Lost Boy Goes South
“…[they] put him in prison and tortured him, hoping to uncover the possibility that Danny was actually a spy for the government forces.”
You are sixteen again. You are consumed by the world of an adolescent…
A world that is made up of being full capable and in charge, and in a matter of seconds, a world that crumbles in emotional desolation as you realize that life is so much bigger and more challenging than previously believed. This see saw of confidence and fear, of hope and hopelessness, blinded peace and terror, repeats itself over and over until you find maturity or maturity finds you.
Danny Swaka grew up in the bustling but desert city of Juba. Juba was the jewel of Southern Sudanese Christians until it was over-run by the Islamic backed northern troops in 1983. Before the invasion, Danny, son of a Roman Catholic preacher as he describes himself, was contently progressing through his secondary school education.
The invasion of his home town by extremists from the north brought the usual fear and persecution. The authorities kept a close watch on Danny’s family’s home and treat the family like enemies who “…must be involved in secret meetings.”
Then one day in Danny’s sixteenth year, his life was to be changed forever. Danny’s dad called his family of nine together for a family meeting that turned into an intensely emotional gathering. The elder Swaka said that he loved his youngest son Danny very much, and because of this love, he was sending Danny away. He also shared that Danny needed to go away because “…he would not like to have his beloved youngest child’s death on his conscience.”
As a young Sudanese is expected to do, Danny accepted his father’s decision and said his good byes as some friends of the family escorted him in the middle of the night out of town. Danny was now all alone, in the darkness of a Sudanese night, wondering what direction he should go to reach this mythical place called…safety. Sudan is a large, desolate, warn torn country in the northwest-central part of the African continent.
With little instruction, other than these final words of his father, “…my son, fight your way to Heaven…”, Danny decided to try and follow the Nile River on his trek out of harms way. Unfortunately, this seemingly great idea, led this alone and bewildered sixteen year old directly to a settlement of the rebellion army who captured Danny, put him in prison and tortured him, hoping to uncover the possibility that Danny was actually a spy for the government forces.
With little help of ever getting out of the sub-animal conditions of a remote Sudanese prison, Danny was finally convinced to join therebellion army. It was his only hope of surviving and it fit, as best he could figure, with this phrase his father had left him with, “…my son, fight your way to Heaven.”
After six months of training Danny witnessed many of his fellow soldiers, some as young as ten years old, dying in battle as well as from the “meager diet” and “all kinds of sicknesses.” Danny became an Intelligence Officer with the rank of Lieutenant. “By God’s grace [I] was never seriously injured during all the fierce battles [I] was on the front line of fighting.” Oh how Danny wanted to be free from this terror. His heart longed to finish his schooling and to even “study further.”
One night in the black isolated darkness of a Sudanese night, with nothing but the host of stars above, Danny just knew he had enough of the fighting. He knew that his deepest desire and hope for further education would die if he stayed in the army. That was the night he escaped and fled to Uganda.
Danny shares, “In Uganda I met a Catholic priest, who gave me a place to hide. This priest also warned me that I could not stay in Uganda, because the Sudanese officials were looking in the city for any army officers that might be hiding there.” When they noticed some officials from the Sudanese army snooping around in this part of Uganda, Danny hurriedly, at the direction of the priest slipped out of Uganda on a bus and continued his trek south to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, via Nairobi, Kenya.
The priest paid for the bust ticket, but told Danny that there was no way he could help him get through the many border crossings with out proper “papers.” Danny communicated that “…a voice kept telling me to flee south…I didn’t know exactly where to.” By God’s continued grace, Danny managed to somehow cross every border without proper papers. [Editor note: For anyone who has ever managed African border crossings, you would know how unlikely this could be and how fearful Danny must have been.]
Danny now finds himself in the south-central African country of Zambia. He again “somehow” hooked up with some other Sudanese people that could speak his mother tongue and prepare some cooking. They did their best to try and convince Danny that he needed to settle there with them. Danny continued to hear the still small voice that urged him to continue his “fleeing south.”
Trouble finally caught up with Danny as he tried to cross the Mozambique border as he worked south. When Danny’s bus arrived at the town nearest the border the police were “at the bus station.” “For the first time I was really scared. I thought to myself, ‘How is it possible? I have managed to get this far! I can not be taken captive now.’”
After a tense time of waiting, the police unexplainably left, and Danny was able to board the jam packed, standing room only bus that was headed further south.
Trouble struck again at the Maputo, South Africa border crossing. Danny was confronted by an official looking person who asked for his money. Danny and the others who were naively trying to fly “under the radar” with as little exposure as possible believed this person was going to help them. When the currency that was removed from the many tattered and torn pockets and handkerchiefs of the weary travelers, it conveniently and immediately was labeled as “foreign” and unacceptable.
However, the “official” would take all the foreign currency and help them out by getting it converted into local and usable currency. Danny gave the man all his money. “After a few hours I asked the others where is the guy who took our money and promised that he would and sort things out for us?” The answer came, “…you will never see your money again, you must find some other way to the other side of the border.” Imagine Danny’s state of mind as he shares, “…I wanted to become discouraged then, but decided [that] God would not leave me now. This was just another challenge I had to face…it was not a stumbling block, but a stepping stone.”
