Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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St. Bart's South Sudanese Experience

In 1999, on August 24th (which incidentally was St. Bartholomew's Day), our parish welcomed four young men who were refugees from Sudan (now South Sudan).  The decision to sponsor these young men was the product of an almost year long discernment process that was entered into first by the Vestry, and then by the entire congregation.

Adega, Akok, Chol and Bol Gai came from varied backgrounds, were adults, and had family remaining in Africa. All had experienced the war first hand in South Sudan. When the Lost Boys began arriving in the United States in 2001, our older, more established young men became mentors to many of the young boys

As the Virginia Council of Churches' Refugee Resettlement program brought more and more Sudanese families into Richmond, the Dinka community, many of whom spoke little English, began worshiping in homes and apartments in the area. Soon one of our young men came to us with a proposal that they be allowed to meet weekly in our building. After establishing ground rules for use of the facility, the Sudanese Christian Community began meeting, elected its own governing body and established their liturgy based on what was familiar to them. With a congregation that varies from 20 to 100, we have joined with them for special events, and they have joined our regular services--most notably, an Easter Vigil where we celebrated the baptism of six Sudanese young people.

We proudly process a cross during the offertory each Sunday that was a gift to our congregation from the women of Kakuma Refugee Camp, where many South Sudanese Lost Boys lived before coming to the US. It is made from native wood and is decorated with carvings and metal salvaged from crashed airplanes and missile shells that that were found in their homeland.