When Sudanese refugees came to Des Moines in the early 1990s, they were sponsored by St. Ambrose Cathedral downtown.  James Kueth and his Sudanese countrymen said to the refugee coordinator, "We appreciate your hospitality, but you know we are Presbyterians."  When asked if the Sudanese men would be welcome at Cottage Grove, Pastor Madsen said, "Sure," and we were off and running.

CG Church has helped the Sudanese bridge various gaps.  While the church has helped translate the Sudanese culture to the Des Moines community, the Sudanese have also offered an important lesson:  they really live the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.  The Sudanese have a true collectivist society, which stresses caring and responsibility for every individual in the group.

When the Sudanese first came to Des Moines, they were happy with any kind of job.  Not many employers gave them a chance.  Though they may have had skills back home in Sudan, they could only earn $6 or $7 an hour here.  Gradually they got better jobs.  Some have become Certified Medical Assistants and are now working at Des Moines' largest hospitals.  But not many have yet entered the professional ranks, despite earning advanced degrees.  

Many of the men
work at the beef processing plant in Perry.  Many of the women do cleaning for businesses in Des Moines.
Drawing of Africans in native dress, outline of Africa in background

Arabic worship in the chapel

Nuer worship service in the sanctuary

Arabic worship service

Nuer worship service

in the chapel

in the sanctuary

Roberta Victor has been touched by the infectious spirit and strength of the Sudanese.  She has spent the past several years working with a special group of Sudanese called "The Lost Boys," who lost all family members and arrived in the United States on their own.  "These are people who experienced repeated traumas.  They bury it really well, yet they are still gentle people," she says.  Given the incredible struggles and atrocities that these youth experienced from an early age, art therapy has been an important way to help open healing conversations.

Roberta with some of the Lost Boys (Art Therapy) Roberta and John Piot looking at drawing

Roberta with some of
The Lost Boys

Roberta and John Piot
looking at drawing

(Art Therapy)