Jacob Puka: "Even at the age of six, you had to learn the name of each cow. You never count your cows, but our family probably had 500. Maybe 300."
  • Jacob Puka: "Even at the age of six, you had to learn the name of each cow. You never count your cows, but our family probably had 500. Maybe 300."
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The Ethiopian Army caught up with the boys at the Gilo River.

"Most of us couldn't swim," says Isaac. "It was really very deep and swollen because of rains. The currents were very, very fast. All the rivers were overflowing. We didn't have boats. There was no bridge. The army started firing guns at us. Artillery, big machine guns. And that's why many of us threw ourselves into the river, because we had no option. Out of the river you just get shot. I did not know how to swim, and I was scared to throw myself into the river and get drowned or be taken down by a crocodile.

Jerry and Kathy Moser: "And when they sang these hymns, we just felt like crying."

"So I followed another group who were running along the riverbank. When I was not able to cross the river, I got a bad feeling. And I sat down and I asked myself, 'Is this it? Am I going to be able to make it?' I thought at that moment that God must have a purpose for each one of us to be in the world, and I knew very well that some of us might die in that attack, and some of us would survive that attack."

"And at that moment my teacher — he had taught me English and math and science in Panyido, and he had walked all the way from Ethiopia with us — came back and held my arm and said, 'You can do it. Let's go.' I remember his name. It's Ariath. He knew how to swim, and he had a rope. The Ethiopians had no means to get across. They just kept firing from their side. So Mr. Ariath crossed the river and tied the rope in the branch of a tree on the other side and helped us to hold the rope and follow it to the other side of the river. Shells exploding, the river racing, crocodiles gathering, people crying, bodies floating. We were terrified. Where we were crossing, more than five crocodiles came to the surface, looking for boys to take down. I was so very scared. A big black crocodile that you cannot even imagine came up. We were barefoot, stepping through the rushing water stone to stone, trying not to slip. Anybody who slipped was lost. Our feet were so sore from the thorns we'd walked on. But we made it. Mr. Ariath saved the lives of more than 1000 of us.

"And when I finally got myself out on the other side of the river, I really gave thanks to God for doing that to me. More than 1000 of us also died there that day. And I prayed to God that the other boys who didn't have a chance to make it out, who were shot and drowned or pulled under by crocodiles in the river, to save them in His kingdom and let them know that God is available to them."

Isaac leans back in the couch.

"And now, here we are here," he says, "in Coronado."

"It was basically, originally, Kathy's idea," says Jerry.

"Well, we're both very involved in this," Kathy says.

We're sitting in the comfy little living room of the guest quarters at the rear of the Mosers' Coronado property. This is where they live these days, in the cottage behind their house. You look out across the lawn to a grand main residence.

"The Lost Boys live there now," says Jerry.

"It was the best thing we ever did," says Kathy. "We had been going to move in here anyway, to remodel the main house. Then something happened."

It happened in November 2003, when Kathy read a profile in the Union-Tribune. "It was about a young boy who was a refugee from Sudan. Well, not a young boy. He was at USD on full scholarship. And they did a very nice two pages about how he had come out of the war in Sudan and how he was [studying for] three Ph.D.s, something spectacular like that. And at the end of it they mentioned that there was a documentary film being screened at some of the libraries around town. Except there was only one showing left, and it was over in City Heights."

"And so I said to Jerry, 'I really want to go see this. Do you want to go with me?' Because I wasn't sure how [safe City Heights] was, and it was at night. He said, 'Sure,' and we went over to see this film. A young woman made this documentary following two of the Sudanese boys from the refugee camp in Kenya, and coming on the airplane, and adjusting to life in America. It was very well done, quite humorous and very touching. There were 40 or 50 people there, and eight or ten Lost Boys too. And I had never heard of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I didn't know who they were, and I didn't know anything much about Sudan. So afterwards, we went up to one of the boys and just asked if there was anything we could do. He gave us a woman's name to call. And I called her. I said, 'Is there any way we can be of help?' and she said, 'Well, we're having a Christmas dinner in a couple of weeks.' And I said, 'I'm there.' And Jerry said, 'I'll come too.' "

That gathering, says Kathy, is where it all began.

"We went to Price Club and got a bunch of mangos and some socks, which the lady suggested, and brought a little food, and we ended up in the kitchen all night. They had this Christmas program. People sang carols and they had a meal. Then one of the boys got up, and he said, 'Your Christmas carols are too sad, in English. We would like to sing some Christmas hymns in Dinka.'

"And when they sang these hymns, we just felt like crying. We were so very touched. They seemed so joyful, and they had so much faith, and we'd heard how much they'd been through, and on the way home I said to Jerry, 'Why don't we...it would just be huge to them, if we gave them our house to live in. Rent-free, no utilities, they could just focus on going to school for a year. What does it matter to us when we remodel? We don't care.'

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