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Saida Dak: Queen of the Nile

by David DeFord

Raised in war torn Sudan, Saida Dak has never known comfort. While news organizations are only now reporting the atrocities heaped upon the citizens of this north-African country, their evil government has savagely mistreated its people for many decades. They roused tens of thousands from their homes, raping and murdering many.

Saida’s husband, a high-ranking leader of the rebel forces, sent her and her eighteen children out of the country for their safety. They joined thousands of their countrymen in a refugee camp in Kenya. The crowded conditions were horrific: little food and water, and non-existent sanitation.

She took her large family out of the camp and into the city of Nairobi. There they found themselves alone with no means of support. As the weeks passed, they began to weaken from long-term malnourishment. After two days with no food, and racked by the responsibility to care for her eighteen children, Saida sank into bed—too weak and too discouraged to rise. As she lay on the bed, she had to decide whether to give up and die or fight on.

Saida called her children to her bed. She asked them all to kneel at her bed, and instructed each to pray in turn starting with the youngest. She built their faith by telling them that they would receive food today. The youngest began to pray. Then the next oldest prayed. Each one poured out his heart in desperate need for food. Once all of her children had prayed, Saida offered the last prayer—one of thanksgiving for her family and husband. An hour following her prayer, a man knocked at their door. He had been sent to Nairobi from her husband in the Sudan to bring her needed money. Her family rejoiced at the timely answer to their prayers.

Saida applied for immigration to the United States, as had everyone else. But the U.S. only accept a limited number of Sudanese immigrants, so her chances were slight. Two or three weeks after submitting her application, a friend told Saida that she had seen her name posted on the list of accepted immigrant applications. She and her family could immigrate to America! There she would await her husband, who had agreed to join them.

The family settled in San Diego where some from her village lived. She talked with her husband by phone, and it was agreed he would join his family in San Diego for Christmas. She anxiously awaited this reunion. He could earn a good living to take care of the family’s needs. She did her best to keep her family in food, but with no English skills, she struggled to provide for them.

In November, a friend told her to turn on CNN. When she did, she saw breaking coverage of her husband’s assassination in Sudan. Devastated, she found herself alone in a country where she did not speak the language, with no means of support, and responsible for eighteen children. What could she do? How could she keep everything together under such poverty?

Not giving up in spite of extreme poverty, she followed opportunities, first in Minneapolis, and then in Omaha. She built her English skills, found work, and made a life for herself and for her family.

Just as she seemed to be succeeding, she fell seriously ill. Heart valve replacement surgery and an extended hospital stay due to serious infection seemed to derail her from the track to success.

But Saida is no quitter. She’s now working again and making a life for herself and her family. Struggle will not cease for her. But she will win in the end.

Saida Dak is my friend. She has the presence of royalty, but the humility of a child. Her leadership in the Sudanese community in Omaha can be seen in the respect shown her by those around her.

The majestic river Nile flows northward through her native land. Its banks host most of the major cities of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. As the center of civilization in that area, the river brings needed water to one of the most arid sections of the world. For thousands of years it has been revered as the giver of life in that region. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Nile as one of their gods.

My friend Saida has that kind of staying power. No matter how dry and parched her circumstances may be, she flows steadily on her northward course. Others flock to her like thirsty desert dwellers, drinking deeply from her wisdom and majestic presence.

In the face of defeat, discouragement, and devastating loss, we can grow as Saida has grown, and not only sustain ourselves but serve as examples to others of grit and perseverance.


Related Quotes

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever. Isak Dinesen

Prosperity discovers vice, adversity discovers virtue. Francis Bacon

You can't hope for the best. You have to do the best. Dusty Baker

Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day. Sally Koch

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all. Leo C. Rosten


Related Offerings

Descriptions of each of my books follow:

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