Tag Archives: Sudan

Revisiting The Terrifying Sound Of Silence.

When I write this blog, I always have to be aware that everything I observe is as an outsider. As such, my thoughts on everything African should be treated as suspect, even if the opinions I express are informed. So I take it as a blessing when something I have written in the past is confirmed by an African source, even if I’d rather the subject was not true. That happened this week, as a friend of mine in South Sudan wrote a small piece. His name is Manyang Mayar, and he’s a journalist.

Four years ago, I laid in a hammock in Bor, South Sudan, trying to sleep. I was unable to sleep though, because the noise was keeping me up. I wrote down an observation at that time that has been one of the most commented on since then. This short entry was written as an outsider coming into South Sudan. This week Manyang wrote a piece from the perspective of an insider going out of South Sudan. I’m going to post mine first, then his. I think you’ll find the two perspectives enlightening.

The Terrifying Sound Of Silence.

Just a short post as I sweat here in my hammock. As I lay here in complete darkness, but hearing music in the background, I’m reminded again of an observation made on my first visit and only confirmed since then. The South Sudanese hate silence. They listen to music all night. When they’re in a car they crank the stereo up until it distorts. You can be standing in a group of people having a conversation, and one of them will start blasting a song from their cell phone. It’s as if they think as long as there’s music or noise, things are ok. That bad things only happen during the night, when things are silent and dark, and terrible things come out of the darkness and silence. When it’s dark and silent, that’s when the attacks come, when children and cattle are stolen. It’s when the snakes crawl into your bed for warmth. It’s as if as long as there’s noise, things are alright. It’s like children who are afraid of monsters, only here the monsters are real. There’s been a lot of talk here about insecurity, about the attacks that come from cattle raiders, and the fact that they’re not far away.  70 people were killed here just last week in cattle raids, and people go to bed afraid. And so I think of that as I lay here in my hammock, wishing for silence.

And now Manyang’s article. This was used with permission.

A night out of Juba is worth good meal of hundred years.

First Published in PaanLuel Wel. For those who could not access the site in Juba.

By Manyang David Mayar, Eldoret, Kenya

(SSB 7 January 2018) I just discovered why my fellow South Sudanese who travel outside of the country’s capital return to Juba healthier compared to the time they left Juba.

For the past many years, I have been seeing some South Sudanese leaving Juba to East African Countries in order to spend their holidays. Sometimes others go for training or for studies in Nairobi or Kampala, Addis Ababa or China and other foreign countries. Most of them fly out of Juba International Airport or cross through the Nimule border with a rough skin and wrinkled faces. But when they return, they come back home with smooth skin; looking fresh and healthier than the time they left Juba.

I have been wondering what could it be – the thing that improves people’s health instantly in the foreign countries. I used to think it might be the cold nice weather in those countries that improve their health, or it might be the nice food or perhaps the free public transport that you don’t need to fight for like in Juba. Fortunately, a time came for me to experience the secret myself.

After spending some few nights outside of Juba recently in one of the East African countries, I had a chance to discover the secret of why South Sudanese become healthier when they are out of Juba.

Sleeping in one of the estates in one of the Kenyan towns, I experienced the calm and peace that my soul and spirit had been longing for. Every evening after I take my shower and eat (just the same maize flour and ngete, the same food I eat in Juba), I go to bed and sleep until morning.

There was no time in the night that a sound of bullet from robbers woke me up. I didn’t have to pause my breath at midnight in order to pay attention to some little sounds outside. And when my bladder has accumulated urine, I wake up easily and go to the urinary without any worry at all. And during the past few days that I have been here, I have found that relaxation and peace of mind that I, like most other South Sudanese, don’t really find back home.

In Juba, after taking my shower and have taken my evening meal, I go to bed. I spend many hours paying attention to little sound happening outside. It could be a wind blowing those empty bottles outside, or some of those wild cats and dogs stepping on some metals. But because my subconscious mind is full of stories about how unknown gunmen had raided the other house, I don’t usual catch my sleep and rest easily.

Worse of it all is when my bladder becomes full of urine. When this happens, I usually open my eyes into the dark and throw my ears outside to access the situation. Is there someone moving, could there be someone waiting for me outside? And then my heart will start pumping. Because of those thoughts, I sometimes convince myself that the morning is soon approaching and that I should ignore for just few hours. My bladder would remain hurting until morning.

