A week ago I arrived in South Sudan after five days of traveling to get here. There are only two flights a week into my little town, Tuesdays and Saturdays. I always make sure to get to Uganda a day early to make that flight. I arrived on our compound to welcoming squeals of delight and I couldn’t even get out of the car door because I was mobbed by hugs from tens of twenties of wonderful children, and mamas too! It is always so nice to arrive back and receive a welcome such as this.
Normally when I go to the USA and return, the three babies will stare at me and are a bit reluctant to come to me, even though they adored me and yelled my name every time I walked past them a month or so earlier. This time all three came right to me, and my little Peacey would not let me loose. Later that day I came bearing organic sugar free lollipops and all came running yelling, “Halawa, halawa!” (sweets, sweets)! The next day I went into the market and found mangos at a premium price and of course brought enough back for all 140 of us, the children yelling, “Mangas, mangas!”.
The drive from the airstrip revealed a few changes in South Sudan. The gas for cars is now at $6.80 a gallon. I am so glad I drive a motorcycle. The exchange rate for money just seven weeks ago was 285 Sudanese pounds to $100 US dollars. It is now 500 Sudanese pounds to $100 USD. This is severe disaster for the locals who don’t get pay raises and can’t raise the price of their crops too drastically. People are really suffering from this fluctuation in our economy. I have also returned to no internet. Our modems are not working again and it will be another two weeks before we see relief. My cell phone does get internet, which allows me to update status of FB and read my emails. I just can’t send updates or post pictures etc… I have been into town a few times to post this update but there is so much cloud cover from all the rain that reception is horrible and I haven’t been able to get through.
Our town also has a new mayor as the old one sort of got fired for failure to do a proper job. I have already seen a big improvement there.
Example? Last June I applied for my Sudanese driving license, spending $100. The process normally takes about two weeks. Eleven months later I finally received my license! We think that there was corruption in there somewhere and someone took my $100 and pocketed it and never sent the application. Thank God I had a receipt. Our head pastor, and even myself three times, went every two weeks for eleven months only to be offered a different excuse. We remained patient. This is key here in Africa, patience, extreme patience. I did get an extra year free as they dated my license as of April and not last June. Patience paid a dividend this time!
On the journey from the airstrip, as my eyes adjusted to my old surroundings, I was a bit taken aback. It seemed that everything was so colorless, just a dull brown and green. All of the winter crops (summer here) had been harvested so it was also a naked landscape greeting my eyes. The next day, as I grew accustomed to being back home, the rich color of Sudan returned to my senses. I realized that my senses were so overloaded in the west, the modern world, with vibrant color and manicured lawns and springtime flowers, that what I once looked at as full of beauty and color, had somehow dimmed. This however only lasted only a day. My love for the people and this country has returned the vibrancy back to the eyes of my heart and I see rich and abundant life, full of color.
Speaking of eyes, I am supposed to wear my glasses all the time but I find it very inconvenient here in this environment so I don’t wear them unless I am reading something. We have these small sugar ants here, just like in the USA, and they go right for water mostly. I had two jugs full of drinking water so when I returned I would have an immediate water supply. One of the 5 gallon jugs was full of these tiny ants. Yesterday I bought fresh bread. Normally it takes a couple of days for the bag to be invaded by these ants. I try to move the bag around to throw the trail off. Being that I just bought the bread yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t concerned about the invasion. This morning I was half asleep as I drank my coffee and listened to a sermon on my ipod. I ate two of these delicious rolls when before I realized that the container was crawling with ants. Too late, my tummy was full. Guess I’d better wear my glasses more hmmm?
During my second night here a terrible storm came and the rain was coming sideways. This happened in the middle of the night and we were scrambling to close shutters and still the spray came thru right onto my bed. I shoved everything to the middle of my tiny room. When things finally settled down a bit a knock came at my door. One of the mamas came to say the roof has blown away from Gaba’s house! We ran down in our rain boots and the iron sheet roof had literally blown off the house and never hit the ground until at least 100 yards away. Since our compound is smooth swept dirt, we would have seen a divot of some kind if the roof landed closer. We found the jagged hunk of iron sheeting with wood frame still attached on the other side of our dining payat. Also a large palm tree, over 100 years old, toppled over in the center of our compound.
Not a single person was hurt or even scratched. When we gathered the next morning we circled around and worshiped the Lord and gave thanks for His faithfulness to protect us in the midst of this storm. The children have been so amazing in all this. Nothing seems to phase them when it comes to the plans of the devil. They are so resilient and even optimistic in their trust that all will be okay and there is nothing to fear because God is here.
The morning after the storm we sent the children off to school and the older ones stayed to help clean up and wash all the blankets and sheets and clothes of the entire household, as everything was soaked. I laid all the school notebooks out to dry and our builder came immediately to rebuild the roof. Today, Sunday, they are finishing.
After church today I took five children with me into town to visit the hospital to pray for the sick. Two of the children were twelve years old and they prayed with such gusto and strength and faith. They never need coaxing or prodding, they just lay their hands on the people and pray the prayer of faith. We visited the children’s ward today where most were small babies suffering from malaria. The parents are always so thankful when people come to pray. They never hesitate when we ask, even expecting us to come to their bed next. There is so much freedom in Africa to pray for people.
Yesterday, Saturday, I also began work on my garden. I bought a hoe and a machete. Hoes here weigh about five pounds and are big, about 6” X 8” of heavy steel with a hand carved wood handle. One of the girls and myself dug all morning from 0800 – 1300. I have a few good blisters on my hands and am just a little bit sore. Imagine digging up your back yard that had grown at least a foot high with grass. Imagine digging until all that is left is dirt, pure dirt. That’s what we did. I am hoping to plant on Monday. Of course the locals are just amazed because they have never seen a white woman digging a field before. I don’t think they know what to make of me but they sure do enjoy watching and greeting me.
And lastly, our Friday Night Furnace was most excellent with our new Bose super power speakers. Even praying loud and crying out to the heavens couldn’t overwhelm the worship music coming from these incredible speakers. The children loved it so very much and look forward even more to Friday nights. We set the neighborhood ablaze I should venture to say. Yay Jesus, to You be all the glory.