopped, and took a little
food. As soon as Duncan had eaten, he slipped away. He was too afraid, that the LRA was coming, to stop running.
Duncan spent several days in the wilderness, without food or knowing where his mother and siblings were. He eventually made it to town and looked for them for three days, when he spotted his 14-year-old brother. Duncan shared that they ran to one another, held each other and cried. Eventually, the entire family was reunited, but because of the hardship, Duncan’s mother began to drink.
He remembers begging his mother to stop drinking. She would say that her life was so miserable without her husband and that surviving in Uganda was so hard that alcohol was the only thing that gave her any relief. The drink that these people consume is made locally. Most, who start drinking this local brew, are dead within a year. Duncan awoke one morning to find his mother dead. At age of seven, Duncan was orphaned.
Duncan remembered the stories that his mother had told him about Charles and Sara Angoma. He wanted to go to the farm where his father was raised. By this time, Charles and Sara were old but their son, Richard, and his wife, Suzan, listened to Duncan’s plight. Richard and Suzan are Far Reaching Ministries’ (FRM) project directors in Masindi,
Uganda. They told Duncan that he could come live with them on their farm. Canaan Farm is where FRM is building a large school for 600 children, to be called Christ’s Crucible. We have also completed construction on two new churches in the Masindi area.
Richard and Suzan have opened their farm as a refuge to those who suffered excruciating losses at the hands of the LRA. Families were forced to kill members of their own families. Often children are given a machete and told to cut the head off of their own mother. If they refuse, they are told that if you do not kill your own mother, we will kill your father, your mother, your brothers and sisters and then we will kill you. And so, the children are forced to do things that defy all human reason. I have personally talked to children who have been forced to kill their mothers and the trauma is not even explainable in human terms. The depth of how they cry is insurmountable. The farm is a place people come and find God’s love and healing. Duncan grew up and became part of Richard and Suzan’s family.
When my wife, Vicky, told me about Duncan, I was taken by this young man’s heart for the Lord. I couldn’t help but notice how Duncan would hang on every word, as I told stories of the chaplains. His hunger for God’s Word was insatiable. At every conference that Vicky or I would teach, he would say, “Pastor Wes, I feel like I learn so much when I am around you and Vicky.” He always has questions about some teaching, but what impressed me most, was how he patiently bore suffering and remained thankful. I invited him up to South Sudan to the chaplains’ base for the refresher course—he had the time of his life.
While on my last trip, I invited Richard down to Kampala. I wanted he and Suzan to get away with us for a couple of days of rest. One night, we took them to the Sheraton hotel for dinner. Duncan sat in the restaurant and said, “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!” He ate and laughed throughout the night. It was a buffet, so everything was new to him and he enjoyed it all! At the end of the evening, he said, “Pastor Wes, this was the best night of my life!”
Right now, war is destroying many lives again in the Sudan. Starvation has come and we are feeding over 14,000 children every day. These would be the Duncan’s of the next generation, if not for the feeding program.
The book of Psalms says that the Lord places the lonely into families, and I’m thankful that Duncan has become part of our family. His dream is to complete a university education. He studied hard and completed high school. We just sent him to a university to learn agriculture, where he will be able to come back to the farm, that is home to him, and be a blessing to those who raised him.
For all of you who have supported this work, you share in the education of Duncan and the future Duncan’s of this generation—in the land of broken dreams and hearts.