The Lord reminded me this week to never lose my childlike faith. He loves that kind of faith. It’s actually pretty radical. Young people think they are invincible. As we get older, we grow more cautious, taking less risks. I tell you truly, my life these last four years has been one of radical faith, childlike faith, simply believing that God will do what He has promised. What an easy yoke that is. The Lord reminds me to not take His works and His miracles lightly as they become “normal life” for me. Bill Johnson always says that the Christian life is the normal life. Jesus led a “normal” life in the Spirit of His Father.
The things that my Father has done here in Aweil for me are amazing. This week we have sent four more boys home. This brings our total to 35 boys home in less than two months! That is unprecedented in South Sudan. Iris Ministries South Sudan has gained the interest and the eye of the top government officials here. After last weekend’s feeding of the refugees, many are now interested in what we are doing. I have since learned that these refugees were actually abducted by the north as war hostages basically. Ninety percent of them were small children. There are an estimated 25,000 still to be returned. The South Sudan main radio station, Miriah, came to Aweil from the capital city of Juba and interviewed the leading officials who were coordinating the humanitarian efforts.
The day after the refugees left Aweil to finally go home, the radio station broadcasted all over the South that Iris Ministries South Sudan was solely responsible for feeding these people! We were so surprised to hear it because we just humbly brought the food each day, making many trips, not looking for a thank you. We just wanted to bless these people in their long journey home. The next day after this broadcast we were feeding our boys in town when three officials came and wanted to talk to me. They said that when the next UN meeting happened that our program was going to be at the top of the list for discussion and that everyone needed to hear what we are doing and how can they help us. Wow God! The doors are flying open!
This is so important because our mandate is to train the Ministry of Child Welfare how to run a successful program for getting these children off the streets. They are now looking for ways to sustain it, to help struggling families with food and medical help. I pray that the government officials in the capital get a hold of this and really take an interest monetarily in this program to keep it going after we leave here. God never told me to stay and plant roots. He told me to get in, get out, and do what He has assigned me to do. It will be up to this country to take up the banner and run with it. I am praying that this happens and these children are cared for as they grow.
Last weekend one of our girls was hit on the back of her head by a policeman. She said that she was fighting with another girl and got wacked in the process. Her head began swelling pretty bad in the back and even went down into her neck. We feared that her skull was cracked yet here she was walking around doing life as usual. We took her to the hospital as she really needed medical care. They took her in and hooked her up to IV’s and told us they would call us tomorrow when she might be released. We then saw her the next day at our program. She said that she had left the hospital at midnight on her own. We learned from the other kids that she left because she wanted to sniff glue. This addiction is such a huge problem here with these children. The hospital offers good food and a warm bed and a bath and she chose the dirt and glue. She is only twelve years old.
Yesterday I went to the market to buy coal. We get it in bags as tall as my waist and rounder than me. I had three of these in the back of my three-wheeler and was paying the guy when four of my kids ran up to greet me. One of the boys, about six years old, he runs around naked a lot. He stashes his clothes somewhere and carries on with life as if nothing was unusual. Here, it is acceptable to be naked until you are about three, then clothes are expected. So, my little guy, I ask him where are his clothes and he just smiles the sweetest smile. I have to laugh. I lift the four of them into the three-wheeler and they climb on the coal bags as we drive off.
One thing I rarely do is to drive the kids around in my vehicle. Only because if I do, I won’t be able to manage them and keep them off when I am actually moving down the road. This time I relented. So here we are, three little girls and a naked boy sitting on the giant coal bags laughing as we drive along. They are so happy with this little treat. I stop and get them a candy and we just drive around until they are finished eating, otherwise the others will beat them for not sharing.
On Monday I gave a special treat to the kids and the ones who weren’t allowed in the compound because they were very late, well they got angry. As each of our children left out of the gate, they would pile on and beat each one, even the small three year old. I got so angry and went out there and scared the heck out of them. But then they just waited further on and still kept doing it. So we loaded the kids up in our wagon and had the men walk along the sides while we drove them to the other end of the market. This is just a bit of what we deal with. These same angry kids will smile and hug me later that day when I see them in the market. I smile and hug them back WHILE admonishing their behavior.
So, these four children who got to ride in my wagon were so happy as I left them off where I picked them from. Today, Sunday, I saw my naked boy and he had his clothes on. Haha. Today Angela and I decided to go into town and see if we could just hang with some of our kids in a non-organized way, just hanging out and walking along the market. We saw two of our girls and one smaller boy who ALWAYS has his pants falling down around his knees. He is about seven or eight. Today, I decide I can’t keep pulling his pants up forever and they were ripped from the front seam to the back making them air conditioned pants. So, we bought him some new clothes. He didn’t even look like the same boy, no kidding!
Then we took the two little girls inside of a restaurant and sat down and had lunch with them. They were ear to ear smiles. They ate till they were about to pop, then the older girl went outside to wash her hands and brought in two of our babies, our boys who are three, and fed them the rest of their food. I tell you, these kids really take care of each other when they are not fighting each other. Many times when we have given them food on the streets, they share with each other.
I am traveling again next week to visit my children in Yei. They are now officially assigned to me and I foresee that I will be there in Yei permanently in October probably. I go next week to tell them the good news and hopefully bring them a bit of peace and security in their hearts. So many of you have given so generously to the ministry God has called me to here in Aweil. Even many have been giving since I came to Africa four years ago. Thank you, thank you so much for your heart of giving. I pray that the Lord has blessed you back in this.
When I am finished with my part of the ministry here in Aweil, I will then concentrate all my efforts on the children in Yei. There is already a wonderful sponsorship program in place through our website, www.irissouthsudan.org, where you can sponsor a child in our home. Many have asked me how they can support one child and track the progress of that one, making their giving a little more personal. This is a big way to do it and is much needed. Those who want to continue blessing my ministry please, please do. I will surely use it for our babies in Yei. We have many needs there that have to be met. Towards the end of the year I will send out a list in case someone wants to specifically sow into one of the items.
On the lighter side of life in Sudan, I am now a bona fide rock thrower. Ah the children are rubbing off on me. Actually there is a pack of wild dogs, about ten of them, who see fit to camp outside of our compound at night. They howl and fight and snarl and growl all through the night. I finally have had enough. I now stand in my yard throwing rocks over the fence hoping that I hit one of them. My fence is very tall so I can’t even see what I am aiming for. Even last night I was outside at midnight throwing rocks. I sure wish there was some way I could make them go away for good!
I bless you family in the Name of Jesus and I ask of Him that this week He would bring an encounter of His love for you, just you.