It was the happiest day of my life, when God brought my sons back from the dead. For ten years I’d believed my two boys Wal and Deng, then three and five, were murdered along with my wife when government soldiers attacked our village in Sudan.
But last year, after I’d come to Britain as a refugee, a miracle led me to discover that my sons, now aged 13 and 15, were actually alive. As the arrival lounge doors at Heathrow opened and my two boys appeared, I dipped under the security barrier and ran towards them, hardly able to believe I had them back. As we hugged and cried together others waiting looked, clapped and smiled, realising we were sharing a very special moment.
But no one could have imagined just how amazing our story really is. The last time I had seen my children was in April 1998, when I dropped them off at their grandmother’s house, where they were going to spend a few days.
My wife Awul and I had moved to the tiny village of Athou in 1987 to escape persecution for our faith after being tortured and imprisoned. We swapped a nice house for a mud hut in the country but at least we felt safe. It was there that our first son, Wal, was born. I was the proudest man in the world. He had my eyes and my nose. Early on we could see how intelligent he was, and a great footballer. Our second son Deng arrived two years later. He was naughtier than Wal, but we loved both of them the same. We were such a close family, full of love. It was all I ever wanted and I was so happy.
Then, early one Tuesday morning in April 1998, I was woken by the deafening blasts of army tanks bombarding the village. The Sudanese troops had surrounded our village, intent on wiping out all the Christians living there. I looked for my wife but she had already got up to fetch water from the local well. The boys were staying with their grandmother in another village.
I ran outside and saw my wife lying in the mud, her body ridden with bullets. Then I just ran, with bombs exploding and bullets flying past. I ran for seven days and nights. My feet were bleeding and all the time I was crying, remembering my wife. I’d left everything behind, even our family photos. I knew I’d never see my wife’s face again.
I passed by the village where I’d left my sons, but it had also been attacked and was deserted so I assumed they’d all been killed too. Eventually I crossed the border with Uganda and I was sent to a refugee camp, where I lived for the next six years. I had lost everybody I loved and now I was alone, with nothing else to live for.
In January 2006 I was brought to the UK under the refugee resettlement programme and began a new life in Bury, near Manchester. I started an Access to Business course, to study to be an accountant. Despite everything I continued to believe and trust in God and tried to make the best of my life - but the emptiness I felt inside never went away. Not a day went by that I didn’t think of my beautiful wife and our two gorgeous little boys.
Then, in April this year, a friend back in Sudan sent a message telling me he’d met my sons, who were living with their grandmother. They had managed to escape before the troops attacked the village. I also found out through my mother-in-law that my mother and younger brother were also still alive, although my father was killed on the same day as my wife.
Through my resettlement worker at the Refugee Action charity we secured a donation to pay for someone to bring them back to Uganda and, in March this year, they were flown to Britain to live with me. After our emotional reunion at Heathrow, I took my sons back to Manchester by train. During the trip my youngest Deng fell asleep on my lap just like we had never been apart. Wal told me he’d kept an image of me in his head, that’s how he recognised me straight away. I couldn’t stop the tears welling up in my eyes.
I am so thankful to God that he did this miracle in my life. My life feels complete again and the sadness and loneliness I felt has disappeared. God has given me another chance to be a dad. Now I’ve got them back I’m never going to let them go again, ever.