Some other nights, I carry with me a container to use later at night when urine knocks the door of my bladder. But even though I have a container in the house, you don’t urinate at ease. I first let my ears do the environment check before I make any move in my own house.

This is the life many South Sudanese go through. People in Juba go to bed alive and died through the whole night. And when the daylight breaks, their being alive becomes a reality again. This is the reason they look healthier when they travel outside Juba even if it is just for a week. This is another beauty of peace that we don’t know. That is why some of us are desperately looking for peace.

When we talk about the need for peace, it is not just about stopping war, it is actually about bringing that kind of atmosphere where citizens can sleep at ease in their houses and not worrying about anything at all in their country.

So what is it that make these East African Countries peaceful compared to our country? It is on two simple things: the strong rule of law that crack down the crimes and the hard working citizens who strive to work for themselves.

In my country, the rule of law is weak in combating crimes and people are relying on short cut to get their wealth. Instead of going to the countryside and produce food, majority of unemployed hungry folks remained in the city only to be night robbers. Of course they exploit the chance of the soft rule of law against them. And by doing what they do, they are making most of their fellow citizens especially in Juba get sick each night.

When we choose to embrace peace and hard work, we will experience the very best of our country.

© Manyang_David 2018

Just a quick reminder that if you’d like to read more about my experiences with missions, you can buy my ebook at the following link, as well as at major online sources like Ibooks and Barnes and Noble. The title is “The Missional Life. What I Learned From Engaging in Missions in East Africa.” The proceeds from this book help fund the work I continue to do in Africa.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/704141

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Seeing Africa For The First Time

The first time I saw Africa was not looking out the window as I flew into Nairobi. It wasn’t when I got off the plane in Jomo Kenyatta Airport late in the evening to the cool air and the smell of charcoal smoke. It wasn’t the next morning waking to the cawing of the large ibises that are ubiquitous to Kenya. It wasn’t even the next day when I stepped off the next plane into the suffocating heat of Juba, South Sudan. The first time I saw Africa was several days later.

In the book, “Heart of Darkness”, Joseph Conrad writes of nineteenth century travelers, “Most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them-the ship… In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, and changing  immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance… A casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing.”

I believe this to be the case as much today as it was in 1899. People like the idea of seeing another culture, but would rather do it as one looks at fish in a bowl. This is why cruises are so popular. Go to a new place every day, take the sanitized, expurgated tour designed to solidify preconceptions and stereotypes you came with, and at the end of the day be safely back within the insular confines of familiar comforts.

This is why the first time I saw Africa was several days after I got there. It was when everything familiar was left behind that I really saw Africa, and it was a day I will never forget. It was the day that I realized this was not a one time event, but something that was to become part of me. It was the day it occurred to me (because it hadn’t yet) that I would be back many times.

The day I’m referring to was about my fourth day in South Sudan. We originally had no plans to go where we ended up going, but the pastor we were there to visit arranged for us to go and visit his home village, about a three hour off-road drive from Bor, where we were staying. That day I saw things I never imagined I would see. The cattle herders herding cattle with horns so immense it’s hard to imagine how something could carry something that large. The grass fires rolling across the plains, set by people deliberately to renew the land with fresh grass for the next season. We met the chief of the village of Liliir, a man with three wives, seventeen children, and I’m not sure how many grandchildren. He had been the chief of this village of 60,000 for fifty years, and ruled not with an iron fist, but with wisdom and respect. I met a man who was 110 years old that day, and who could remember when the British colonialists came. His wife was much younger, and when I asked to take her picture, she hurried into her hut to put her best clothes on.  As we traveled back that day, by chance we came across a gathering of two cattle camps. They were there for South Sudan’s favorite sport, wrestling. We asked the driver if we could stop and watch, and the cattle camp got the first foreign audience they had probably ever seen. It was absolutely amazing.  That was the day I became immersed in the culture; where all the familiar was left behind and I was able to experience Africa as part of Africa, and not through the glass. It was a turning point for me, when the foreign became not so foreign, and my worldview changed. It was the reason I write this blog today, and the reason I’m going back to Africa in less than two months.

