News / Africa

Pastor Uses Circus Animals to Help South Sudan

Reverend Jim Lavender, Jr. gives a children's Bible sermon at a church parking lot using rescued circus animals, in Centreville, Virginia on May 4, 2013.(VOA/Jill Craig)
Reverend Jim Lavender, Jr. gives a children's Bible sermon at a church parking lot using rescued circus animals, in Centreville, Virginia on May 4, 2013.(VOA/Jill Craig)
Jill Craig
In a church parking lot in this Washington, D.C. suburb on a clear spring day, rescued circus animals, including lions, tigers, camels, even a kangaroo, lounge in cages and pens as parents bring their children to listen to a Bible lesson from Jim Lavender Jr.

Lavender is a former circus ringmaster who became a pastor 35 years ago, and the menagerie is part of his “Thank God for Kids” ministry, which uses animals to bring a Christian message to children.

The proceeds from this particular unique fundraiser support Abukloi, an organization co-founded by 32-year-old South Sudanese expatriate Angelo Mangar Maker, who came to the United States in 2001 after fleeing Sudan’s civil war and spending years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.

“It was very, very difficult when I watched my mother and two brothers being executed before me. It was difficult and the long distance from South Sudan to Ethiopia wasn’t easy too... Being a refugee was not something that anybody wanted to be," he said.

Lavender was deeply moved by Maker's story.

"There’s nothing, nothing," he said.

"In addition to that, there’s the oppression. And the fact that girls don’t have a chance for education. That’s got to be fixed. In some small way, if I can help, that’s what I want to do."

Lavender decided to use his crowd-pleasing exotic animals to support Abukloi, which is Sudanese for "We can" and has set itself the task of building an educational and vocational training facility in Rumbek.

More than 1.5 million children and thousands of adult volunteers have attended “Thank God for Kids” events throughout the United States, according to the group’s promotional materials.

While they raise funds to help children in South Sudan and build awareness of Abukloi, Lavender and his circus animals are also helping to give American children a glimpse of what life is like on another continent, Maker said.

In South Sudan, children "see animals - goats, cows, chickens - around their house. But American children don’t see that, so we just need to bring to them to see different perspectives," he said.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs