Dr. Walter Pond met Jacob Guot in Nicholasville, Kentucky–not far from Wilmore–through a mutual friend. After reading Jacob’s biography of growing up as a ‘Lost Boy’ and moving to America, Walter began working with Jacob to find ways to contribute to the future of South Sudan.
Walter is familiar with Africa from his studies in cultural anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned Master’s and Doctorate degrees, and where he worked in the Education Department of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. There he gave gallery tours and delivered lectures in the community about the history and cultures of Africa.
Walter spent time in Nigeria in the mid-1980s, especially on the Mambila Plateau in Yola State. This is a highland grassland area near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. It is home to traditional farming peoples, such as the Mambila people, and to Fulani cattle herding families. Many Mambila practice traditional “animist” religious rituals or have converted to Christianity. But the Fulani are mostly Muslim. So although the area is not as volatile as South Sudan has been for the last twenty years, there is a similar dynamic to the politics and the relations between ethnic groups.
Not long after traveling to Nigeria, Walter had an opportunity to spend 4 months in North Yemen as a member of an archaeological expedition in the region of the historic Kingdom of Saba (Sheba). The team studied the history of al-Wasit, a town on the camel caravan route from the port of Aden, south of the study site, to the cities of Mecca and Medina, further north in Saudi Arabia.
These experiences, Walter says, “have given me a great appreciation for the diversity of cultures around the world, and also for the complexity of politics and ethnic relations in Africa and the Middle East.” When asked about pictures from his travels in Nigeria and Yemen, Walter apologized for not having something at hand. He explained that virtually all of those memories are still on 35mm slides that have not been scanned as digital images. “A project for next winter!,” he says.
After teaching anthropology and cross-cultural communication for a time, Walter’s career took some unexpected turns, as often happens in life. He was a community college administrator for several years and then the executive director of a county arts council, both in Western New York State. Then, a short-term stint as a book editor led to a 14-year career as an editor and project manager in the legal publishing division of Thomson Reuters, located in Rochester, NY.
Now Walter and his wife live in central Kentucky with a couple horses, a few dogs, and a barn cat.
Walter is happy to share his perspective as an anthropologist with ASC. And, he is enthusiastically contributing to ASC’s work based on his experience in non-profit management and with social media. You may see his name frequently on these blog posts or recognize his writing in other ASC print materials.
As a final thought, Walter wants to encourage anyone who has not done so to read Jacob’s book The Lost is Found: A “Lost Boy’s” Story of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Love. He points out that while the experiences Jacob describes as a refugee in East Africa and in the United States could be discouraging, anyone who knows Jacob will recognize the indomitable spirit, faith, and optimism that has brought him through the tough times to his ministry today.