Christmas In South Sudan

In Arabic there is no word for Merry Christmas so people actually say “Merry Christmas”.  Very nice.  What a week it has been!  We started the week with 13 missionaries throwing mud at our school walls.  We make a big mud pile and load up a wheelbarrow and fill in all the broken places in our walls with mud.  It has to be thrown – splat! – in order to stick good.  Once it hardens we then cover it with cement and paint.  It’s a lot of fun and gives us a chance to revert to our childhood so we can play in the mud.  Mission accomplished and having fun at the same time!

Later that day I took 32 girls to lunch in town.  They were so excited to have a chance to dress up and leave the compound to be treated to a private lunch in a local restaurant.  They ranged in age from 12 to 17.  We then walked back (a one hour trip) laughing and talking all the way and me carrying a baby (Patience who is in many of my Facebook pictures).  I was one tired puppy after this hot day and all that walking!  It was well worth it when they all hugged and thanked me and the smiles on their faces were an added bonus.  I love the special times like these with just the girls.

On our walk back we enjoyed the beautiful scenery all around.  At Christmastime in South Sudan, the people don’t have power to put up lights.  They do one even better.  Most people repaint their cute little huts with beautiful colors and designs, very African, and paint words like, “Merry Christmas” or “Jesus you are welcome here” or Bless our house” and many other sayings.  The houses look so nice and people even move everything outside to clean the entire inside just like they do in Israel before Passover when they go looking for yeast in order to get it out of the house.  I wonder if the Sudanese even know this and that what they do somewhat represents this.  Isn’t God so amazing!!!  Even our children did the same thing on Christmas Eve.  They couldn’t repaint the walls so they scrubbed all day until they shone clean and bright.  No adults help.  They do this on their own.  So amazing.

I went to town midweek to buy the mamas some gifts and on my return I stopped to buy some bread.  There in the street sat a naked and filthy dirty woman who is the town crazy woman.  I have never seen someone so filthy, deep ground in dirt.  She doesn’t wear clothes and I don’t know if she would leave them on if I bought them.  I bought her some bread and a soda and squatted next to her and told her I was so sorry.  She gently took what I offered, not meeting my gaze.  I rode away on my motorcycle tears streaming down my cheeks.  This lady moves about and I have only seen her twice so I don’t know where she stays but I am going to find out more about her to see what I can do.  My heart breaks for her.  If we had not rescued Mercy this is where she would end up when she grows up.

Mercy continues to grow into her own each week.  She is loved by all and everyone is so patient with her.  She is learning to say more words and she understands more than she ever did.  And still, every time the drums start beating and we worship, there she is in the midst of all the action just dancing like there was no tomorrow.  She truly loves to worship.

As you can imagine with 127 children and almost 30 staff members my days remain extremely busy.  There is no time off because most times I am even disturbed at night in my room by someone needing something.  I run here and there and make so many trips back and forth on the compound that the trail doesn’t need to be cut as I wear it thin.  Every night at 9:30 I do a final walk about to check in on everyone to make sure all is okay.  This week I stopped in to say goodnight to the boys and found that one of our 9 year olds had broken his collarbone!  There he was quietly suffering and no one coming to tell me!  These kids!  There is no hospital open at night to do xrays so we had to wait all the way till morning.  I gave him a painkiller and wrapped him good.  The next morning we went right away to the hospital.

As we are sitting there waiting this small girl begins to cry.  Her mother is trying to tend to her small baby so I pick the girl up and comfort her on my lap.  She immediately quieted.  Finally our turn came for the xray.  The little girl’s mother gets up and hands me her small baby and walks off!  Okay.  So here I am with a little girl and a small baby and Marko in getting xrays!  After ten minutes I am wondering if this lady is coming back.  She does.  She smiles and takes her baby back natural as you please.  I know now without a doubt that I finally “fit” in this culture.  People around town know who I am and trust me with their children, enough to hand me one and walk away.  So cool!

So, I get Marko home and as soon as I get him settled I am told that one of our girls has run away.  I am exhausted from a long night, a long morning and no food for three meals in a row because I am so busy.  I get about 8 bites of rice and hop on my motorcycle to go looking for our girl.  As I am riding the trails I pray to Jesus, “Lord, I have reached a point where this is more than I can bear anymore.  Please help me to find her quickly.”  We have never found any of our few runaways quickly.  It takes hours of looking and even days in a few rare cases.  Well as soon as I say this prayer, about five minutes later I spot her.  She runs and here I am chasing her down trails with my motorcycle!  I finally get her to stop.  Then I finally get her to hop on and come talk with me.  Then I finally get her back home.  I immediately have to go to work organizing 127 Christmas bags.