A cattle herder on the plains of South Sudan
A cattle herder on the plains of South Sudan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chief with one of his children and one of his grandchildren.
The chief with one of his children and one of his grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khalei, 110 years old with his much younger wife.
Khalei, 110 years old with his much younger wife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grassfires near Liliir.
The grassfires near Liliir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children gathered to watch wrestling.
The children gathered to watch wrestling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children starting the grassfires.
Children starting the grassfires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more painful moments during wrestling.
One of the more painful moments during wrestling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestling.
Wrestling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The elders gathered for the meeting with the chief.
The elders gathered for the meeting with the chief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A man in the village cleaning his prized but very old Kalashnikov.
A man in the village cleaning his prized but very old Kalashnikov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beautiful woman with tribal scarification.
A beautiful woman with tribal scarification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turd That Hopped.

I was in Juba, South Sudan. Juba can be called Africa’s equivalent of a wild-west town. It’s pretty rough. People come there hoping for a better life, but with that comes a lot of crime and violence. Very few of the roads are paved, and no grass grows in the dry dirt, especially in February, when there’s no rain and the temperature hovers around 42 degrees celsius during the day. There’s no electricity, no central water, and no sanitation. The last part of that is the start of my story.

If you’ve ever been to Africa, you’re familiar with the squatty-potty. Essentially you have an elongated hole in the floor that drops to a pit; hopefully a deep one. Since there is no running water, after you do your business, you walk outside and fill a bucket with water that comes from a water tank that gets filled periodically with water trucked in from the Nile. It’s no good for drinking, but it’ll do for flushing.

One night we were staying in the compound in Juba. It was the middle of the night, so the generator had already been shut off, and the only light came from a headlamp, if you had one. A friend of mine got up to use the bathroom. As he entered the stall for the squatty, his headlamp landed on a pile of unmentionable on the floor of the bathroom. He was a bit annoyed that someone would have the lack of decency necessary to miss the hole completely and leave it there for the next person. What you have to realize is that this friend is in his sixties, with eyes in their sixties to go along.  As he went to kick the unmentionable into the hole with his shoe, the turd hopped toward him.  I heard a yell, and immediately suspected what actually happened. One of the large frogs that like to use the bathroom to stay out of the blazing heat had made its acquaintance with my friend.

For other antics of South Sudan’s frogs, check the blog post, https://southsudantraveler.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/check-your-shoes/

The hopping turd.
The hopping turd.

Oh, Sorry. Don’t Use That Religion. It’s Just For Looks.

I’ve been pondering this blog for about a week now, and I’m glad I pondered for a while and didn’t write, because an article came to my attention during that time that drove a lot of my point home. The article appeared on slate.com, and was titled, I kid you not, “In Medicine We Trust, Should We Worry That So Many of the Doctors Treating Ebola In Africa Are Missionaries?”  I’m putting a link to it here, for those who care to read it, and it is an interesting read.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/10/missionary_doctors_treating_ebola_in_africa_why_people_are_suspicious_of.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top

My purpose in this blog is not to harp on the opinions of Atheists. I frankly have no right to do that, since I would be out of line in thinking that Atheists should act or think like anything except Atheists.  Rather, my purpose in bringing up the article is to bring clarity to the way Atheists think, and why they think it.  The author of the article, in his words, is a bit uncomfortable with the above situation, namely that it is almost exclusively Christian missionary doctors who are on the ground treating those with ebola. Which begs the question, “Why would anyone be uncomfortable with that?”  The author gives a number of reasons, and I think he’s very thoughtful about it.  But I think only an outsider looking in can cut to the heart of the reason why he’s uncomfortable.  In order to be an Atheist, he has to, and has, convinced himself that there is no value in religion.  The fact that these people, (as he puts it), who don’t profit personally from their work, and risk their lives to help others, proves that his previous premise is wrong, and therefore, causes dissonance in his worldview.

A pastor in South Sudan, broken in spirit as he prays that the man he professes to be would be the man others see.
A pastor in South Sudan, broken in spirit as he prays that the man he professes to be would be the man others see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve seen the same thing in my travels. The more dangerous the place, the more likely it is that it’s Christians who are there helping. By the time you get to South Sudan, whether the organization you are working with is officially Christian or secular, the people working there to help others are almost as a rule Christian. Now I’m not saying Atheists don’t like to help others, but the fact is that very few of them are willing to risk their lives to help others, being that what happens to them if they get killed is at the very least, uncertain.

