Excerpts From An Interview With John Dau
("God Grew Tired Of Us")
Angelika Film Center, Dallas, Texas
January 23, 2007; 10:30 a.m.
Outlook: How has your faith helped you in your whole journey?
JD: My faith has been central to me. From the very beginning, in Sudan, I was baptized when I was two years, or one year. And later, in the camp, when we formed into 93 groups, of about a thousand each, every group had a covenant box, like the people of Israel on their journey. And the box was in the middle of the gathering, and we would pray together every day, from 6 in the evening until 9 in the evening, singing songs to the Almighty in our native language, though in the camp they taught us English. Then, on Sundays, we would all gather together, outdoors, with just the fence around us, and worship the Lord. We are the Gentiles, not the Jews, and we believe that Jesus Christ is for all people. When I was growing up, there were witch men, and witch women, who would say to a mother with five children, and one had malaria, "You must sacrifice a chicken." Or, "You must sacrifice a goat." They had little gods that people were supposed to pray to, who would then pray to the Almighty. But we believed that we could pray directly to the Almighty. And during all our troubles we all prayed constantly. You remember the time, in the film, when I said, "God grew tired of us"? I do think God grows tired of our killing, and our hatred, but God is always with us. When I came to this country, it was the week of 9/11. There was a lady there who said, "How could God let this happen?"
And I spoke to her of my experience, and I said, "God is here with us. God is everywhere." I never stopped believing that.
Outlook: Are there parts of our culture that seem strange to you?
JD: I could not get used to the way you celebrate Christmas. What does Santa Claus have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? I have decided that I do not need a Christmas tree. What is that, something from Germany, with snow on it? What does that mean? And when someone makes a list of what they want and someone else gives them something on that list; that is not a gift. A gift is like the men gave who came to Mary and Joseph when they had the baby Jesus. They brought what they had. They gave it from their hearts. They did not bring something that other people said they wanted. How is that a gift? Better to spend some of that money giving to charity, or to the church, or to people who are truly needy, such as the people still in the refugee camps. The other thing that is very difficult to get used to in America is how many people do not care if they see someone who is needy. They just walk by or drive by and do not help them. In my culture, when someone needs something, we ask, "What can I do for you?" We take care of each other. Here, it's quite different.
Outlook: It sounded like, in the movie, that many of the "Lost Boys" who managed to escape have suffered from Survivor Guilt, still thinking about the people left behind. Is that true?
JD: Yes, we have one foot here and the other foot there, and therefore it is hard to put our legs together and feel like we're standing in one place. But in our culture, we are all together. We who are living here want to help the people who are still back there. We send them money, and we try to bring our family here to join us.
Outlook: Yes, I understand you are now starting a family of your own. You have a little girl?
JD: Yes, she is two months and eleven days old.
JD: Thank you very much.
Outlook: And your wife, is she from here, or from Africa?
JD: I met her in the camp. We have known each other since we were children, but it's taken me a very long time to bring her here. But now that she is here, I am happy.
Outlook: You said in the movie that you think God gave us our gifts for a reason.
JD: Yes, since I am tall (6'8"), I am working as a security guard now. But soon I will be working for an organization that will help bring other Sudanese people here to the United States. But I have also worked for McDonald's, and in a factory. I think whether one is a waiter or a waitress or a manager, whatever one is doing, all is for the good of everyone, so every job is important.
Outlook: The dignity of work, and of every profession?
JD: Yes. They all build up the human family.
Outlook: Thank you so much for you time.
JD: It was very nice to meet you.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas