Center for Global Justice Hosts ALARM Attorney Leah Boyd and South Sudanese Pastor James Baak in Preparation for Christian Lawyers Conference in Juba, South Sudan
On October 22, 2013, the Center for Global Justice hosted African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (“ALARM”) staff Leah Boyd and James Baak. Leah is an American attorney who serves as ALARM’s Director of Justice Initiatives. James, an ordained minister and South Sudanese native, serves as ALARM’s Pastoral Director for South Sudan.
Speaking to approximately 65 students, Leah shared how ALARM is training lawyers in East Africa to help them understand their role in servant leadership and advocacy and how they can be a voice for the oppressed in their communities. Particularly impactful was a story Leah shared about how ALARM’s mediation training led to a peaceful resolution between two brothers who were literally ready to kill each other over their father’s estate. As part of its Christian lawyer training, ALARM is hosting a Christian lawyers conference in South Sudan in November, ALARM’s first in the world’s youngest nation. In March 2014, the Center for Global Justice, as part of its rule of law initiative in South Sudan, intends to partner with ALARM in hosting a four-day Christian lawyers conference in Juba, South Sudan. Center for Global Justice Executive Director and Regent law professor Craig Stern will lead a team that will train 30-50 South Sudanese attorneys in the Christian foundations of the common law and the concept of lawyering as a ministry, among other topics.
After Leah finished speaking, James shared his own personal story—a story of God’s grace and a great reminder of the Biblical truth that God’s ways and thoughts are much higher and better than our own (Isaiah 55:8-11). At the age of 13, James made the arduous four-month journey from his village in South Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Researchers estimate that of the 50,000 boys who began the journey, 25,000 died due to starvation, disease, bombings from Khartoum, lion attacks, and other reasons. It was from surviving this journey that James and the other survivors earned the famous title, the “Lost Boys of Sudan.”
Each year at the refugee camp, the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (“SPLA”) recruited teenage boys from the refugee camp to fight in the war. Year after year, however, the SPLA choose not to take James, citing his small stature. Feeling hurt and rejected, James continued to ponder the meaning of life. It was then, in the Ethiopian refugee camp, that James entered a church and first heard John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Upon hearing these life-giving words, James began to weep. Despite the chaos and conflict that surrounded him, James knew the God of the Universe loved him enough to sacrifice His own son that James might live.
After becoming a Christian, James was determined to receive an education. At the age of 17, still in the Ethiopian refugee camp, James began to learn to read and write. With a tree as his chalkboard and the sand as his notepad, James progressed quickly. From Ethiopia, James was transferred to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. After spending several years in Kenya, James was forced to decide either to move to the United States, which he was repeatedly told was “like Heaven”, or return to his village in South Sudan, a literal Hell on earth. Although a difficult decision, James knew that God was calling him to return to his village and preach the gospel. Accordingly, James obeyed God’s call and returned to South Sudan. Having been told his parents were dead, James was overjoyed to find his parents and some of his siblings alive.
James quickly told his family and the village elders how he became a Christian and asked them to follow Christ. The elders decided that they would accept Christianity. Therefore, James organized a village-wide idol-burning bonfire. Surrounding villages saw the smoke. Wondering the cause, many traveled to James’s village. Upon learning that the flames were from burnt idols, the neighboring villages swore that James’s village would be cursed and die. Day after day, however, the neighboring villages were shocked to learn that no one from James’s village had died. In fact, word began to spread amongst the surrounding villages that when James and other Christians in his village prayed for the sick, they were healed! Slowly, more and more people came to Christ, and James planted churches in surrounding villages. James joined ALARM in 2004, where he has served since.