EXCLUSIVE: Olympian overcomes incredulous odds, tells his story to students at The Woodlands Christian Academy

By: Sean K. Thompson
| Published 11/10/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX – Recently, The Woodlands Christian Academy played host to a world-class athlete with a story for the ages. Former ‘Lost Boy’ Sudanese refugee turned Olympian track star Lopez Lomong spent the day at the school talking with various classes and even reading a picture book with the youngest students.

'Lost Boy' Lopez Lomong inspires, enthralls with his words and deeds

Lomong was born in southern Sudan in 1985. At the age of six and at the height of the Second Sudanese Civil War, he was abducted by rebel soldiers while attending Catholic Mass. Assumed dead by his family, he languished in captivity, nearly dying there, but eventually escaped with three friends, running for three days solid in bare feet until they crossed into Kenya. After a decade at the Kakuma refugee camp there, he came to the United States through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program.

He overcame the history of being one of the Lost Boys of Sudan – a group of more than 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced or orphaned during the civil war – to graduate high school in New York and later win the Division I NCAA indoor championship at 3,000 meters and the outdoor championship at 1,500 meters while competing for Northern Arizona. He eventually became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2007, after reuniting with the family left behind in Sudan whose members thought the others were dead.

At the TWCA event, Lopez spent the day with students from pre-K through 12th grade, telling his story and answering questions. The event was made possible through a partnership with the humanitarian organization World Vision, an entity with the goal of raising up students to be global leaders with strong Christian faith in service to others.

Julie Ambler, Head of School for TWCA, told Woodlands Online how fulfilling it was to have Lomong visit the campus. “We are incredibly honored to have Lopez with us today as a speaker to our children,” she said. “His story of being taken from his parents during a civil war at the age of six, escaping, being brought to the United States, and competing in the Olympics is just an incredibly inspiring story for our students to hear. But more than that, his faith in God through all of that and his passion for the Lord and his passion for his giving back to this country is really inspiring. And so we’re so thrilled to have him here today for our children to hear his message.”

Lomong sat with Woodlands Online for an exclusive interview.

“It’s really amazing that I get the chance to come to The Woodlands Christian Academy, because this institution encourages young people to engage in the community and even all the way to the continent that I came to,” he said. “There is a group here that is helping an organization in Zambia, and there is also a group here helping to raise funds for clean water in south Sudan. Everything they do here has an impact, and I wanted to come here and thank them for their leadership and to appreciate them and their families that allow them to engage with my country like that. I’m really happy to be here on this beautiful day.”

When asked about what he would say to any youth who felt overwhelmed or outmatched, Lomong drew upon his own history to give a concrete answer.

“Don’t give up hope. There are a lot of people around you that want to help you. Don’t shy away from asking for help and receiving it. Just be bold, take risks, and engage in your church or school to help you get to where you need to be. Take and use chances, think big, and follow your dreams. The United States to me is the only nation where you can let your dream become your reality. Always keep fighting.”

Lomong also took time to actually race against students, and later held a book-signing of copies of his memoir ‘Running for My Life.’ It was obvious to all concerned that his passion and his compassion meant much to students, faculty, and administration alike.

“By my being here today, hopefully it will bring more people to The Woodlands Christian Academy so they can join the engagement of helping their community,” he said..

(Cover photo by Michael Fonville, TWCA. Other photos by Woodlands Online)

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