There are close to 400 South Sudanese here in Sioux Falls. U.S. citizenship,practice in democratic process and educational opportunities are valued as means to improving community life and as resources for the rebuilding of their homeland should independence come.
Moses Joknhial II earned a degree in electrical engineering and became a licensed pilot. He has raised tens of thousands of dollars across South Dakota to rebuild his hometown of Pajut, and to invest in its future. Fresh water wells and powered grain mills allow the girls of the town, in particular, to reduce subsistence work and attend the new school constructed there.
During his last trip there, he contracted a life threatening virus. Nursed back to health in Kenya and the U.S., he plans to return in the spring to continue the development of the village.
Adol Kang is studying security service administration here in Sioux Falls, and also works full time. "The money we make all goes back home. I am reponsible for nine brothers' kids." He uses his days off from work to organize the South Sudanese community toward participation in democratic government, with an eye to an independent state holding elections in 2012.
"The main issue is human dignity," he says of his community's preparation to vote on independence from the Islamic-led government in Khartoum. He recites a litany of violence spanning decades.
Lual Jol has served for two years as the Senior Warden (ranking lay officer) of the Sudanese congregation at Church of the Holy Apostles (Episcopal). Even with a Sudanese priest and deacon raised up from the church, the leaders can barely keep up with the needs of the refugee community.
Many in the congregation work their way up into better lives via entry level jobs, such as those offered at the John Morrell meat processing facility. They labor to learn English and to come to terms with the more complex society and technology they encounter in America. Most send support to families in South Sudan.
All this is against a backdrop of violence that has at times been categorized as genocide.
Smiling, Lual says, "We pray that God can make miracles happen."