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Sudanese 'Lost Boys' find dream at Oak Grove

Sometimes dreams do come true. When Abraham Madhier, a refugee from the Sudan, arrived in Fargo one year ago, he dreamed about attending school. But his legal age is 24. That's too old to attend public school in the United States, even though...

Sometimes dreams do come true.

When Abraham Madhier, a refugee from the Sudan, arrived in Fargo one year ago, he dreamed about attending school.

But his legal age is 24. That's too old to attend public school in the United States, even though he, like many of the "Lost Boys," believes he is younger. The boys were orphaned at a young age. They were assigned ages when they arrived at a refugee camp.

Instead, mentors encouraged him to take adult education classes and work toward his GED.

"That wasn't what I wanted," Madhier said. "I was hoping to go to public school. But God was working in some other ways."

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This summer he learned that he could attend high school. Oak Grove Lutheran School had openings for young men from the Sudan. Because the school is a private school it doesn't have age restrictions.

The school wants to raise at least $100,000 to cover tuition, books and living expenses for five students over the next three years.

"We heard about the young men and prayed," said Linda Olson, director of admissions at the school. "We looked at what we could do to help and decided we could help them attain their dream of an education."

So far three young men, Madhier, Elijah Maluk and Phillip Aret, have been accepted at the Lutheran school in Fargo.

"I'm very excited," said Maluk, 17.

"Education is a key to our success. I'm happy to see my goal and go to school."

Helping the Sudanese students is part of Oak Grove's mission, said John Andreasen, president of the school. Throughout its history, the school has been involved in global missions and reaching out to others.

"The Sudanese boys are one more chapter in that tradition," he said.

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Friends of the school and church have been donating money to help support the students. In addition to tuition, the funds will cover living expenses so the young men won't need to work full time to pay bills.

Ray Melheim, a retired pastor from Moorhead, and his wife, Kathryn, are among those who are financially supporting the boys.

Melheim remembers his parents supporting missionaries in Sudan when he was a boy. When he first heard about violence against Christians in southern Sudan, his heart went out to the boys who were plagued by war and hunger.

"We thought it was a worthwhile cause," he said.

Like many of the young men from Sudan, Madhier attended school in Kakuma, a Kenyan refugee camp. He studied subjects ranging from English to biology to music.

He also received training as a nurse. That's one reason he's considering a career as a medical doctor. He also may consider a career in political science.

"I'm still deciding," he said. "That will take time."

School will begin in one week. The young men will study U.S. history and chemistry alongside American and foreign students from countries like Mongolia, Japan and Israel.

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Along the way, Oak Grove administrators believe the young men will become a blessing to the school, much like the school has been a blessing to the students.

"I hope we can create opportunities for them to tell their stories," Andreasen said. "They have a story to tell and a faith to share. Oak Grove is the right place for them to let that faith blossom."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534.

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