Our journey of faith leads us to build bridges of understanding and peace, to reach out with compassion, and to share the hope of Jesus. This isn’t just something that is recited at the end of worship at Zumbro, but is the mission of the people that worship here. It is a way of life that comes from deep in our souls, including the Dinka who worship here on Sunday afternoons.
Zumbro is the home of a Dinka congregation. They worship every Sunday at 2pm in the Fireside Room. The Dinka are a tribe from South Sudan who came to the United States as refugees during a long civil war. This congregation worships Jesus Christ in their native language of Dinka and serves as a gathering place for South Sudanese Dinka in Rochester. The Sudanese Dinka Community is a part of Zumbro Lutheran Church and is a worshiping community of the ELCA.
The Dinka congregation has been led by Lay Evangelist Kamen Makeur (pictured to the left) since 2005. During the month of June he will live out Zumbro’s mission of building bridges, reaching out with compassion, and sharing the hope of Jesus back in his hometown in Sudan—despite the danger he is faced.
Since 2014, two clans of Kamen’s hometown, Rumbek, have been fighting, resulting in the deaths of between 8 and 40 people every week. According to Kamen, this fighting is the result of the government being unable to control clans after the civil war. The government failed to distribute goods and Rumbek offers no basic services to its residents. This caused major strife and It has become uncivilized.
While this fighting is far from Minnesota, Zumbro’s Dinka is affected by it intimately. Kamen has sent $3,000 home to treat his nephew’s and his wife’s gunshot wounds from the fighting. Unfortunately, his nephew’s wife died due to her injuries. This story is all too common to many from our Dinka congregation.
For the past 10 months, Kamen and a small group of South Sudanese leaders in the United States have been facilitating a peace agreement between the two warring clans of Dinka in their home state. So far, the peace has held and dozens of lives have been saved.
For four weeks this June, 18 Dinka leaders in the United States, including Kamen, will travel to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, to meet with lawyers and politicians to create community laws and hopefully to finalize the peace manifesto. Prayers are requested for Kamen’s safe travels to and from South Sudan, for safety during the peace discussions, and for the fighting to end.
As Kamen said, “I’m just trying to be a peacemaker.”
Breaking news as of June 28: Rumbek Peace Initiative has reached an agreement!