A few of the currency-less travelers decided to go to the fence near the Komatipoort (South Africa) border post. Without proper papers and without funds they were clandestinely directed to some holes in the fence where there were two people sitting next to each hole. They were helping people enter South Africa illegally, but there was a price…
Danny shares it this way, “Because I could not pay, and had nothing valuable with me, I had to receive a hiding with sticks (African term for a caning or a beating), and a few slaps to my face and a kick. There was no other way for me to enter through the hole in the fence except to endure this [payment].”
To Danny’s surprise, and assuredly a gift from God, there was friendly young man waiting to transport Danny to Johannesburg in a taxi, which was at least a couple hours away. As quickly and mysteriously as Danny was picked up he was also dumped off. “[The tax driver], he just told me “Sudanese man, get out of my taxi, and welcome to Hillbrow!” For hours Danny walked and wandered until he approached a security guard at a petrol station. Again, graciously this Sudanese traveler was helped to find a place to “…sleep on the [concrete] street next to the garage.”
The next day the security guard took Danny to meet some Sudanese people that lived nearby. God’s hand was in this as there were Christians in this group, and they welcomed Danny in. Once again, he had people that could understand his heart’s language and who understood his heart’s needs.
Danny’s new Christian friends helped Danny enroll and get accepted to Wits University to study medicine. This was the answer to all his dreams. The joy didn’t last very long. Danny was not going to be able to attend school because he had no “sponsor.” Danny had no one to sponsor him and pay for his school fees. Danny was again all alone and without hope.
Soon Danny connected with another group of Sudanese Christians who happened to be attended Cedar College of Education (CCE) which is supported and housed on the Kwasizabantu Mission (KSB) compound outside of Durban, South Africa, right in the middle of Zulu land. Kwasizabantu Mission is a wonderful place that Bill Bathman, Steve Evers, and In Touch Mission (ITMI) has partnered with for years. “To my surprise I was accepted at CCE at the end of 2005.”
This is where you as an ITMI and Sudanese “Lost Boys” supporter come in. We, together, have been working and supporting the good work at CCE for years now. Those of you who have faithfully given to ITMI have had a real and valuable part in “sponsoring” students that come to CCE for hope first and an education second. Danny was able to finally find a sponsor in you, ITMI, and CCE. He was able to attend CCE in part due to your prayers and financial partnership.
Danny tells his story this way, “Arriving at Kwasizabantu Mission in January 2006, my eyes were opened to the many things of the Christian life, which I did not know before. After the devotion at the College that Monday, I knew that I was carrying a lot of burdens on my shoulders and I knew now for the first time, there was a way to get rid of it. I could confess my sins, I could bring things to the light and open up all the deep things I had done wrong [and] all the feeling of revenge. I could leave it all at the feet of the cross of Jesus Christ. For the first time I experienced forgiveness and freedom from the burdens I carried with me since childhood.”
Danny has now completed his fourth year, and has been the Primarius (number one student) of CCE for two years. He wants all of us to know, “…that my future is in God’s hands and I am waiting for God to lead me in the right direction.” Danny is waiting on God to help him find out what will be the next step.
Helping the “Danny’s” of this world find Jesus and His plan for their lives is truly one of the most pressing needs of ITMI and our partners. We seek to be faithful to God’s leading and His calling in these areas.
Last month one of our dear supporters, Mike and Charlotte Ralston emailed me and asked me this question, “what are your current pressing needs?”
In our passion to reach this world for Christ, the needs we are presented with are endless. We, at ITMI, humbly seek God’s face for wisdom and direction in meeting these needs.
Allow me to share with you some of what I shared in response to their question.
“Thank you for your faith in ITMI and our leadership at we seek to be faithful to God’s leading in the lives of those brothers and sisters that He has put us “in touch” with. We continually seek God’s direction in what He would have us do with the limited resources that He so graciously provides for us. Your sensitivity in asking what are the most “pressing needs” is a great encouragement to us, as this truly is a reality of dealing with the most pressing challenges as we minister in so many locations with so many needs.
If I may share with you, it is my belief that the American economy and the American people, including the Church, are experiencing more challenges than the American press is reporting. With that said, the funds that ITMI receives to help us run our organization, that enable us to help the nationals, has been under funded for the last three months. People seem to want to support the needy orphans and widows and the need to train pastors, but it is a bit more difficult for them to understand that the home office has needs also. We run a very lean and tight organization. We only have two full time people and three part time people. The full time people raise their own monthly support…which frees the organization from that burden. We use volunteers as much as we can in efforts to share the opportunity to minister and to keep the overhead as low as possible. We operate this way on purpose. We want to keep our overhead as low as possible so that we can make sure that as much of the sacrificial giving from people like you gets in the hands of the needy national partner. If you want to help support the ITMI general fund, then that would help us continue doing all that we do in Eastern Europe, Africa, and now India. However, please hear my heart, God will provide. He will provide to ITMI and all His servants around the world as He sees fit. I have no doubt that He will supply…in His time and in His way.”
If you feel led by God to be a lifeline for the “Danny’s,” “Piotr Zaremba’s,” and “John Jere’s” of ITMI, we ask you to prayerfully consider how God wants to use you at this time to meet the current and pressing needs.
“…You have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” Philippians 1:5
-Danny Swaka and Steve Evers