Though I am not what you would call an avid moviegoer, I still enjoy occasional “escapes from reality” by getting lost in the story line of a good motion picture for 90 to 120 minutes.  My favorites lately seem to be of the animated variety.  But, more and more I am being drawn to the documentary genre.  Rather than causing us to temporarily check out from reality, documentaries have the ability to draw us more closely to it and to focus our attention on aspects of reality that may be obscured by our own limited viewpoints and personal experience.  And, to paraphrase Bill Cosby in his opening narration on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, “If you’re not careful, you might just learn something.” 

Last week, Kim and I watched God Grew Tired of Us, a 2006 film which documents the plight of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  Fleeing their worn-torn homeland, nearly 30,000 orphaned and displaced Southern Sudanese boys set out on a journey of survival.  On their trek of hundreds of miles, thousands died from starvation, dehydration, disease, and military attacks.  Many made it to Ethiopia, but the outbreak of civil war there forced them to flee again.  They kept walking until they reached the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

Beginning in 2001, religious and humanitarian organizations succeeded in bringing about 3,800 Lost Boys to the U.S., settling them in 38 cities across the country.  God Grew Tired of Us closely follows the journey of three of them, John Bul Dau, Daniel Pach, and Panther Bior.  The physical, emotional, and cultural shift from their former life of bare existence to living in a land of plenty is about as radical as it gets.  Light switches, refrigerators, flushing toilets, showers, and escalators were all completely foreign to them. 

It was wonderful to observe that these Sudanese refugees did not become mesmerized by so much of what characterizes American culture.  Rather than being enamored with gaining more “stuff” for themselves, they worked multiple jobs in order to send money back to friends and surviving family members in Africa.  Material prosperity could not replace the close-knit bond that had been forged among their Lost Boy brothers.  After seeing Christmas trees and Santa Claus at a mall, John Dau asks, “Is that in the Bible?  Is Santa Claus in the Bible?”  He remembered the “spiritual preparation” that he and others used to go through as the commemoration of Jesus’ birth drew near each year; contemplation and meditation rather than ribbons and bows, glitz and glitter.  It was more about Presence than presents. 

The movie’s title comes from a statement that John Dau made as he tried to make sense of the senseless: the incalculable brutality, suffering, and death caused by the war in Sudan and the human wreckage that was left in its wake.  “God grew tired of us,” he said.  He reminded me of Job, who over 4,000 years ago struggled to reconcile the same issues of suffering, pain, injustice, and loss with God’s existence and sovereignty.

The Lost Boys of Sudan demonstrated such great courage, determination, and love on their journey.  Teens and pre-teens became the heads of “families” made up of younger boys.  They did their best to find food and water for them, and shouldered the difficult task of burying those who succumbed to hunger and the elements.

The film is moving and inspiring and serves as a great reminder of just how blessed most of us are.  And, in its own way, it provides a subtle rebuke to us for often doing so very little with the abundance of blessings and opportunities that we have been given.

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