They kept coming…

 

On our first day out to a small village outside of Kajo Keji, South Sudan, 225 patients came through.  The line was forming before we even got there.  There were 7 of us on the team from the U.S.  We didn’t know what to expect or how many would come.  It was amazing.  We barely had enough time to take a sip of water, and didn’t get up the whole day.  On that first day, 4 served as medical staff and 3 shared God’s message.  Each one of us had our own translator.  We took shelter from the 100 degree temperature under a beautiful mango tree.

mango tree

As I talked about in my last post, I immediately noticed the lack of smiling faces.  I also noticed, though, the amazing honesty and willingness from the people to open up about what was going on in their lives.  There is no need to try and give the “Facebook life” we are so used to here.  We tried to keep the groups we would talk to around 5-7, but many times it went much higher, because there were so many coming through.  I usually started out talking about where I was from, why we had traveled so far to come see them, and how much I cared about them.  I let them know how my mom taught me The Bible when I was little, shared some verses with them, and let them know how much God loves them.

I LOVED my translator.  He was a pastor at a small church.  We had many laughs over the next few days.  As I have been asked when I went on mission trips to other countries before, he said over the next few days, “When are you coming back?  You are coming back soon, right?”  It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.  Oh I wish everyone could know the impact you can have around the world, and it doesn’t take much!  What you end up receiving and learning is far more incredible then what you give.

We heard stories about addiction.  Drugs, alcohol, tobacco.  There is bootlegging going on, where women are selling homemade alcohol to buy clothing for their children.  A man actually took out his cigarettes, lighter, a bag of tobacco, and handed them to me.  He said he knew it was not what God wanted him to do.  He talked about his struggles with alcohol as well.  I remember thinking, here is a man who basically has nothing, and he felt the need to dig into his pocket and give me his cigarettes, because he wanted to live a righteous life before God.  Truly humbling.

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We heard tragic stories.  One woman said people just came and took her husband from their home.  She had no idea where he was.  Didn’t even know if he was alive.  She was trying to raise their 2 kids on her own.  The family unit and marriage is so important for survival there.  In the U.S. women are able to provide for themselves.  In these small villages in South Sudan, if the land is not worked together, you don’t eat.  Both the husband and wife work extremely hard together.  The children work hard.  I was amazed at what I saw everyone doing each day.

As I stated in my last post, there is HOPE in South Sudan, but they need your prayers.    Just today, 250 child soldiers were released:

http://www.voanews.com/content/hundreds-of-child-soldiers-freed-in-south-sudan/2690267.html

There are so many natural resources in South Sudan, that could be incredibly beneficial to the people, but until the government and the rebel group come to an agreement, this new country will remain in constant conflict and the people will continue to live in fear.  There will be death, kidnappings, starvation and unrest.  As we are all too familiar, when the government takes away power from the people, things go badly – fast.

So who were those beautiful smiley children I had a picture of in my last post?  The most smiles I saw when we were there?  They were from the children where we were privileged to lay our heads every night.  It didn’t surprise me.  It was a place filled with God’s love.  We stayed at a pastor’s home with his wife, children and a few other families.  It was a safe place.  We even had a gate they closed at night with a watchman.  It’s funny how kids will improvise when they don’t have all the toys we do in America.  The parked vehicles became toys.  The water pump became a toy.  I was able to play with these kids, hug them and get them to laugh.  I look forward to the day I can go back and see that joy on many other faces in South Sudan.

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Next blog post…  What is up with the “roads”?  How do the families survive on so little?

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Where are the smiling faces?

 

My trip to South Sudan was my 3rd trip to Africa.  I had been to South Africa 2x.  Once for a business trip and one time for a mission trip.  When I was in South Africa, I was so amazed at all the smiling faces, even in the poorest of the poor neighborhoods.  There were people living in homes made of scraps of metal pieced together, but when you went up and talked to them, smiles abounded.  Kids would cling onto me, adults would hug me and laughter was always present.

South Africa:

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south africa me and kidssmiley face kids south africa 

Our first day out in a village outside of Kajo Keji, South Sudan, I noticed a stark difference.  Where were these smiling faces I was so used to from the African people?

no smiles

The picture above was of people who had just received basic medical care.  They were not too ill, so the frowning faces were not from that.  They received basic medications such as antibiotics and ibuprofen.  I had just shared with them how much God loves them.  A message they were so glad to receive!  Were they sad?  I asked my translator, to try and understand.  He said they lived in fear and change was difficult for them.  After thinking more about it, and doing more research, how could they not be afraid?

