Shortly after the Rev. Zachariah Jok Char–one of Sudan’s “lost boys” who walked hundreds of miles to escape strife in that country–was ordained to the priesthood in western Michagan, we covered a write-up on him here. Today, he’s profiled in the New York Times, and the article shows what he’s been doing since his ordainment.
Mr. Char has taken on a burden, as he ministers to his people while attending college and working at a meat-processing plant, both full time. His work as a priest makes it possible for the Sudanese church members to receive communion and have their baptisms, weddings and funerals in Dinka, their language.
Occupying a block in the city’s most affluent neighborhood, Grace Episcopal was former President Gerald Ford’s place of worship. As coffee hour for an English-language service ended one Sunday, the drums, shakers and a cappella singing of the 11:30 Dinka service filtered into the churchyard.
There is no program for the service, no organ music. Hymnals and prayer books in Dinka are in the first several rows of the large sanctuary. Songs rise from one or two people and are taken up by everyone else. Yet those familiar with the Anglican liturgy could follow the service and might recognize, even in Dinka, the solemnity of the Lord’s Prayer.
“It’s very powerful, very meaningful to come together and worship in your mother tongue,” said Mayen Wol, 42, a leader in the congregation who came to the United States years before the Lost Boys. “We have common problems: your brother was killed yesterday, your sister raped, your father killed. Through gathering, we encourage each other, through prayer.”
The arrival of the Sudanese immigrants at Grace Episcopal four years ago has changed the way some other congregants understand faith.
“I don’t know how a 5-year-old could have walked across a burning desert: there is something biblical to it,” Nancy Tweddale, a junior warden at the church, said of Mr. Char. “He remembered what he heard in Sunday school, that God was with him. If I saw my friends falling and dying around me, or being killed by animals, I would wonder if I weren’t very alone.
Char talks about his experience in a video from the Times, also at the link. It’s all here.