'Stranger in a strange land...'
Written by Gayle Starling-Melvin
February 1, 2001
With the help of two UCC churches, Moses Lasu is providing a new life for his family...and getting a driver's license, too!
When Moses Lasu left Sudan, he didn't leisurely pack his things and book his flight. He fled for his life.
After fleeing the family farm in 1989 during a military coup, Lasu found a job as a security guard with the German Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. In 1994, he was abducted at gunpoint by soldiers during a surprise midnight raid on his home, allegedly because of knowledge he had of political policies. During the raid, Lasu's wife, Rhoda, was slapped repeatedly across her face as their small daughter watched.
As Lasu was tortured by the soldiers, his wife was arranging with the German Embassy for his release. Because of political pressure, Lasu's captors released him, telling him not to leave the country without their consent. Lasu eventually obtained visa papers for himself and his family. Soldiers paid one last visit to his home, cutting up mattresses and breaking up furniture in search of the papers. In 1999, Lasu sent his family ahead of him to Egypt, and joined them when it was safe. With help from Church World Service and Witness, the disaster relief arm of the National Council of Churches, the family arrived in the United States 16 months later.
That's when St. Peter's UCC in Carmel, Ind., just outside Indianapolis, and the Southeast Association of the UCC's Indiana-Kentucky Conference stepped in. Barbara James, who heads up St. Peter's refugee settlement efforts, and the Rev. Clyde Flannery, retired associate conference minister of the Indiana-Kentucky Conference and a member of First Congregational UCC, Indianapolis, helped the family settle into its new life.
The Lasus arrived last September, on "one of the coldest, dreariest days of the season," says James. The family had no warm clothing, so St. Peter's immediately bought them heavier clothing. With the church's help, the family was soon settled into a furnished apartment and Lasu began work at the local Target department store.
"Moses and Rhoda are currently taking ESL [English as a Second Language] classes," James says. "They are catching on quickly, learning to write English as well as read it."
Flannery loves to play with Oliver, Lasu's two-year-old son. "He's really a card," says Flannery. "He's smart, funny and even at two, he's caught on quickly to our American lifestyle."
Flannery opened his home to the Lasus when they first arrived, and drives Moses and Rhoda to their English classes every week.
The Lasu family will soon become members of the UCC. They divide their worship between First Congregational and St. Peter's, never missing a Sunday service.
Though Lasu does not like American cuisine or Indiana's snowy weather, he does have one passion—driving.
"Moses is taking Drivers Education and is making wonderful progress," James says. "His teenage classmates and the driving instructor find him to be a delight. He should be getting his driver's license sometime in February."
Looking back, Moses Lasu and his wife say they feel they have everything, and harbor no grudges toward the soldiers or the turmoil they endured "back home." Instead, they recognize it for what it was—a test of their faith. And they know they have passed with flying colors.
For information on how your church can sponsor a refugee family, contact Mary Kuenning Gross, the UCC's refugee resettlement placement officer, at 216-736-3212; e-mail: email@example.com.