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 3
The final days of my trip to Sudan were spent in Bor, the birthplace of the second Sudanese civil war. We were there to host a retreat for church leaders and the local church. We stayed at the church “compound”, made up of numerous huts.
My first sights of the compound can really only be described through the pictures.
The women looked so tired, and they were very shy. But they served us so graciously, and when we were leaving, they seemed genuinely sad to see us go, and kept thanking us for coming.
We were there for two days. The first day started with everyone gathering in the church for worship, and then the teaching we had prepared to encourage them.
Yes, it was hot inside the church, but not as bad as you would think.
The look on this woman’s face says so much to me. Life is hard for her, and she has endured much. It is etched into her. One of the most difficult things for me to realize was that, though they are part of the Body of Christ, they rarely received encouragement from the rest of the Body.
And I thought of how accessible it is to me. How much I take for granted the fact that at any given time I can go to my computer and have dozens of people praying for me if need be. How much encouragement I receive just from the Christians in social media. I thought of how I never feel alone, or forgotten by the rest of the Body of Christ. But they do. They told us more than once that it meant so much to them to have us come because it let them know someone else cared about them, that they had not been completely forgotten.
The worship has to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. I did not understand their songs, but I knew Who they were singing about, Who they were worshiping.
It was beautiful to watch, beautiful to be a part of these brothers and sisters as they bowed before God.
On the second day, after the teachings, we all went outside. The temperature that day was 103 degrees (F). For three hours we all stood outside, taking communion together and praying. What were we praying? That God would forgive the bloodshed of war, and heal their nation. They felt it was time to take back the land for the purposes of God. The civil war that began right there in Bor, lasted 22 years and cost the lives of millions of people, and displaced millions more.
But they loved their country, just like I love mine. And this confronts my pride head on. Because I, like the majority of Americans, have believed my country to be the greatest on earth. In my own arrogant patriotism, I believed that, if given the chance, anyone would want to live here. But on that day, I witnessed a people who didn’t want to live somewhere else. They loved their country, and they wanted to see it healed. I saw men and women spend three hours in prayer, intense prayer, in intense heat, because they believed God could redeem their nation. I saw them weep in the dirt over the sins of war and the lives that had been lost. I saw them do the only thing they knew to do for a nation that had been ravaged, both physically and spiritually. They fervently prayed. I want to be like them when I grow up.
That night, we all sat around a fire. Well, our team sat around a fire with the men of the church. The women stayed with the children. At some point, I saw them preparing mats outside, and then they, the women and children, all laid down to go to sleep.
But before that, we had an impromptu worship service, as all of a sudden one of the men began clapping and singing, and soon others had joined in. It was a joyous sound and soon they were dancing and laughing and singing praises. I remember sitting there watching and listening and thanking God for this gift. It was beautiful.
The next day, we began the long journey home. Back to Uganda, then to England, and finally landing in Chicago. The very next day I was driving to Kansas to my mother’s funeral.
Putting this trip into words and photos has been good, as I let God speak what He wanted to speak to me through my memories. It has also been sad, as I look at some of the faces and remember their painful stories. But mostly, it has reminded me that God’s world is big and I am small and He is the same on one side of the earth as He is on the other. His Spirit is at work in His people, and in the nations and right here in me.