The next day I organize for all these children to write a special page of love and thanksgiving to our director so we can bind it into a book for her Christmas present.  I then find myself helping with the surgery of one of our teenagers.  She had a big lump on the back of her ear that was a result of a childhood ear piercing infection.  One of our team missionaries is a doctor and performed the easy surgery in our office and so I helped to bring gauze and clean up a little as we went.  We now have one happy girl with no more unsightly bump.

I also walked up the trail from our compound to invite a special grandma to have Christmas dinner with us.  She is a precious old lady who lives alone and has a son who is about 35 years old and he has many demons in him.  When he is home he just sits there staring, never ever smiling.  We prayed for him awhile back and he appreciated it but he has so much darkness in him.  He is a quiet man but his mama told us that he has mental problems.  He think it is mostly depression.  He is a soldier and has probably see way too much death.  Anyway, this little old lady carries all her own water and firewood and plants huge fields all by herself.  She is so strong and seems so lonely there by herself for the most part.

She was so happy to come to dinner today and I am going to use your support funds to build her a new roof and a new bathing shelter in January.  She is thrilled.  I also brought her a Christmas present and told her to please come and have Sunday lunch with us every Sunday and any other day she wanted to.  She is always welcomed here.

I also found out through our older children that there is a very very old man who lives in a hut where the roof has caved in.  He lives there by himself and cannot fix it.  We are going to go and have a look and also build him a new roof with your support funds.  Jesus commands us to care for the widows and the orphans.  Many people forget about the widowed men.  I am so blessed to be able to do these small things for these precious people.  I thank you for giving to the Lord because your giving really does matter and really does save lives.  The rains will come again in late January and if these two old people don’t have roofs, they will get rained on and get sick and possibly die.  There is no one to care for them.  Your giving cares for them.

This week we have been visiting Moses and bandaging his arm.  Seems he fell and suffered a nasty wound on his forearm.  He is being loved and cared for and he is being touched by the love of Jesus.  I have seen a change in him.  He seems calmer and gentler.  The change is visible.

On Christmas Eve we built a small fire and all gathered round as we roasted marshmallows and sang.  We then performed skits and songs under the beautiful South Sudan starry sky.  We ended this special night with a candlelight moment where we told the story about the Light of the world while we all held candles.  We then sang worship unto the Lord.  It was so extremely beautiful!  I was up at 6:30 the next morning, Christmas, to help organize all the preparations for the day.  We had our missionary team in the kitchen.  I had the children help me set up all the church pews for an outside service under the mango trees.  We carried bags of 127 presents x 2 for all of the excited children.  And then we handed them out.  Whew!  By the time everything wound down it was almost 3:00 pm.  I fell exhausted on my floor for a nap.  Ten minutes later there are little voices at my door wanting me to help find lost cars (presents).  It never ends here J.

The Lord showed me something as I was reading the Christmas story in Luke this week.  In Luke 3:8 John the Baptist told the crowds to “bear fruits that are deserving and consistent with your salvation”.  In verse 10 the people asked, “What shall we do then?”  And John the Baptist responded in verse 11 by telling the crowds to “share with him who has none”.  True salvation then is sharing with those who have none.  Yes, salvation only comes through believing in Christ Jesus but to hold to our salvation John tells us to share.  At Christmas most people have it in their hearts to share.  I pray that this heart remains throughout the year.  Many people are in need in so many ways.  Most people are naked and hungry and poor.  They need to know the love of Jesus.

Let’s let our New Years resolutions be about stopping for the one each and every day.  Just one each day in some small way.  Keep a journal.  Log your journey of stopping for one.  Let this be the gift we offer Jesus next year at Christmas, this journey of the one.

Tuesday I leave for some much needed R&R in our neighboring Uganda.  No big plans, just a lot of rest and trying to put a little weight back on my bones.  I have lost 20 pounds in 3 months and that is not good for me.  My fault.  I have been too busy to eat or too exhausted.  I am looking forward to this rest and I am so looking forward to working internet I pray.  This has been the worst I have ever seen it and that is why no one has heard much from me.  I will return to South Sudan on January 3rd.  God bless you all so much.  Thank you for supporting and encouraging and praying for me this year.  It means so much.