This week I returned to South Sudan after a short R&R in Uganda and I learned that there is a terrible tribe war going on in Pibor which is part of Jonglei State South Sudan. The war is between the Nuer and Murle tribes over cattle grazing land and water and much is retribution over past raids against each other. This is normal on a somewhat small scale. This time it has gone out of control. More than 3,100 people have been killed and it is estimated that 40,000 people have fled their homes in fear of the fighting. These tribes have AK47s left over from the Sudan War and the killing is intense. Many women and children have been caught in the crossfire and many, many are starving with no place to go.
I get so grieved and frustrated because we have finally won our independence from the heavy persecution of the Arab north only to now kill each other off in our own Southern country instead of uniting to make this a good and peaceful land. I guess the best way to describe the conflict is to compare it somewhat to the American Mafia wars of the 20’s and 30’s. It’s all about turf and property and retribution. We Christians are trying so hard to evangelize and bring reconciliation and unity but the process is slow. And so we press on toward the goal, knowing Jesus Christ our Lord and His love for all mankind and reaching others through this love, even one at a time.
So many times the work we do seems endless. We often wonder if what we are doing has any impact at all. And I always remind myself of those who have gone before me and the sacrifices they have made. Before internet and modern communication, old missionaries would go into an unknown land to live with heathens for 30, 40, 50 years and see only 20 salvations where there has been true change. Then someone else will come along just 5, 10 years later and the entire village gets saved and truly changed. If that first missionary did not go, that second one would never have seen the fruit from those first seeds.
If we never get a thank you from those I serve, we mustn’t be concerned. If we are never loved by those we love, we mustn’t be concerned. Many times instead of being grateful, the people only ask for more and even complain about what was given to them, as if it were not enough. We can never do what we do expecting to receive something in return. Love is giving when you know you will receive nothing in return. Love is going even if you know it isn’t deserved.
There is a very old man who lives close by, down a few trails, that I finally met yesterday. His name is Elisa. Upon arriving at his small but tidy compound I saw a small brick tukel with no roof, overgrown on the inside with bush grass and no door. It was just a shell of a hut, walls only. Next to it was a structure of four tree poles about as high as my shoulders. It had no walls and a grass roof. Everything the old man owned was under this flimsy structure, a few jerricans for water and a cookpot and an old threadbare blanket atop a rickety bamboo bed, no cushion. The old man invited us to sit under a papaya tree with him as we talked.
He told us that when it rains he has to huddle on his haunches in the middle of the structure to avoid the rain that comes sideways when it storms. Everything gets wet and muddy and mosquitoes infest the place at night bringing much sickness. He has lived this way for over three years because he is too old to build the roof. He is surrounded by neighbors and his son even lives a stones throw away but is too mentally deranged from severe alcohol abuse to even carry on a conversation much less help his own father. And his son lives in a decent hut. I was just shocked that no one had done a thing to help this poor old man.
I brought him some fig bars and cookies and cokes and I brought him love. I told him that I have been asking Jesus to show me a widow who needs a roof and on Christmas Day I learned of Elisa’s need. I told Elisa that the Lord has heard his cry for help and that it has come. This week we will begin the work on His roof and will also install a door with a lock. I am then going to have a bed made for him complete with mattress, blankets and a mosquito net. I am also going to get him a chair and table and lantern so that he can sit and rest. The people around the neighborhood have started to whisper that surely this is a miracle. It is just one person stopping for the one that Jesus put in front of me for this week.
There is so much need in this world. Most of the world lives at poverty level, actually below poverty level and most of the world never complains about their lot. Fifty two percent of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day. They don’t know any other way of life. America and Europe have so much compared to the rest of the world yet many don’t think they are rich, often complaining that they don’t have enough. If you have $100 a month you are still richer than most of the world. There is such great need everywhere. And the biggest need is for the world to see love in action.
This man Elisa is amazed that some foreigner even knew where he lived much less wants to help him. When he heard he went immediately to go and cut trees to help get the poles for his new roof. We had to go back and tell him, “No it’s okay. This is a free gift from the Lord. It requires nothing on your part. You just receive His love for you Elisa.” He was speechless. He was seeing love in action.
Oh my friends, there is so much opportunity to stop and love someone. We cannot let our “business/busyness” or our perceived lack of worldly possessions blind us from the obvious. This old man’s son came over while we were trying to talk to Elisa and he was obviously drunk. People were becoming frustrated with this son and trying to chase him away and I said, “It’s okay. He knows not what he is doing.” I saw Mercy, I saw what she would have become if we hadn’t found her. When we return we will pray with this son and his demons will have to leave.” I believe that we will see the biggest miracle, this son set free. I believe in divine set ups. Don’t you? Ah we shall see.
We are now in the very driest of dry seasons where dirt and thick dust abound. There is a constant haze hanging over the landscape and the sun remains fairly hidden in the haze, mostly an orange ball in the hazy sky. Fires burn everywhere as the nation readies its fields for the next planting season. Ash is a constant rainfall here, floating swirls of black ash falling all around constantly, almost like a very light snow. The children actually play as they try and catch the falling ash particles.
Today I finally found the time to teach two of our teenagers how to drive. They were very excited and so full of joy that they were able to drive a car and their friends who have families and houses and much can’t even drive. Our children really are quite loved and cared for. We do all that we can to give them a good advantage when they finally make their way in the world. We want all of them to be able to sew their own clothes, grow their own crops, tend their own flocks, build their own huts, use their own computers and drive cars. Most importantly, we want them to know how truly loved they are by their Papa God. Be blessed to be a blessing, be loved to be free to love.