Again, though. This is not about Atheists. This blog is about Christians, specifically Christians who’s actions are so like Christ that they would cause an Atheist to question his worldview.  Let’s flash over to the west,  America specifically and myself included, where it literally costs us nothing to be a Christian. The attitudes I’ve seen in this country, even from those professing to be Christians is sometimes truly staggering.  Attitudes like, “They have no business going over there. If they get ebola, they’re getting what they deserve.”  I’m not joking. I honestly can’t understand the thought process, except to say that for every person willing to do something, there’s another person who’s willing to do nothing except pee on the first person’s shoe.

Let’s see what Jesus had to say about this in Matthew 25.  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  And you people had no business doing that, and if you got ebola, you got what you deserved.”  Of course that’s not how the ending goes, any more than the following.  “Then He will say on His left,  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. In fact, you didn’t do anything I asked of you. You took my free gift of salvation, then looked out for number one, and number one wasn’t Me. Great is your reward in Heaven.”  If I heard that, I would have to assume I was being mocked.  But that is how we often act, if not so explicitly.  We go to churches that require nothing of us, and so that is what we give. We chase after consumerism and self, addictions, pleasure, and convince ourselves that we’re not bad people. And no, maybe we’re not bad people, but maybe also we don’t look enough like Christ to make an Atheist question his worldview. I hear people say that their faith is a private thing.  If we follow Christ and our life looks like His, then how can it possibly be a private thing? Now we can say we’re saved not by works but by faith all day, but the fact is that if that salvation means anything at all, there should be some resemblance between us and Christ.  Maybe if we stopped thinking about ourselves and all our stuff, we wouldn’t live in such fear as a society. You can’t fear losing what you’ve already given up, and that goes double for your life. The book of James says, “True religion that God our Father accepts is this, to look after widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep yourself from being polluted by the world.” Is this our religion, or is our religion a bowl of waxed fruit, or a couch you can’t sit on?  Is our religion just a pretty (so we tell ourselves) thing, but others know that it’s a useless thing that collects dust, and everyone knows that it’s fake?

Now before you say that I’m saying everybody should go and be a missionary to ebola patients in Liberia, I’m not. Not everyone is called to do that, but everyone is called to do something. Our mission field may not be Liberia or South Sudan or Afghanistan. It might be the single mom down the street or the prisoner in the local jail. When God called Moses, he made all kinds of excuses for why he couldn’t do anything. “I stutter. I’m just a shepherd.” Etc. etc. etc.  God said to Moses, “What do you have in your hand?” “A staff”, Moses replied. God told him to throw it on the ground and it became a snake.  God told him to pick it up again and it again became a staff.  I would challenge each person to ask themselves, “What is in your hand?”  What skills and talents do you have? Even if we’re just holding a stick, God can use it if we’re willing.  What gifts has God given us that we aren’t using?  Why aren’t we using it?  It’s time to put the excuses away and start living the life that Christ called us to. He has called us to a triumphant life in Him, and not a life of fear. I pray that He will forgive me for failing in this, and I know He will. But I on the other hand will pledge to daily give Him less reason to have to forgive me.

To close this, I’d like to quote Emperor Julian, the fourth century Roman emperor, who in writing to one of the pagan priests said the following.  “Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans (Christians) devote themselves to works of charity . . . These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape . . .” Julian’s dying words were, “You have won, Galilean.”

 

Praying That The Truck Stalls.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b

Prayer has been on mind mind today, in particular in regards to some of the situations I’ve been in when traveling in South Sudan. One particular instance comes to mind. I was traveling in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser with two other missionaries and several natives, going from the town of Bor to a village about three hours north called Liliir. The seasonal rains had run long that year, and there were huge sections of road that were virtually impassible. When I say virtually impassible, what I mean is that some vehicles made it, and some did not. We passed many vehicles that were stuck deeper than the wheels in mud, and were being unloaded to take the weight off so hopefully they could be moved. I remember one that had its rear axle sitting behind it, and was clearly not going to be going anywhere. I have a picture I took of one of those vehicles as we passed.

Toyota being unloaded to try to get it out of the mud, South Sudan.
Toyota being unloaded to try to get it out of the mud, South Sudan.

