Today I finally began thinking of my home in America. I don’t let myself think of home for very long or very often while I am here in Sudan, lest I become homesick. I thought I still had three weeks before I left Sudan, but upon looking at a calendar I was surprised to see that I only have two weeks! Wow! I tend to keep myself so extremely busy here that I literally fall into my bed at night exhausted, only to arise and do the same each day. I don’t have calendars or clocks hanging anywhere and it is so very easy to lose track of time and days. I kind of like that ☺.
We have received some very excellent news this week concerning one of our older boys. He graduated from high school in Sudan in December and has been waiting somewhat patiently for his test results as he is trying to gain entrance into the top high school in Kampala Uganda so he can finish his program and go on to university. This boy came to us from Nuba Mountains Sudan where his people are being bombed and killed daily as the north is committing genocide concerning the Nubans. Samaritan’s Purse even pulled out completely because of the seriousness of the situation. Thousands are being annihilated. We have three young men from Nuba staying here with us and we love them so much. This one who was waiting for his test scores, well, we received the great news that he scored as one of the top ten in all of South Sudan schools!
We do not have strict study programs on our base because we just don’t have the personnel to monitor this. I walk around each night at 9:30 to make sure they are studying and not playing but that’s about it. Our children put themselves on strict study regimens, knowing that their only way to success is through education and self-discipline. I have stated many times in my updates how they study every single night for hours, late into the night and getting up at 3-4:00 every morning. All this is on their own, no prodding or cajoling. Our kids are amazing. So proud of them!
This week I was able to finish the roofing project for the widow lady who lives near us. She is the one whose son I bailed out of prison a month ago. Some neighborhood men came and made bricks to build her a new tukul to live in. That was completed and so my part came in to put the new roof on. Her other son has some mental problems and mostly sits and stares all day. I sat with them this week and the son smiled and joined in the conversation. This is not normal for him. I was so happy to see a glimmer of joy in his eyes. I know he must worry over his mom because she works so hard and is very old. She carries firewood and giant hay rolls, digs the earth to plant her fields and carries heavy water jugs. I was so happy to be able to do a small thing and add to her new home this beautiful new grass roof.
We are still fighting to gain custody of the three young boys in the local prison. Nothing here happens quickly so these boys are still waiting for the authorities to release them. They are being kept for their own protection apparently. We are waiting for the magistrate in the capitol city of Juba to give permission for us to take them. So the saga continues. We have three empty beds waiting to be filled so we wait and pray for their release.
Around here for excitement, in my spare time (haha), I fought two bush fires this week! One was lit by one of our older girls and got out of control. She was not trying to start a bush fire. It has been extremely dry and windy and hot here so the fire danger is extreme. Every day temperatures exceed 110 degrees. The other fire was a lot larger and threatened our compound. All of the children were at school and it was just me and the mamas and some maintenance men. One of them and myself went and started fires to counteract the existing ones, letting them meet each other. Otherwise the fire would have engulfed the far side of the outskirts of our compound, up near my house.
We also pounded out the flames with green tree branches, the only thing we have to put out fires. No fire departments here and no available water supply to spray with a hose. We literally beat the bushes. All ended well and only a tiny piece of our compound grass was touched, although about 50 acres next to us were burnt. I must have drank three liters of water in about an hour when we were finished, I was so thirsty. That night for our Friday Night Furnace prayer gathering I cried out to God to send more fire in our hearts. I kept picturing the flames of these real fires and how it consumed everything in its path so quickly and fiercely. I wanted to be consumed by God like that, so totally taken into Him. I want to smell like the smoke of heaven. The Bible talks about God dwelling in a dark cloud, a thick smoke (1 Kings 8:12).
Also, when the fires rage here in the bush, the birds fly around and around in the air above and around the fires. They are waiting for small animals that are escaping the flames to come out so they can swoop in and capture them. Makes me think about those who leave the protection of the cloud of God. In the great exodus out of Egypt, God went before them in a cloud by day and a fire by night. As long as they stayed near to this cloud and fire they were safe. It is the same with us today. If we stay near to God’s presence, we will not be captured by the world, only consumed by God. It’s a great place to dwell, there in the cloud. Since living here in Sudan, in this primitive way of life, I see the Bible come alive for me.
I watch these women who carry heavy containers of water on their heads every day, all day long, while their men make bricks. I constantly tell myself that I will never complain about hard work because I have never really known such hard work that consumes my days and my life like these ladies. At least half of the entire world lives like this every day. This is normal life for most of the world. When I read the story of Abraham’s servant going to find a wife for Isaac, and coming to the water well and finding Rebekah there, I really have to think about her water jar. Genesis 24:15 tells us that she carried her water jar on her shoulder. The water jars back then, and even now, were made of clay. They were heavy, especially when filled with water. Rebekah watered every one of the servant’s camels “until they had finished drinking”.
The women here also carry large bundles of grass, the size of a person and twice as round, upon their heads for very long distances. I even saw a lady jogging at a slow trot with one of these large bundles on her head to get home before dark! My hands are now filled with calluses and my bones and joints hurt quite often because of the heavy work here. My back hurts from bending over so much to do laundry and sweeping long paths of dirt. Still I don’t complain because my lot can never be as difficult as the ladies of the bush. I have so much respect for them. They carry a special place in my heart and I can see Jesus telling them, “Well done My beautiful bride”.
It is now very quiet here on our base in the mornings. School is back in session and every one of our children are now in school except for six of them. I start my day in the office to get things going and then I find myself having toddler school with three two year olds. Such fun! We sit and play for about an hour and then I am back to whatever needs doing. We have also started the first special education class I think here in Yei. We have three children who have mental disabilities and we now have two ladies who are equipped for this type of teaching. We even made special uniforms for these three and they are so excited to have their special class each day. In third world countries, mentally or physically handicapped people usually live out their lives locked in a hut somewhere, unseen by society, hidden away. They have no chance for education or earning a living. We hope to change this and teach our special children basic spelling and reading and the life skills they will need to one day live independently or at least with some assistance.
And so my days pass quickly, as I keep my fingers on the pulse of activity that surrounds my day to day living with 120 plus children. Every day there is someone injured or sick or in need of a touch of love and every day I find myself in the middle of it all, sometimes overwhelmed, but many times feeling like family. Last night I rocked two babies to sleep and carried a third, a toddler, down the dark path to his bed. As I held this one close, following on the heels of two teenage girls talking together, I thought, “This is a good family to belong to”. It was a peaceful place to be.