By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–
The Reverand Samuel Makuach came to Ridgecrest from Michigan in November 2023. The community is invited to a special service on Sunday, February 4, at 10 am at 437 W. Wilson Ave., Ridgecrest. The Anglican Bishop will be here to install Father Samuel as Rector of the church. A social hour and potluck will follow services.
You are also invited to the Church’s new Healing Prayer service on Thursdays between 4 and 7 pm starting on January 25. Makuach tells us, “There’s no formal worship. If you need to be prayed for something or just want to trust God or have somebody pray for you.” In addition, there will be a Men’s Bible Study on Fridays at noon at John’s Pizza.
As a child in South Sudan, his father would not allow his children to go to church. However, some of Makuach’s friends told him about God, heaven, and hell. He also snuck into the church to listen. He remembers that on Christmas, the church would slaughter a cow, and there would be food for everyone. But it wasn’t just his stomach that was satisfied. He knew he wanted to know God and go to heaven.
Makuach was surrounded by war and people dying. He didn’t expect to live very long, and he knew he didn’t want to go to hell. “ Life on earth when I was a child was painful. And you’re going to also have more pain when you die? Because you’re not a Christian?” That was his first call to Christianity, and he began to follow the will of God.
There was a civil war in Sudan, and they were drafting young children. If a child chose to join, there would be repercussions for his parents if he wasn’t allowed to join. Makuach chose to join. He isn’t sure how old he was, but it was between 7 and 9 years old. “I was able to leave my family that way.” He was motivated to get away so that he could be baptized. “I think it was also God moving me out of that environment,” he says, “because our home area was getting destroyed.
“I was recruited and trained as a soldier. I would go and fight for our country. That’s where I got injured.” He shows the scar on his hand and indicates a place on his chest where he was hit by shrapnel, saying that the injuries weren’t severe but God’s way of getting him away from harm. The child soldiers were called “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” Books, feature films, and documentaries have been made about them.
As a refugee, he became involved in the Anglican Church and became a lay minister. In 2000, while still a teen, he came to the United States as an unaccompanied minor. He lived with a foster family in Michigan for nine months, and when he turned 18, he chose to move out on his own. He says the people and Minnesota were great, “Except for the winter but for the snow. That’s a different story. So, not that great.”
This would be a good time to say how much Makuach and his wife, Rebecca, appreciate Ridgecrest. They say it reminds them of Africa. While Africa is grassland and not desert, the summers were quite hot because they were close to the Sahara Desert.
Rebecca and Samuel have been married for five years. Baby Jacob is five months old. His family had long been urging him to get married. “We met in 2018 through the family. So, my family got me to accept what they wanted. They said, ‘We know this girl.’” Before Sudan was torn asunder by civil war, it was traditional for families to act as matchmakers. It isn’t as traditional today, “especially when people are in refugee camps, and there’s not a lot of family structure like there used to be.” He continues, “So I was here in America, and I was not dating, and I didn’t know any girls. They said, ‘We know somebody.’”
Life is quite difficult in the refugee camps. There is a school for the children, but other than that, not much. People are given $3 a month to live on, “that can’t even buy a sack of flour.” They do their best by working together, but it isn’t enough to live on for even two weeks. A lot of people are dying from disease and malnutrition. “It’s very surprising when I go there and see everybody. If you go to the refugee camp, everybody looks the same.” They are extremely thin; “they don’t have a lot of meat in their bodies.”
In Michigan, Makuach worked for Volunteers of America for nine years but resigned when he had to take an extended break to go to Africa and get married. Upon returning, he found a job with the State of Michigan and was able to send money to his family in the refugee camp. He also served in leadership positions in three churches, including a Sudanese church in Lansing, Michigan.
He tells us his life has been driven by faith. “I don’t make a lot of choices on my own. You will find me in places where I never thought I would be. For example, I never dreamed of coming to America, but because people of faith saw my suffering and decided that they would bring me here, my life has been around people of God.” He calls himself a missionary priest, not on a mission from Africa, but on God’s mission.
“The times have been hard in America. I think a lot of things have changed in America since I came here. And sometimes people feel hopeless. You know, like, ‘Why is this happening? Why is that happening?’ And if we have people of faith, faith grows more with adversity. It leads us to pray more. It leads us to read the Bible more.” Makuach wants us to know, “In God, we always have a friend, even when it seems like there’s no plan. He always has a plan for life. Because He loves us. His job is for us to be loved and cared for and also to love others and care for other people. And if that is what we are doing, I think everything else will be okay.”
Makuach is available for you whether you want prayer or a guest speaker. The Church’s phone number is 760-793-1205, and his personal cell phone number is 231-838-1312. Services are on Sunday at 10 am and Wednesday at noon, and Bible study is on Wednesday at 10 am. Makuach invites you: “If you haven’t been to church in a while or want to experience God differently. Come and see us. Just come in. You will find love here.”