(2007) How many of us really believe in miracles? I know I do! For twenty-five years in a land so far away called Sudan, people's fought over the rights of land ownership between those living in the north and those living in the South of one of the largest land mass countries on the African continent. The north occupied majorly by people of Arabian descent were in a bloody war trying to push all the black Africans from the South off their ancestral land. The Arabic word "Sudan" means "land of the blacks." It was also a war between the Muslims of the North and the Christians of the South as well as between the oil possessors of the South and those who refine and sell it in the North. The battles resulted in numerous violent raids where men and boys were killed, young women raped, and villages burnt to the ground.
It was in these circumstances that young boys, taking care of the family's wealth, cattle that is, were trained to leave the animals and run for safety if they heard gunfire or saw smoke rising from their villages. While the raids from the Northern Government troops continued, thousands of boys began a walking journey that would take months before finding some safety in nearby Ethiopia. Difficulties in that country though made the boys continue their journey back into Sudan until they arrived at a refugee camp in Kenya. They became knows as "The Lost Boys."
One of the boys was named Fidele Diing Dhan. He was baptized "Fidele" while in one of the refugee camps in Ethiopia. He would remain in the camp in Kenya until his early twenties when an opportunity was provided in February of 2001 to be resettled into Syracuse, NY. For two years he made use of the education provided by his new surroundings acquiring a GED and an associate degree. He then was accepted into the University of Buffalo (UB) and was preparing to move to Buffalo to study. There was one difficulty. He had no where to live.
In September of 2001, just before the September attacks upon the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the air crash in Pennsylvania, Dateline NBC, as well as Sixty Minutes, did a special story on 'The Lost Boys" and their coming to America experience. Unable to view the program I video taped the special for later viewing. It wasn't until October of that year that I viewed the program. While telling the story of the twenty-five year civil war, and the "Lost Boys" first day in the refugee camp in Kenya, the camera panned over a sea of youngsters until one looked right into the lens. The child couldn't have been more than twelve. At that moment I prayed for that youngster: "Child of God, if you weren't half a world away but in this country you would live in my house and be my son. You wouldn't have to worry about food, clothing, or health concerns.
Two years had gone by and I gave presentations about the situations in the Sudan and the Story of the "Lost Boys." I used portions of the "Dateline NBC Special" accompanied with some of the "Lost Boys" who relocated into Rochester who were featured in the program. Each time I used the video and saw the twelve year old youngster in the camp I prayed my prayer for him.
In the summer of 2003, the Director of the Maryknoll Missionaries office in Buffalo contacted me and requested that I ask around because there is one of "The Lost Boys" who is moving to attend school at UB but doesn't have housing. I checked with many African families. They were all large families in small apartments. Plus the September 11th attack filled them with much fear hoping that the forces that drove them our of their country didn't come looking for them in USA. There was no room at any Inn. At the time I had a number of refugee men living in the unoccupied rooms of the parish rectory and had one guest room still available. I thought that being a young man he would most likely stay for just a few weeks before he made many friends and moved on. I returned the call to Maryknoll and accepted the young man to come and live with us on Buffalo's East Side.
The next day there was a knock on the door and a very young tall gentleman introduced himself as Fidele and came in. He carried one small bag. I explained the rules of the house and introduced him to the others living with us. I spoke of the "Lost Boys" whom I had worked with in Rochester, all of whom he knew well. I told him of our use of the dateline video. He asked to view it and so we went to my living room and began the video. To my surprise, the twelve year old I had been praying for was now twenty-five and sitting in my living room and taking residence in my house. He is and will always be my miracle son.