At the age of six, Lopez was abducted during Catholic Mass, which was being held under a tree in his village. Sudanese rebels tore him from his mother’s arms and, together with other boys, drove him to training camp where they handed him an Ak-47.
One night, he and other boys escaped, and ran for their lives. None of them wore shoes. Rocks cut into the soles of their feet. Branches slapped at their legs and tore the skin open. But they kept running.
Four days later, the boys arrived at a U.N. camp near Nairobi where Lopez spent the next ten years. His escape was soccer — and he had to run the 18-mile perimeter of the camp just for a chance on the field. Running became his therapy, his release.
When he was 16 years old, he came to the U.S. under a government resettlement program.
Lopez is the author of Running for my Life.
He also heads the foundation “4 South Sudan,” a relief group dedicated to providing clean water, education, and healthcare in his homeland of South Sudan.
“I’m still traumatized by thoughts of the past,” he told The Telegraph.