Last month, the Rev. Samuel Makuach was ordained as a deacon at Heartland Church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for Christ the King Anglican Church in Lansing, Michigan. This moment represented a significant and joyful milestone on a journey marked by heartache as well as the promise of God’s sovereign provision, a journey that took Samuel from Pamakeer, South Sudan, to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya after being a child soldier for almost three years, and ultimately to Michigan.
Samuel is one of the 20,000 men known as the Lost Boys of Sudan who were orphaned or separated from their families during the Sudanese Civil War, which raged from 1983–2005. Displaced and with no adult supervision, these boys then ranging in age from 7-17 survived living in groups, wandering for years and experiencing unimaginable difficulties before finally finding refuge in international relief camps. A number of agencies assisted some 3800 young men relocate to various cities in the United States.
Samuel came to faith and was baptized as an Anglican. He became an evangelist while living in the refugee camp and eventually led a faith community of fellow refugees. Lutheran Social Services helped him begin the process of immigration in 1998. Agency representatives gave him a western name and assigned his age as “between 15 and 17,” and he remains unsure of his exact age. He came to the US two years later and lived with foster parents who helped him find a Lutheran school where he attended on a scholarship. His transition was not easy, but Samuel persevered.
“School was very difficult,” he remembers. “I could not understand the language or the customs.” Even the weather represented an uncomfortable unknown, “welcoming” him with one of the coldest winters on record in Michigan.
Finding a church also proved somewhat challenging. “I didn’t understand even the preaching—only Communion. I just wasn’t comfortable and had to look around for where the Gospel was being preached.”
After trying different churches (including the Baptist, Catholic, Free Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal Churches), he found “a good Lutheran Church that was a fit” for more than two years. Meanwhile he was involved with Sudanese congregations as well. After being separated from his family for 17 years, however, he went back to Africa in 2007 for several months to reunite with his family following his father’s death. Although he had to forego a four-year degree in order to work and pay for the extended trip, it was worth the sacrifice.
“God blessed me in so many ways when I went back—He is so good,” Samuel says. “I was able to teach some of my family members who were Christians and non-Christians at the time. I did Bible study with them and the catechism. I taught them almost everything in the Prayer Book, and at the end of my travel, seven of my family and friends were baptized. It was the very best part,” he adds.
Since that time, Samuel has completed community college and has become a US citizen. Eventually, he felt a tug back to Anglicanism, and in 2005, he found Christ the King Church where he met Canon Jack Lumanog, who soon became Rector of the congregation and is now Canon for Provincial and Global Mission at the Anglican Church in North America.
Samuel considers Canon Jack a mentor, along with Father David Kulchar, Rector of New Wine in Flint, Michigan and Father Allen Kannappell, Rector of His Church Anglican in Livonia, Michigan. He describes them as “great supporters in every way that counts.” “Canon Lumanog has great discernment—he confirmed a call on my life that was there and saw something I wasn’t quite ready to see. I became a lay catechist or pastor at the church in 2010.”
His sense of call became stronger over the last two years, and Father Joseph Mlaker, now rector of Christ the King, facilitated Samuel’s process toward Holy Orders.
“The calling has been, I think, something that I have felt in my life for a long time—I knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time until Holy Orders,” Samuel explains. “God was with me in all of this.”
Christ the King, along with a number of others, is in the process of transitioning from the Anglican Mission in America to become part of the Diocese of the Great Lakes. Diocesan Bishop Roger Ames ordained Samuel as a transitional deacon on September 9. “He’s a great young man who is capable and has a big heart for ministry, especially evangelism,” he said.
Samuel leaves the door open about his future life and ministry. He currently works for Volunteers of America, helping individuals struggling with a myriad of debilitating issues including addiction, homelessness, violence and crime.
“I work with people that are broken, and many have given up on life,” he says. “They hear what my life has been like, and they know I can appreciate how hard theirs has been. I like the work, and it allows me to earn a living, but I don’t think I will be there professionally for years to come. I think I’m called to full-time missionary ministry here in the US and abroad. I see mission as what we do at church and in our community as well as overseas,” he continues.
In the meantime, Samuel continues to work with the Sudanese community in his area and hopes to unite those still divided by former tribal affiliations. He is pastoring a group now—praying with them, having lunch, “hanging out,” leading Bible studies and transporting them to and from church. He even finds crossover between his professional work and his ministry, as many in the Sudanese community struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. As Samuel observes counselors and caseworkers at Volunteers for America, he is learning how to help the Sudanese.
“Many Sudanese are broken too,” says Samuel. “This has been training for me from God.” He is confident God will also reveal the plan for his future.
“It’s incredible when you think about it—amazing and humbling—when you see God arrange things,” Samuel admits. “I have learned something. I can plan to do my own things and then end up doing something else I was not planning—good things and more godly. I always seek God and that’s how God works with me. I end up in the right place, at the right time and with the right people.”