They fled a civil war half a world away and escaped the ravages of Seattle’s sordid Jungle to find peace and hope.
Sober, resolute and responsible fathers today, Kent’s three Bol brothers have so much to be thankful for.
“It’s been a journey … a lot has happened. I’m just grateful to be alive,” said Athian, 40, the middle brother, while visiting a recent Thursday night community supper at Kent Lutheran Church. “It seems like I lost everything, and they helped me get everything back.”
Appreciative of a new lease on life, the Bol brothers returned to give thanks and speak at the supper, inspiring others to find their way, just as they had.
The brothers left the war-torn Sudan with their mother more than 25 years ago and eventually landed in America. Less than a month after their arrival, their mother died of a lung disease, a great family loss that took the brothers, as they explained, on a bumpy path to self-destruction – a ride fraught by drugs, alcohol and homelessness.
For several months, they battled for self-survival in “The Jungle,” a homeless, lawless encampment under Interstate 5.
“When I was in The Jungle I didn’t know where to go,” said Ring, 42, the oldest brother. “I was struggling with alcohol, and I knew I couldn’t go and stay with anybody because it would be too much for them. So I had to figure out a way. I wanted to get sober. I needed help.”
Help for Ring, Athian and their youngest brother Mager, 38, came from the Seattle Union Gospel Mission’s Men’s Recovery Program, a yearlong effort that changed their lives. The faith-based recovery program helps people leave their addictions behind and gives men and women the foundation for starting a new life by guiding them through counseling, relapse prevention curriculum and Bible studies.
“(The program) is a big part of my life,” Athian said. “It seems like I lost everything and they helped me get everything back.”
Dean Way speaks from experience when asked about the Bol brothers’ comeback story. He was once homeless, a longtime meth addict.
Then, one day, he visited a Union Gospel Mission shelter.
“I came for a meal and it changed my life, really,” he said.
“The beautiful thing is if you came in homeless, it will give you a roof. If you’re hungry, it will give you a meal … and if you’re addicted to drugs and if you follow the rules, you won’t do drugs.”
Today, Way is a mentor, a friend who works for the Union Gospel Mission, living in Kent and working to maintain its properties.
The Bols’ story brings a smile to Way.
“You can see how special each one of them is,” he said.
Ring, a father of three, works today as a warehouse coordinator. Athian, a father of four, also is working, as is Mager.
They have their faith, family and friends to thank for their recovery and a renewed opportunity to lead productive lives.
As Ring best described, “We’re miracles walking.”
Athian added, “It’s been an amazing, difficult life … having hope after losing it all … to getting it back again.”