Pardon me if you have heard this story before. It came to mind this week, and still inspires me. In the summer of 2001, Grace Immanuel and Salem UCC here in Louisville partnered with Kentucky Refugee Ministries to welcome four of the "Lost Boys of Sudan." When Abraham, Jacob, Gabriel and David arrived, we immediately realized they were not boys at all but towering young men who had suffered unimaginable horrors in war, parentless flight, and years in refugee camps. The Kakuma camp from which they came was staffed by the United Nations and African Anglican missionaries. One of the guys eventually shared a cassette tape with me from their going away ceremony at the camp. A pastor had preached at the event, and the sermon was captured on tape. Even now, it sounds like the Bible itself. The pastor described something the young men and boys all knew - the process of seed distribution. "Birds eat fruit and berries," the pastor said. "Then they fly far away, and in the mysterious design of God, their droppings deposit the seeds who knows where. There, in a foreign place, the seeds receive water, soil and sun, take root and sprout. Some of them become tall trees, giving shade and fruit for new growth."
"You are the seeds, about to be carried far away." said the preacher. "Many will see you only as bird droppings. As the refuse of the world. But God sees you as you can become - mighty trees." He then prayed for the young men to go with God's blessing to America, to grow, learn, and become strong men in faith. They would later confide in us that they were so afraid on the trip. They arrived by plane at night, and even thought the lights of Louisville were the fires of war. On one Sunday afternoon walk by the riverfront, they asked me if there were crocodiles in the Ohio River. They did not know how to use modern kitchen equipment, and called me to ask how to light the gas stove...they had all the dials turned up and the gas was filling the apartment! That may have been my quickest trip across town - ever. In spite of all of these obstacles, they thrived. Several hundred of their "brothers" eventually landed in Louisville through Catholic Charities and Kentucky Refugee Ministries. You can spot them easily in business settings, hospital hallways, or on the street- mostly Dinka tribesmen - with thin regal bearing. Tall trees.