What a crazy wild week this has been! Monday was our grand start to the all out street kid ministry. We had 150 children show up, five of them girls, pretty much the average each day. Talk about total chaos. That first night I was thinking, I don’t know if I have the strength to deal with this every day? But, as we all know, each day brings more grace and better plans and organization. The kids come in the gate into a really huge compound and it is very hard to keep them corralled into a line so we can get personal data from each one. Then they ALL want water to drink so we are trying to pour cups of water from the jericans to a never ending line of thirsty kids. Then they ALL want wound care, even for the teensiest things, because that is special attention for them.
The first day of feeding, the kids would not stay in line and they kept fighting and pushing and shoving to be first. So I told the staff to take the plates to those who were sitting down and being good. Once the younger ones saw that they weren’t getting served no matter how hard they pushed to get to the front, they got the message and sat down. Once they were finished, many of them tried sneaking back in line for more, climbing through the shelter to get into the kitchen, you would put two out and four more would come in another way. It was intense to say the least. We were all so exhausted at the end of the day. And no food left for us.
The best part of the day was when the five little girls came into the kitchen to help us with the dishes. After they finished, the two littlest ones climbed into the basins and commenced to taking a bath! How could I stop them, I didn’t have the heart, so I helped to scrub them down. The dirt was so caked into their skin that it would not come out unless we used a plastic scrubby. And then two little boys jumped in! So fun. The next day I brought them some of my t-shirts to replace their rags they were wearing. It was a complete transformation of their faces, their beauty shining through all that grit. I bought them some simple but cute dresses to give them today, Friday, but in the end I couldn’t. The girls were taking advantage of our special times together and started thinking that they didn’t have to follow the rules that the rest of the kids had to. They were so disobedient today that I decided not to give their dresses to them.
Wednesday went a lot smoother as we were more organized and had more volunteers. I have had two reporters from the local media come to interview me this week. The word is really getting out about what we are doing here. People want to help. There is a group of young people called African Culture, about 15 of them, and they perform dramas and skits concerning life and right living and have a gospel flavor to their skits. The leader approached me and has volunteered his group to come every Friday to teach the kids by performing dramas and dance. Today, the Boy Scouts of South Sudan Aweil Pack came to me and volunteered four to five of their young people to also come EVERY day to help us with these kids! Of the four years that I was in Yei I never had anyone come and offer to help for free. People always wanted a job and money. Here, everyone is joining hands and coming together to solve this community problem.
The compound where we do this ministry is all dirt, not a single tree for shade. Yesterday I paid some laborers to build a giant shelter made of grass matting and wooden poles. Now the kids have a place to sit in the shade and eat and learn. We call it the schoolhouse. It is separated into two parts to facilitate the groups of older kids and the younger ones next door. So, I guess we have started the Iris School for street kids here in Aweil town. Teaching begins on Monday, beginning with the Father’s heart toward these ones. The entire week will focus on the love of their Father and how He sees them. We are so excited to see what God is going to do in these ones. The older boys have even begun helping us to manage the smaller boys. Each day there are always fights among them that need breaking up.
Testimony time! One of our boys, he has been a handful, well he has been coming to the feedings all week. Midweek I noticed that he had clean clothes on and he was clean. I wondered what was up. I was way too busy to try and find out. Saturday I decided to walk into town so I could just spend some quality time with the boys in a non disciplinary mode. I saw this boy again and we walked together. He then turned to go into a compound. I asked him if he lived there. Yes. Where is your mama? Come.
He leads me to the house of a lady whom has been working as a volunteer with us all week. She is a Dinka lady who has lived in the USA for the last ten years and has come home to South Sudan for a year to find family. She told me that early in the week she asked this boy his name and he told her his tribe and clan name. It was her tribe and clan! She was his relative! She took him home and he now lives with her family here in Aweil. He said that this week was the very first time he ever got to brush his teeth. So, in our first week, we have our first family reconciliation/reunification. God is so faithful and awesome to give us this testimony right from the git go.
That was yesterday. Today we visited the church in the Aphada IDP camp where there are over 10,000 refugees from North Sudan. We had a nice visit and agreed to come back on Saturday for an evangelistic outreach with the Jesus movie. We get home from having lunch and our compound was robbed yet again. They destroyed our locks and door hasps and stole a computer, a camera, and $7,000 USD from one of the team. We were beyond furious. Needless to say, I have now hired more watchmen, round the clock. It makes me so angry that the money that could be going to getting food to hungry orphans has to be spent on payroll to guard against criminals in a country where we came to help.
These are the times where we really have to remind ourselves why we are here. We will continue this work He has called us to do. We cannot let the devil have his way. And so we stand. We fast. We pray. We worship our God and keep our eyes on Him only. We count everything else as loss for the gain of knowing Him and His glory. Amen! Please keep us in prayer for safety and for these robberies to stop. In this world of money, unfortunately, we cannot continue to do what God has called us to here without it, so we need to not have any more stolen. Be blessed and loved by Him.