I have just returned to Yei via Juba from Aweil late yesterday. It is pouring rain in Juba and Yei and dry in Aweil. This time of year Aweil is green and there is plenty of water all around, although dirty. The temps are hot but not unbearable right now but will be when I arrive in early February. I met each day with the boys and they remembered me from my last visit in August and when they see me coming, they come literally running to shake my hand and greet me with a giant smile. They really are precious and not so hardened by life yet. The older boys are a bit more subdued but they still come with a timid smile. I never make them stand in line when I am serving bread and will continue this practice when we start our daily feeding program. These older boys need some dignity restored to them and this is just one small way.
I have given our pastor in Aweil, Pastor James, three months advance pay and he is going to keep meeting with the boys to learn about them and who lives on the street and who doesn’t and also to mentor them and love them. I had commented that it appears there are fewer boys than when I was last here. Pastor James told me that they are the same but have branched out to other areas of the town because of the lack of enough throwaways for all the boys to eat. It makes your heart break to think of them fighting over garbage scraps. There are many, many poor in Aweil and the poor look just like the street boys, very hard to differentiate. They are all dirty, in need of baths and soap, and their clothes just hang in torn rags on their frail bodies, many of them having deep infected flesh wounds that won’t heal because of no treatment or care.
I can never pass blame on anyone for this situation happening, all over the world. Many people get mad at governments for not taking responsibility and for churches to pick up the slack and for many other things to happen, and then they wash their hands of the problem because they have just passed the blame. Well, while people are busy passing blame, the children still starve. The children, unaware of all these things, in spite of all their suffering, these ones are easy to bring to a smile and receive love. God willing, I would like to feed them all, the poor and the orphan, like Heidi does in Mozambique. One step at a time though and start with the orphans and see where it all goes from there.
I also went to look at the compound where I want to have the daily feeding. The compound for feeding the boys is huge. It is used for celebrations sort of like Freedom Squares all over South Sudan, a place where communities meet for parades and public events, yet not as large as these squares of dirt land. I talked to the small staff that works there and they showed me a borehole right behind the compound where we can get water for cooking, washing and bathing. Yea Jesus! Prayer answered. The compound is enclosed with a very thick and tall cement wall, with one entrance gate made of steel. Yea Jesus! Prayer answered because I need a way to contain the boys and keep everyone else out. The only thing it lacks is a storage space for our stuff like pots and dishes and washbasins and large sacks of food every day. These I will just have to store at my house each day and cart them back and forth. I still need to get the governor to agree to let me use it each day.
Internet is really, really bad in Aweil. There are no internet cafes or public places to use internet. My modem worked maybe 2% of the times I tried, which was not many. Very frustrating. I went to the UN compound and because I am not a “big well known” NGO, they weren’t going to let me use theirs. I just so happened to know the Sudanese guard who was on watch and he vouched for me and they let me in. I couldn’t use my own computer or stick a memory stick in theirs so all I could do was check my mail quicklike. The next day I decided to take the 45 minute ride out to Akuem and visit Samaritan’s Purse and handle my internet needs there.
Before I did that I stopped at an Eritrean friend’s shop to trade money with him and when he learned I was going to take a jam packed public minivan to Akuem, he insisted I take his van. This is unheard of! In the middle of the day he gives me his van and he has four big shops to run. He is married and happily so he didn’t make this offer hoping to get anything in return. He is simply this nice and always has been to me. Again, thank You God!
There is one thing that I learned that really shocked me and I still don’t know what to say to it all. I learned that the Muslims in Aweil actually pay people to become Muslin. The people get monthly pay from the Muslim church just for making the switch! I don’t know many details yet but am sure I will learn more. Of course when asked, the convertees say, “I need to eat”. It’s a very dark world indeed when people will sell their soul for a bowl of food. Hmmmmm, sounds familiar. Esau perhaps.
The road trip back to Yei base from Juba yesterday was even worse than my last journey. The rains have been unrelenting and when I left here eight days earlier, there was only one rough patch of road that we had to traverse. Yesterday there were three really bad patches. At one point we had to get out and hack a path through a small bamboo forest so we could get around two semi trucks who had tipped over or gotten axle deep bogged down in the mud. At each of these bad patches, there were semi’s either stuck axle deep or tipped over completely. Needless to say we pray a lot and before every single journey here in South Sudan.