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