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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid