The rains have come and planting has begun in earnest here in South Sudan. Well, not frantic, but everyone’s planting. For many, work gets set aside, school gets set aside, planting is what’s in right now. I am learning how to plant maize corn and moringa trees and onions and all sorts of things. No tractors or farm equipment except for hearty backs and arms and the sweat of our brows. It’s still very hot when it isn’t raining so the nights can be a battle with constant thirst and a swimming pool for a bed. But when the rains come, it is a cool 65 degrees! Crazy!
And now, an update on my last update. The lady who was pregnant and bleeding out that we sent to the hospital in the back of a pickup truck, well her baby was still in the hospital when I left to come back to Yei. And the baby who was on his last breaths because the mother was a drunkard, well we went back to give him formula and found that the grandmother was the one who took him to the hospital. The doctors found that he had alcohol poisoning, which means that the mother’s breast milk was so full of alcohol or she was actually feeding her baby alcohol. Our recommendation to the grandmother was to take baby formula from us and feed the baby herself, not allowing the mother to breast feed if possible.
The mother with the twins left by themselves all day, well we found encouraging news about her. The reason she leaves during the day is so she can go dig through trash to find food or bottles or things she can sell to care for her babies. She does not drink and when we last visited her, we found her bathing her babies and they were smiling and crawling around and seemed to be loved. She is married to a very old man who is also sickly. She was forced into marriage with him because he was able to pay enough cows to her father. That’s life here in Sudan. It’s all about the cows to some of these tribes. And so we brought her a new tarp to cover her hovel to keep the spring rains out. She will receive regular visits from Cathy to help her.
I arrived back in Yei right at lunchtime on Monday and the children came running and all were happy to welcome Abuba and myself home. Abuba is one of our mamas who traveled with me to Juba to visit her family. I entered my room and found a mess. I keep all of my dry foodstuffs in ziplock bags in a suitcase to keep the rats and bugs out. I accidentally left the suitcase unzipped and found that some rats had a great vacation inside my suitcase. I had to throw almost everything out as there was rat feces and food spilled from open bags. Then to clean the rat droppings from around my room I had to move everything out to clean. All this took about two hours as I had to clean everything with bleach and water.
That night I was resting and watching a DVD on my computer and I heard a rat in a box under my bed. So, I had to move everything out from under my bed and this rat went scurrying out the door. So, I moved everything back and settled in to finish my DVD. Then I heard another! Again I moved everything out and still no rat. Then I tossed my gumboots out and there it was, running for it’s life. And so I fixed a last supper for those rats and left it outside my door for them to enjoy, spiced up with a dollop of rat poison of course. The next morning, dead rat! And now there is peace in my room!
This week we have taken nine more children into our midst, three teen girls and six little boys, all without mothers as they have died. Tomorrow, Monday, we are taking in five more. I think we have about 120 children now. Again and again I am challenged by the resilience of these kids. These children have just been taken from all they have known and brought into a strange place, knowing that this is where they will stay. And yet they seem happy for the most part. The boys play and run and laugh and the girls have made friends and have become part of our family in just these few days. It speaks much of the culture here, which embraces strangers and makes them feel welcome. No one is a stranger for long.
Yesterday I was talking with one of our staff about the study habits of the children. The girls are so focused and the boys just want to play. I told him this is the same in most cultures I think. He then told me a great story about hard work and discipline. He said there once was an old man who was dying. This old man had great fields of harvest. He was rich in produce and the land was good. He had a lazy son and called him to his bedside and told him that when he dies, that the son should know that there is a great treasure buried under the dirt and for him to find it after his death. So the father dies and the son spends the next year doing nothing, just eating up the crops and enjoying the harvest.
Soon the harvest was finished and there was nothing left to eat. He began to fret because he would starve. Then he remembered what his father had said about the treasure. And so he got the hoe and began to dig looking for this treasure. He dug all day. He dug all the next day. When he surveyed all that he had done and still no treasure, it was then that he realized that the earth itself, which grew the harvest, was where the treasure was found. It was up to him to plant the seed and the earth would yield the crops, the treasure.
