So my Monday morning began with the usual early morning walk down to the kitchen shelter to heat my water over the glowing coals of an early morning fire. I hug and chat with the ladies and love on a few toddlers as I wait. All of a sudden one of the mamas brings the tub of onions out of the storeroom and there is a juicy rat running around in it. She just reaches in and grabs it by the tail and throws it hard on the ground and the rat lies there twitching. She picks it up again and slams it down again and he twitches a little more and goes on to meet his Maker. And that was that for the kitchen rat!
For a week now two of the other missionaries have smelled a dead smell in our office area, which is also where we live, me in my tent and the other in a room. We looked and looked and couldn’t find it. I haven’t been able to smell because of the cold I was fighting. Tuesday morning I smelled it, even in my tent. I am meticulous about keeping my tent closed so I knew there was nothing inside. So, I pulled everything out of my tent and lifted it up and there lies a dead juicy rat! Ugh! So I had to scrub my tent and let it air out. It was all perfect timing though.
That very day, I moved into a room for the first time since March! I am NOT living in a tent for the first time in almost nine months! I have been enjoying amazing times with God this week and enjoying not having to squat all the time or sit on the floor or stoop over and zipping and unzipping tents constantly. And having privacy is a major deal. I am loving life so much right now. I have a room with a table and two beds and a propane lantern and not a flashlight for the first time in nine months! I feel like I have so much right now. I can’t begin to explain how much of an improvement this is. I have passed this test of humbling myself and leaning on His grace and He has exalted me! Praise Him!
And talking about having so much now, one of the other missionaries said something that got me to thinking. The people of Mozambique, which is where I was before I came to Sudan, they never knew that they were poor until the white man came. I look at the children here at this Center and I can see this to be true. These children have just a few pair of clothes. Their play clothes are full of tears and rips and holes, yet they are so happy each day in their play. They have only two small tablets of paper for school and have to copy, literally word for word, pages of text out of books because they don’t have money to buy books.
Their toys are pieces of tin and metal and plastic that they shape into cars, dirt that they make clay animals and houses from, small pieces of string and rope tied together to form one jump rope, and hard round fruit, which they use as teensy soccer balls and other things like this. They have one uniform for school and they all wash their own clothes by hand, even the six and seven year olds, both boys and girls. There aren’t even clothes lines and so most people lay all their clothes out on the grass to dry in the sun or draped over the bamboo or grass hedge fence. Their ironing is done with coal irons. And every day, morning and night, they haul water for cooking and bathing. Each day they harvest vegetables and cut them up and lay them in the sun to dry so that we will have vegetables in the upcoming dry season. And this is all a good life when they have all these things. They are rich and they are very content.
I have myriads of clothes and things, but I purposely bring only as little as I can in country so as not to appear rich by their standards. I literally wear the same things every week, week in and week out. I’ve been using the same towel and set of sheets since I arrived in Africa in May of 2009. One towel, one set of sheets. There are many mindsets about how we are to “look” when we serve in a third world country. I don’t think it matters so much what we have, as much as how we use what we have to reach others.
People with money and influence help to advance the Kingdom of God, so rich is good. But if one is going to physically serve the poor, like Paul, they must be as a slave to all to reach all. Jesus said it Himself in Mark 10:44. If I wear my fine clothes and carry around all my electronics, the people will only see these things and will miss the message I try to bring. Jesus also told the disciples that when they go into the towns and villages, “Don’t take anything with you….” He knew what He was talking about. He wanted people to see the message of the gospel, not titles and denominations and expense accounts and electronics and the latest comfort gadgets and things. Gold and silver I do not have but what I do have I give to you, Jesus Christ. And the lame man in Acts rose up and he walked.
I only have two more weeks in country to remain virus free, parasite free, and healthy. I am trying to use wisdom but sometimes the kids, and even myself, get the best of me (lol). I share my food many times, from my very spoon, and my water, from my very bottle. I put healing salve in many eyes, and I hold many dirty and potty soiled children each day without prejudice. I also wash my hands many times a day so I just pray for God’s mercy if I forget. My clothes by day’s end usually have someone’s pee or snot or eye crap on them. I never thought I would see myself in this way and not be disgusted by it all. God’s grace is the most amazing gift. He truly does give us sufficient grace for everything we put HIS hands to.
Saturday a small village at the border, Gol Macher, was bombed by the Northern Army of Sudan. Eight SPLA soldiers were killed. Thus it begins. The North claims it was a mistake, that they were chasing rebels in Darfur. The South says, “Liar!” Sunday we prayed for Sudan by spreading a map out on the table and putting tea candles all over map, in areas near and dear to our hearts. We literally cried as we prayed, some of us, because we love these people. We feel their pain and their weariness. I no longer look at the South and the North as “you guys” but I look at the South as “we”. We are all wrapped up in this and it is a part of us who are here.
This is only an hour’s drive from Akuem and so it is very near to my heart. My friend, Pastor Deng, who visited last week, brought my greetings to his congregation last Sunday and he told them that when I return to Akuem,, he will build me a tukel on the church compound, a place to live. That is the love they have. They don’t have money, but they give so much of themselves, their time and their love. They never run out of time for people. People are their priority always. I still have so much to learn from them, so much.
Here in Yei, there is a new Training Camp for the SPLA right down the road from us, about 1.5 miles, across from the UN compound, under the guise of police training. The Commanders are wearing the blue camo uniform of the police but all around know that this is not police training. There are about 400 men living and being trained in an intense military fashion day in and day out. This is not police training. It is SPLA training. We asked one of our staff workers if he was offered unity with the North or war, what would he chose. He said war. And he is a very peaceful man. He said that they are tired of living under the oppression of the North and unless they are willing to count the cost, they will never be free. And so January looms ever nearer and the life of this country hangs in the balance.
In the book of Luke Jesus Himself tells us to turn the other cheek and bless our enemies and if they take our cloak then we are to offer our tunic….. Verse 30 really struck a chord in me this week because it was presented to me and I didn’t do it.
Luke 6:30 Give to EVERYONE who asks you and if ANYONE TAKES what belongs to you, DO NOT demand it back.
When I was in the market last week and that man demanded my four puny pieces of corn, I insisted that I would call the police. Jesus says to give it to him. This paragraph is strictly about our enemies . If this happens again will I give it to him with the love of Jesus? These are the things that don’t make any sense to us yet Jesus says to do it.
Verse 35 says that God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Are we? Mercy at all costs…. This is the upside down Kingdom of God. We sure spend a lot of time in the RIGHT side up, insisting on our rights. I am praying that I will see these two men again and this time I will offer my corn, searching them out. I want to live love upside down. Faith without deeds is dead. I want to understand God’s kindness to the wicked and ungrateful. I want to know this kind of mercy that moves Him, that stirs His heart.