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DIASPORA – Talk by ‘Lost Boy of South Sudan’ high point of International Fest

(PENNSYLVANIA, US) – Orphan Grain Train’s 2019 International Fest Fundraiser took place under clear skies Saturday evening at the charity’s barn-styled offices and warehouse at 621 East-West Boulevard in Millersville.

Orphan Grain Train is a Christian volunteer network that ships donated food, clothing, medical and other needed items to people in 69 different countries including the USA.

A festive mood prevailed as crowds wandered between the building and bright blue tents set up on the lawn. Inside, attendees toured the warehouse where shelves of boxes packed with humanitarian supplies awaited shipment to Liberia and browsed tables of charmingly displayed silent auction items.

They visited an indoor buffet with a mix of American and Greek foods and outdoor refreshment tents featuring an oyster bar, hot dogs on the grill and sandwiches from Chick- Fil-A.

Friends Denny Byrne and Rich Armbruster chatted over drinks near the oyster bar as did Liz Demick and Vic Maconachy. Elsewhere, attendees gathered around colorfully draped tables to enjoy the food while entertained by pianist Jim Turk and bagpiper Jay Barringer.

OGT board member Martha McGlynn was sharing a table with Brenda and Larry Geidel, Meghane Duvall, Cathy Mulford and Karen Laudenslayer. Eager to support the charity they’d earlier attended a workshop collecting winter coats.

Volunteers were everywhere. International Fest chair Irene Giguere kept an eye on the food while co-chair Bonnie Jordan minded the silent auction. Jordan also showed guests boxes being readied for shipment to Liberia next week and mentioned a subsequent disaster relief shipment for the Bahamas.

Volunteers Linda and Steve Zahn busily served Dolamades while greeting friends like District 5 Councilwoman and occasional OGT volunteer Amanda Fiedler.

Maryland branch manager Elfie Eberle eventually appeared behind a podium in a warehouse loading dock above the crowd to open the program with a prayer. She then explained the scope of Orphan Grain Train’s efforts.

“We help people in need locally, nationally and internationally,” she said. “Close to home, we’re helping a 3-year-old named Ava Janeski who lives in Severna Park. Ava was diagnosed with the rare polio-like disease Acute Flaccid Myelitis which has paralyzed her from the neck down. We’re raising money to help the family buy a desperately needed handicap van to transport the little girl to and from medical appointments.” For information, visit

The highlight of the event – a hopeful, inspiring speech by Theil T. Theil, Global Pastoral Resident at Bay Area Community Church, recounted his odyssey from Africa to America as one of the “Lost Boys of South Sudan.”

An estimated 40,000 young boys were displaced or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War which killed over 2 million people.

Born a Christian in Aweil, South Sudan, Theil was an 11-year-old in 1986 when he observed the arrival of a convoy of soldiers from the Muslim central government that hit a land mine. Innocent families were held responsible and caught up in a systematic retribution and ethnic cleansing of the non-Muslim population of South Sudan.

“Throughout 1987 and 1988, people were running away to other cities or countries,” Theil said.

His family relocated to Khartoum where he became active in one of nine churches later destroyed by the central government.

Designated an “Internally Displaced Person,” Theil was required to serve in the government’s Public Defense Forces with other students. He received weapons training and re-education in Islamic teaching with the objective of launching a jihad against South Sudan. Unable to destroy his own people, he fled to Syria.

He entered the United States for the first time in 1998 as a refugee sponsored by Catholic Charities. Obtaining an education in parasitology at Rutgers University, he returned to Sudan to work.

Back now serving his Bay Area Church residency, he’s writing a book to raise support for a return to South Sudan.

This article first appeared on Capital Gazzette.

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