Restoring Dignity

I love the mornings here in South Sudan.  I am sitting at my desk even now listening to the birds, watching the sun rise over our corn fields, everything so green and vibrant from the drenching rains that come nearly every day.  I like that there are no sounds of traffic or any hum of modern appliances, no AC kicking on, no radio or TV creating white noise in the background.  There is just the sound of nature and the children’s voices drifting up from the lower compound.  It is very pleasant indeed.

There is a wonderful scripture that has been floating around in my spirit all week and it greatly encourages me, as it should all of us.  The scripture, Acts 17:26-27 tells us that:

“From one man God made every nation of men…….and He determined the TIMES SET FOR THEM and the EXACT PLACES WHERE THEY SHOULD LIVE.  God did this so that MEN WOULD SEEK HIM and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him…..”  Can you picture that?  We are right here in this time of history, living where we are, JUST SO that men would seek God and find Him.  He set the plan into motion long ago.  We just need to be where He puts us and do what He set us up to do.  Way cool!!

Once a month at least, I minister to all of the teenagers here at Iris, both boys and girls.  This week we talked about the mission that God has chosen for us and the places that we are to live.  When our hearts truly tell us where we are to go, we will find no peace until we get there, and even then natural peace might be evasive.  Time and again Paul was beaten and chased from town to town for his faith in Jesus Christ and the grace message.

Many times it seems as if we are pushing a giant rock up a steep hill.  I see myself sometimes just holding that rock in place, making no forward progress.  I can’t see past the giant rock as it consumes my vision and my strength.  Although we sometimes cannot see it, the Lord is on the other side clearing the path for us while helping us to hold that rock steady without falling.

No, I am not currently holding a giant rock in place.  I see forward progress being made concerning what God is calling me to.  I remind myself of this scripture in Acts that God really has set my times and where I shall live and that through my faithfulness in this calling men will seek Him and reach out to Him.  Through this I have learned that God is never going to rush things along because we want Him to.  Many times people feel like they are stuck in a place because God is teaching them something.  Have you ever thought about the fact that God is preparing the people that He is calling you to?  He sends you SO THAT men will seek Him.  Be patient and things will get “unstuck” in their time.

I was driving our little Toyota RAV to take one of our children to the clinic early this week.  The rains have been steady and of course the roads are filled with holes and mud.  I was just turning onto the dirt road leading to this new clinic I found and I found myself mired in deep mud.  The road appeared pretty solid because there was fresh “murim” laid across the entrance.  This is a rock/dirt mixture that reinforces roads around here.  Little did I know that they neglected to lay larger rocks before laying this murim.  I sunk all the way up to the frame and the front axle was buried.

I sent the girl and one of our elder boys who came with us on ahead to the clinic.  A nice man who works at the clinic brought a shovel and we proceeded to dig out.  I was covered from knees to elbows in this miry mud.  Never once did I become impatient or angry or stressed.  I was thankful that I had managed to last three years without getting stuck.  And I knew that help was on the way and all I had to do was prepare the way for him to pull me out.  By the time our other vehicle came to rescue us, we were dug out and ready to roll and it was an easy pull to get the rest of it done.

The very narrow road that leads us over a rushing creek so we can get to town is also on its last track.  Yesterday and today we nearly slid off into the drink.  We are even thinking about not driving the vehicle at all anymore if we see that rain is coming.  There are literally inches only to spare on either side.  Talk about nerves of steel!!  I just say, “Shukran Yesuah” over and over as I very slowly roll over and get to the other side.  No AAA Auto club here folks!  Just trust Jesus, that is all.

I sure wish I was this way about every situation in my life.  I try to be but sometimes I get caught up in the mud and mire and can’t see help coming.  Or I try to do things under my own power and manage to get myself stuck even deeper.  I tell you, when Jesus says that His yoke is light and easy it really is.  It’s a lot easier to ask and wait for help than to try and manage myself.  Such simple lessons from everyday ordinary things can bring great truth to our lives if we just get past the mud.

I went to the market to have a desk made for myself as I am finally tired of doing all my writing and typing in my lap.  As I was talking to the man, an old man came up to me to ask for one pound (money).  Here we call old men, yaba.  So I greeted yaba kindly and allowed him to help with the measurements of my desk, even though I didn’t need help.  He spoke good English so I chatted a bit with him and when I was done I gave him five pounds.  He lifted his hands and praised Jesus and blessed me and his eyes were watering up.  I was so taken aback because the men here don’t show their emotion like that.  I was so happy that I didn’t brush him off as a drunk but instead, took the time to chat and allow him his dignity by letting him help me.

It is so very important that people be allowed to hold their dignity, especially older people who have given much of their lives caring for others.  Our mamas here at Iris live with the children and have to go get their food where all the children get theirs and eat the same things.  They have to bathe and sleep and dress in the same house as the children.  I always find ways to maintain their dignity.  I bring them special things from the market that are all their own.  I bring special nice cups so they don’t have to have the same cups as all the children.  This week I bought each of them their own pairing knife.  They were so extremely happy to have one of their own.

The enemy always uses shame to his advantage.  Shame brings separation and bitterness to the body.  Dignity restores a man.  The Lord exalts the humble and restores him.  This old yaba and these mamas, they need these small affirmations from us younger folks.  It only takes a minute to make a change in someone’s day.  Amazing what Papa God can do in ten minutes time, things we can’t even do in a lifetime, some of us.

This week was a great week for me to hear the Lord and talk to the teenagers about our mission.  I was preaching to myself.  I have been on antibiotics and penicillin for almost three weeks now and this week I became so tired of fighting the stuff that has attacked my body.  I really had to struggle to maintain my focus and keep running the race.  My friend prayed over me when she saw the latest struggle with my head infection.  It was then that we realized that this was surely an attack from the enemy.

This week I will depart for Aweil on a ten day journey to the north.  I will be camping in a tent in an unsecure area where there are no fences or watchman.  We will be staying in the yard of a pastor friend of mine who lives in Aweil.  There are four of us going, two other Americans and one of our older young men, Kazito.  We are going to spend seven full days on the ground, every day ministering to the street boys of Aweil and the refugee camps that are there.  Thousands have flocked there from the north after secession.  Aweil is only 30 miles from Darfur.

I am going there to minister but also to secure a compound for my ministry base.  I will hopefully meet with the governor and other officials.  I believe that God has opened a great door for effective work for me there.  He actually gave me that scripture last year while I was there in Aweil, 1 Corinthian 16:9.  The scripture reads, “A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me”.  That opposition is coming even now.

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