A survivor of one the longest lasting civil wars on record will be speaking at chapel on Tuesday.
James Baak, founder of Solidarity Ministries Africa for Reconciliation and Development, is in Nashville to tell his story of survival of redemption.
“By inviting Mr. Baak to share his story, I hope that students will learn of today’s refugee struggles and begin asking how they can be the hands and feet of Christ as we strive to answer the call of Mathew 25:35 which states ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, … I was sick and you visited me,’ ” said James Casler, director, J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice.
The outbreak of war in southern Sudan altered the lives of thousands of young Sudanese men and children more than 25 years ago.
Between 1983 and 1987, civil war in southern Sudan caused an estimated 20,000 young boys to flee their homes and villages.
The civil war broke out in 1983 in southern Sudan causing government forces of Norther Sudan to continue its campaign against the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, where rebel based groups began initiating boys into the war.
The boys were forced to flee and seek refuge in Ethiopia to avoid death and being inducted into the northern Army. The journey to Ethiopia turned out to be a 1,000-mile trek to escape the harsh reality of what their homeland had become.
On their journey, many of the young men would die from hunger, dehydration and exhaustion. The survivors are known as the Lost Boys of Sudan.
James Baak was one of the survivors.
Baak says that after fleeing his community he wanted to get a gun and return to his village to defend it from the aggression. That aggression changed when he arrived to his new destination.
At 13, Baak arrived at a refugee camp in Ethiopia where a friend asked to join him at a church where he would hear the gospel for the first time.
Baak heard the verse John 3:16 which states, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“That was a turning point in my life to know that there is a God who loves me and if I believe in him I will not die,” said Baak. “After I believed in Christ that changed everything in my life, I wanted to know more about this God.”
Baak would eventually meet a missionary man, begin his educational journey and earn his high-school degree at a refugee in Kenya where he would later start a ministry.
James now leads the organization, Solidarity Ministries Africa for Reconciliation and Development. The organization works in the south-Sudan and internationally, where he addresses the spiritual needs of his people.
“James has taken on a leadership role that is lacking in the South Sudan,” said Meredith Wheeler, long-time friend of Baak’s and employee of Just Act Now, an organization that works with war trauma victims in the South Sudan.
“There are about 3 million refugees or internally displaced people in the South Sudan. The scale of need here is dire,” said Wheeler.
“I left home as a boy in search of a way to defend my community, I returned as a man with God’s message of eternal security and everlasting peace,” said Baak.