Peace after Turmoil: Sudanese refugee believes the gospel

For decades, Ridick would feel the struggle of war on the outside—and war on the inside.

Rebel fighting was tearing his home country, Sudan, apart at the seams when he was in high school in the ’80s. He tried to put his mind to his studies, but it wasn’t long before he was being asked to join the war.

“I witnessed my friends being taken at night—they were taken to be trained to fight,” Ridick said. “All the roads at that time were blocked, and people were hungry—there was no food.”

So he finally decided he had to get out of that place. He sneaked onto a truck convoy and started the 100-mile trip to the next-closest city. It was a trip plagued with gunfire and attacks. And it was the beginning of a journey that would last for years.

“It was a rough road,” Ridick said.

He crossed the border into Uganda, joining his brother who had also escaped and was living with an uncle. After a month, the uncle died, and the brothers set off for a refugee camp in Kenya, where they lived for nearly a year. But it wasn’t peaceful there.

As fights broke out and bullets flew at night, Ridick and his brother moved from camp to camp, scared for their lives. “There were guns, grenades, and machetes,” he said. “People were being dragged into the bush and not coming back. It was an intense time.”

The brothers slept outside the camp for a while until someone brought them tents and until finally after about a year officials from the United States embassy gave them forms to fill out to move them to the US.

The outer turmoil was coming to an end. But something Ridick didn’t yet know was the turmoil surrounding his faith would soon quiet, too. It wasn’t guns and grenades, but he had long felt pressured in the arena of religion, too—his mother, a Christian, had taught him some lessons from the Bible as a boy, and as a teenager he thought it was what he might like to believe in. But in Uganda, his uncle was determined to see his nephew converted to Islam. Under the guise of throwing him a circumcision party, Ridick’s uncle cooked a big dinner and brought the local sheik, who pronounced him Muslim and gave him the name Omar.

“I just kept quiet,” Ridick said. “But in my heart, I didn’t know what to do.”

Over the years and the miles, Ridick has met with and heard about a number of different faiths from Muslim to Jehovah’s Witnesses, “everything but Hindu, I have had experiences with,” he said. And when he got to Minneapolis, God had a different experience waiting for him, an African pastor named Philip.

“I was sick and had kidney problems, and Philip began bringing people around to have Bible studies with me,” Ridick said. Through studying the Bible for himself and being discipled by Philip, Ridick began growing in his faith. “It’s important to know the Word of God for yourself and to take it seriously,” he said. “That is how I came to know peace.”

 Grace Thornton is the author of I Don't Wait Anymore and a freelance writer. She blogs at gracefortheroad.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appears as part of the My Refugee Response series in Missions Mosaic (December 2017).

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