Short history on South Sudan:

“The territories of modern South Sudan and the Republic of the Sudan were occupied by Egypt under the Muhammad Ali Dynasty, and later governed as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium until Sudanese independence was achieved in 1956. Following the First Sudanese Civil War (1955 to 1972), the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was formed in 1972 and lasted until 1983. A second Sudanese civil war soon developed and ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. Later that year, southern autonomy was restored when an Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan was formed.  South Sudan became an independent state on July 9, 2011, following a referendum that passed with 98.83% of the vote.  South Sudan has suffered internal conflict since its independence.” (Wikipedia)

There has been civil war going on in Sudan since 1955.  Can you even imagine?  Watching family members and friends die all around you?  Children being kidnapped?  The Saturday we were there, near the capital city of Juba, 89 children were kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers.  Even though there is a “peace agreement”, it’s not over yet.  Tribes are still fighting in South Sudan over who gets what.  A man I sat next to on the plane to Uganda, told me they are, “fighting about pieces of the pie, before the pie has even been defined!”  Fighting over who gets the oil and who gets what resources.  The leader of Sudan, of course, doesn’t want them to have any of it.

BUT, with all of this, there is HOPE!  My next blog post…  How many patients did we see?  How do these people survive on so little?  Who are these smiling faces below?

smiling kids

Getting to South Sudan is an adventure!

I used to travel internationally all the time.  Been to 20+ countries on 5 continents.  Was used to it.  Well, not anymore!

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Dallas –> London –> Nairobi, Kenya –> Entebbe, Uganda–> Moyo, Uganda –> Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Yep.  That is a long trip for 2 days.  BUT so worth it!  The trip from Entebbe to Moyo was on a small prop plane.  Only 8 of us on the plane, including the pilot.  Absolutely gorgeous flight.  I think we all dozed off during parts of it, (except the pilot!), we were so tired, but we got to see things like this:

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We made it to where we would be staying and were able to rest some.  At dinner, rice and beans, (which would be our main source for dinner during this trip), we went over what the plan would be for the next several days.  Up early, breakfast at 7:15, and we would leave by 8:30 (hopefully, we were now on “Africa time”, which means they are not stressed out like us crazy Americans who have to be on time to the minute).

Thank goodness for cold showers!  Yes, I said that.  Never thought I would.  I used to not be able to hardly handle them.  Even in Haiti it was so difficult for me to get through them.  In South Sudan I actually looked forward to them.  It was so nice to get the relief from the heat after a long day and feel so clean!  It was so nice we had Western showers and toilets to use!  Our hosts actually carried water from the water pump during the day to the water reserve, so we could use them!  Do you know how amazingly blessed you feel when people are doing that for you?!  Definitely had some new “experiences” when we were out during the day, without these conveniences, searching for a place to hide behind, (tree or even once a church), to go the the restroom.  My women team members, Kathy, Nancy and Joy can attest to that!  (Hopefully not too much information!) 🙂

In my next blog…225 patients our on first day out!  Why did everyone I see, including the children, have no smiles on their faces?!

By kwalker9393

Why South Sudan?

Argentina -> South Africa -> Haiti -> South Sudan?  My most recent mission trips were to orphanages in Haiti in 2010 & 2011, and I already knew I would be going somewhere different the next time.  For me, it had been too long in between trips, but my life had taken some unexpected difficult turns these last few years and I had to work things out on the home front.  So, why did I even choose to go to South Sudan in the first place?  Conventional wisdom would say, (and some did say to me), “it’s so far away”, “it is too dangerous there, aren’t they killing and kidnapping people?”, “uh, isn’t Africa having a problem with Ebola?”, and many other reasons why I shouldn’t go.

It all started on a weekend night, about 2 months ago.  I rented a movie based on a true story, The Good Lie.  The “big” name in it is Reese Witherspoon, and she does a great job at bringing in some comic relief to a very intense subject matter.  More importantly, are the movie’s main characters, the Sudanese actors, who were actually in the Sudan Civil War, placed in a refugee program, and made it to the U.S. before the program was shut down after 9/11.  These refugees are commonly referred to as “The Lost Boys”.  I had heard things about Sudan and the area was always on the back of my mind, but until I watched this movie, I had NO idea of the true terror the Sudanese people went through.  My heart was literally aching by the time the movie was over and tears were flowing.  Do I cry for others when I watch movies based on true stories?  Ah, yes.  My family can attest to my uncontrollable sobbing after Schindler’s List.  A lady sitting next to me asked me if I was ok near the end of American Sniper.  I barely made it through parts of Hotel Rwanda; however, I did not find myself on a plane to Rwanda a few weeks later (although I may still go there, you never know). 🙂

The Good Lie

After watching this movie, something was different.  Usually before I go on a trip, there is a voice inside of me saying, “you have to go” and it never lets up.  I believe it is God telling me to go.  Either that night or the next day, I looked up the trips where e3partners.org was going and saw there was a Medical Mission trip to South Sudan in about 6 weeks.  “Well, that’s fast.”  Could I get the time off work?  Is it safe?  Is there room on the trip?  I’ve already come and gone on the mission trip, so the answers to those questions ending up being, “yes”, but there were times of unknown, A LOT of praying and trusting God to do the work.  So what is the “good lie”?  You’ll have to rent the movie to find out.  I HIGHLY recommend it.

Coming up in my NEXT blog post, The Adventure Begins…

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