Many times, we as Christians, we enjoy the harvest of the Word of God and we enjoy seeing the result of another’s ministry and even partake of the fruit of it. Yet when we are then asked to go out on our own, to dig for the treasure, we continue to partake of what is already there. Soon we find ourselves hungry and dissatisfied and we don’t know why. We start looking around for a different diet, a new wind of refreshing for our souls, food from another’s field. When all the while, the treasure is there, if we would just put our hands to the plow and dig. We are all called to go to the fields and find treasure. Those who put their hands to the plow will find it and be satisfied. Those who continue looking at what is planted by another will soon become dissatisfied. It is only a matter of time.
My friend told me another “parable” about how when a young tree is planted, you must tie it to a stick so that it does not fall or break when the winds and rain come. The young tree remains with this stick until it is strong enough to stand on its own, then the stick can be removed. This is the way of a father who raises up his child. The child remains close to the stick, tethered to the stick, the stick being firm and seasoned, yet leaving enough room for the small tree to grow. This way the young tree is not allowed much freedom to bend the wrong way or be broken by standing alone.
So many times in the Bible God talks about trees. He says we are the planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:3), and we are planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:3), and we shall be called oaks of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), we will have the right to the tree of life (Rev 22:14). In Genesis 2:9, God told Adam that he could partake of any tree, even the tree of Life, but he could not partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because then he would surely die. The Tree of Knowledge represents the Law. Deut 21:23 tells us that anyone hung on a tree is cursed. Jesus allowed Himself to be hung on a tree so that we could again have life, the life that was lost in the Garden of Eden.
When this friend told me the parable of the stick, I thought about Jesus and sin and Law. I thought about how in the Old Testament man tried to follow the Law standing on his own and he couldn’t. It was a stick tightly bound, leaving no room for growth or grace. Jesus became that stick that we need to have life. He brings discipline and growth, not through laws and regulations, but through mercy and grace, allowing us room to grow, yet still tethered to Him so that we won’t fall when the storms come. As long as I am walking on this earth, I will remain “as a” child so that I can remain tethered to that Stick, to the cross, to Jesus.
Three weeks ago, we went to the village to visit the father of two of our children who was diagnosed to die. I gave the testimony in that update how the two boys prayed for him and how we declared life over him. This week, one of our mamas talked to him and he was walking around, the swelling all over his body almost completely gone and he feels good! Praise Jesus! What a testimony to these children about the power of their prayers. It was a great testimony in church this morning and they were excited to hear the news.
This week we also received permission from the Yei County Hospital to hold training twice a week with any nurses or doctors who would like to attend on how to heal the sick through prayer. The first day we had 12 come. The second day we had 17 come. After each session we pray for those who need healing and many of them receive their healing. This is such an amazing opportunity to bring prayer alongside medicine in the healing of the sick. This is just amazing that we even get to do this on hospital time and property! Only God! All this came about because for three months we have gone every week to pray for the sick. There is so much that God wants to do.
This week I have continued my training on how to plant and harvest things in the earth. Yesterday I learned how to sift sorghum. Sorghum is what is used to make posho, which is a staple with every meal. It is doughy and great to fill the belly. It grows as tiny seeds on bushy branches. When harvested, they are set out to dry for days and days. Then we beat them with a stick until all these tiny seeds fall off and we remove the branches to see all these millions of seeds. Then we have to take the seeds and fill little woven half shaped baskets. We hold the baskets above our heads and slowly pour out the seeds as the wind catches the chaff, or hulls. We do this at least twice, even up to three times. Then we take these seeds in these same baskets and gently shake them back and forth until the remaining chaff comes to the top and we blow it off. It is a tedious and hard process in the hot sun.
Of course, I thought about a parable to relate to all this. You know me! God takes us through this same process of refining and shaking off things off of us. The winds of change must come to blow off the things that won’t produce a good result. Some have to go through it again and again until it is finished. And then there is a final shaking, a cleansing, to bring forth that good fruit. Hebrews 12 tells us that God will shake everything that can be shaken until only He remains. I want to be good posho, good tasting to God, a delight to His lips. I welcome the sifting and gentle shaking when it comes. It is a good thing.
This week brings us closer to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us go about doing good to all so that when the day of celebration comes, we can say with confidence that He lives in us and through us. May the Lord bless you and keep you and be gracious unto you. May He cause His face to shine upon you and give you much peace this week. Shout GRACE to your mountains! Halelujah.