One cup of beans and 10 cups of corn every 15 days, for 15 years.
With a past full of food rations and dangerous living conditions, it may seem surprising that the one thing Stephen Lasu does not take for granted is education. The value he places in education has set the course for his life-long journey to teach the Bible in his home country of Sudan.
Stephen was born as a refugee in Uganda to Sudanese parents. They lived in the Moroto District of Northern Karamojon for 12 years during the war in Sudan. During Sudan’s 10 years of peace, his family moved back to their home in Yei for a time. When war broke out again in 1983, Stephen’s parents escaped back to Uganda, while he fled to a refugee camp in Daddab, Kenya. He would never see his parents again.
It was in Kenya, where he married his wife and had their daughter, Akujo. But life was far from peaceful. In 1992, when they were running from a warzone, a piece of machinery became lodged in his wife’s leg, and she died soon afterward.
Camps in Kenya are mostly made up of refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. At the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees camp in Dadaab, Kenya, Stephen taught peace-education to Somali children. Peace education is a program set up by the UN to accomplish their 50-year vision for peace. The purpose is to teach children in refugee camps the value of living in peace and unity so when the time came for them to go back to their countries, they would remain living in peace within their own tribes and with the surrounding tribes.
While teaching peace education, Stephen found a way to bring Jesus into his lessons, even though quoting straight from the Bible was not allowed. He would tell stories of Jesus and how Jesus kept the peace and fostered unity.
In 2003, it was Stephen and his daughter’s turn to leave the refugee camp in Kenya for Toronto, Canada, where they were enculturated into Western society. Akujo was only 11 at the time. Stephen then married his second wife, Rose, in Portland, Oregon. They happened to be from the same tribe in Sudan. Stephen and Rose have a little boy, Taban, who turned two on September 29th of this year.
The Lasu family moved to Gresham in April 2009, and they became involved with First Baptist Church in Gresham. While sharing his passion for taking the Bible back to Sudan, his pastor told him he should study the Bible at a Bible school in Vancouver or at Multnomah University. Stephen chose Multnomah, and began his studies in 2010.
Majoring in Pastoral Studies in the undergraduate school at Multnomah, Stephen believes his time here is helpful, “100 percent,” he said. Although he loves it here, he says, “I need to go back.” Stephen said there is such a need for the churches over in Sudan to teach Jesus, and not just their literature.
Even though Stephen does not know when he will graduate, because he is taking just 13 credits this semester, he has full intention of bringing Jesus back to churches in his home country one day. His heart’s passion is expressed vividly when he said, “Everyone has to be like Jesus. You have to live by the Word. Shine among people.”
But how do you bring them Jesus when the level of education in South Sudan is so low, that their schools are overflowing with students just waiting for someone to teach them? Especially now that South Sudan declared its independence from the North in July 2011, the South is starting out with nothing.
With his past of living each day just to survive, on beans and corn year after year, Stephen sees the biggest need in the Sudan as education.
It’s “basic for development,” and “without education, people will not develop.”
–Kristen Leach is the “Features” editor for Muse and a senior Communication Studies major for Multnomah University.