I am prone to forgetting so I want to memorialize my very first mission trip. I want to put my memories in writing for my grandchildren and their children, but also for me. Because remembering is sweet.
(Ignore the dates on the photos. They were all taken in March, 2007.)
Sudan – Part 2
So far, my African experience was fairly mild, I would say. Other than having to hold onto a pole so I didn’t fall into the toilet, nothing had been too difficult or inconvenient. So when we headed out to our next ‘motel’, in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan, I wasn’t worried.
We pulled into the motel. I don’t know another word for it, so I’m just calling it what my team leader kept calling it. The motel.
All I remember thinking, with amazement, is, “This is how some people live.”
I thought that way because I didn’t realize that I wasn’t in the majority. When you are surrounded by people who live the same way you live, you lose sight of the fact that much of the world lives in poverty. Poverty that, for the most part, you do nothing about.
It’s the same with our faith. When we surround ourselves only with people who know Jesus, we don’t realize we aren’t the majority. If you do life only among the living, you rarely think about the dying, until someone forces you to think about them. Most of the world is going to an eternal death, something so many of the living do nothing about.
As we pull in, the motel was on my left, and a goat was on my right. Someone in the vehicle said “Oh, there’s someone’s dinner”, to which I laughed, which I thought was an entirely appropriate response to the statement. Later, the goat was gone. I almost cried.
Each room had several metal beds, and a “bathroom” (and yes…those are air quotes). The bathroom had a shower, a toilet, and a sink. And no running water.
They did have large barrels filled with water and crammed into the bathroom. If we used the toilet (as opposed to holding it for days), we had to then pour water into the toilet to make it sort of flush. But I found a far more valuable use for the water.
It was hot, as one might imagine Africa to be. Two of my teammates had gotten heat stroke. Sleeping was very difficult. But I discovered that if I took off my clothes and dunked them into the barrel of bathroom water and then put them on as I went to bed, I slept very well. My wet clothes kept me cool long enough to fall asleep.
Speaking of clothes, my suitcase never made it to Sudan. In fact, the very first time I saw my suitcase after we departed from Chicago, was at the airport in Uganda on my way back to the U.S. They had it in a huge room with hundreds of other pieces of lost luggage. So, that means I spent 21 days in Africa with only the clothes on my back, and one extra shirt (which ended up with a hole in it so I couldn’t wear it anymore). I did have a backpack with my toiletries, my bible and beef jerky in it (my alternative to ‘goat’), thank You, Jesus.
The awakening was rude but necessary. To discover how many ‘can haves’ became ‘must haves’ over the years. To realize that I need very little, but demand much, want much, take much. Awakened to the gifts of God.To the hungry…every bite is a gift…to the thirsty, any sip To the homeless, any shelter is a gift To the dying, every breath is a gift To the lonely, the discouraged, the beaten down ones…every kind word is a gift To the naked, one set of clothes is a gift. But to the one who has demanded much, wanted much, taken much…very little is a gift.