The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 15, 2009

Once a refugee, now a minister

Sudanese immigrant is ordained

MANKATO — Rev. James Ruey’s journey of faith reached a new plateau Sunday as he stood before his congregation in gleaming new vestments.

A 2001 immigrant from Sudan, Ruey was ordained as pastor of the newly formed Sudanese Evangelical Lutheran Mission Church of Southern Minnesota during a special ceremony on Sunday at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Mankato.

Chosen for the ceremony was an Old Testament verse from the book of Joshua in which God commands his followers to be fervent in following Christian scripture. In light of Ruey’s story, the words seemed particularly apropos.

Be strong and courageous ...

Ruey was born in 1970 in the village of Maiwut. Working in the fields with his father as a young boy, Ruey’s village was caught in a crossfire between the Sudanese army and rebel forces. Ruey’s father was killed in the crossfire.

... Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed ...

From age 10, Ruey lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. In 1993, a United Nations relocation program granted Ruey refugee status. That year, he and 2,000 others arrived in Des Moines, Iowa. In 2001, Ruey, his wife and six children moved to Mankato.

Shortly after his arrival, Ruey began searching for a place to worship in his native Nuer language and he landed at Our Savior’s. In 2003, he was enrolled in the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology through Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. And in 2008, Ruey completed the program.

... for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

As rhythmic drum beating carried the measured notes of the Sudanese choir high into Our Savior’s arched rafters on Sunday, Rev. Paul Lauer compared Ruey’s people to the Israelites that Moses led to the promised land.

“Many of you have spent many years in a land which is not your own,” Lauer said, before adding later: “God has raised up for you, from among your own people, a man who will preach God’s law and spread his good news.”

After blessings from several pastors, Ruey was presented with a shepherd’s crook and a bright red stole. He then turned to face his congregation and was met with warm applause.

Ruey will conduct Sudanese services at 1 p.m. on Sundays. The Sudanese Evangelical Lutheran Mission Church of Southern Minnesota is located at 200 East Main St., Suite 2, in Mankato.

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