 

So now, knowing the situation, you would think that our driver would take the utmost care to avoid those kinds of situations on the way back from the village that evening. You would think wrong. He apparently had a terminal case of denial, and as we came to this very spot where only six hours before we had seen the above vehicle stuck, he decided to go through that very same spot rather than go the route we knew was safe. The thing about traveling in South Sudan is that you really don’t want to be doing it at night, and getting stuck would have put us in that situation.  Just for reference, since I’m unable to get the travel warning we were under at the time, I’m just posting the current one from the Dept. of State. ”

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to the Republic of South Sudan.  After review of our security conditions, the U.S. Department of State lifted the ordered departure status for the U.S. Embassy in Juba on June 12, 2014.  However, as a result of continued instability and a poor security situation resulting from the civil conflict which erupted in the country in December 2013, the U.S. Embassy will continue operating at reduced staffing levels for the foreseeable future.  The U.S. Embassy is therefore only able to offer very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the Republic of South Sudan.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on April 23, 2014.”

So you can see now why we wouldn’t want to be stuck out at night with no way to get back.  Despite our loud objections, our driver tried to put the vehicle into four wheel drive low, and descend into the muck. What he didn’t know, though, was that we had a team of people praying for us back home.

As our driver tried to put the vehicle into four wheel low, the engine stalled. He started it back up, tried to put it back into four wheel low, and stalled it again. This happened three or four times. Finally, he gave up, backed up the vehicle, and drove to the route we had come through that morning. As he got to the crossing, he dropped the vehicle into four wheel low gear with no trouble and no stalling, and crossed easily.

It’s situations like this that make you realize the difference between tourism and missions. It’s not the place you are going that makes the difference, it’s the spiritual currents that are running just below the surface. Is what you’re doing moving things in the spiritual realm? If they are, you are going to face opposition, and this is why those who are still at home in prayer are just as important if not more so than those who actually go. I will probably go into other situations where this was very apparent at a later time.  For now though, the subject of prayer is forefront on my mind as some of my friends are currently on their way to Kenya, some of them for the first time. Also, in the next three months, I’ll be going to Kenya as well, and then to Ethiopia. More on that later.

The Man Who Doesn’t Exist

Yesterday was an election here. The idea of elections in general got me thinking. Every time a new round of candidates comes around, the question always comes up, “is he or she electable?”  What exactly does that mean? More often than not, it means, “is this person likely to offend the public in some manner?” Inevitably, this “electable” person ends up on the ballot, and more often than not, this person loses. Why?

The answer is incredibly simple. A person who stand for something; a person who stands for ANYTHING, is going to eventually offend someone. A person who stands for nothing and therefore offends no one is by nature and definition not a leader, and not worth following. A leader who offends no one is therefore a person that in fact does not exist.

Nevertheless, I’m not writing about politics. That’s not what this blog is about. I’m writing about missions, and I’m writing about Africa. Our culture in recent years has held not being offensive as a virtue. Being offensive is not in itself a virtue, as there are all kinds of reasons one might be offensive.  On the other hand, I would argue that not being offensive is a vice.  If you are not offending someone, it means that you’re doing nothing. We’ve become a culture where armchair moral authorities do nothing to make the world better, but feel good about a hashtag they put out to “bring our girls back”, in reference to the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. Let me tell you what a hashtag is. A hashtag is a way that people who do nothing, express their displeasure about something and hope someone else will do something about it. They haven’t offended anyone, but they also haven’t made the world a better place either. I’m digressing though.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine a while back. He said something along the lines of, “You don’t honestly think anyone will attack you if you’re there (South Sudan) helping people, do you?”  Now if you go off what you were taught in grade school, that if you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you, then that statement makes sense. If it were true, then it would be possible to stand for something and not offend anyone. Unfortunately, what I was taught in school is profoundly false. The world is simple, but people are complex. If I help someone, there are any number of reasons why someone won’t like it. People have enemies. Help someone, and their enemy puts a target on you. If you help one tribe, another will oppose you. Some people don’t want to be helped because it hurts their own pride for the situation they’re in. Some people are going to hate you simply because you’re white, and you look a lot like the British or Turkish or Arab former colonizers. People may oppose you because they’re there to help also, and think they have a corner on the market. There are so many reasons. If there was no such thing as pride, or jealousy, or fear, then the grade school advice would work much better. But the fact is that they do exist. South Sudan is second only to Afghanistan in violence against aid workers.

In Romans 12:18, the Apostle Paul writes, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”  The major caveat at the beginning expresses this fact, that no matter what you do, you will face opposition. The point is that one should not look to offend, but realize that if you take a stand it’s going to happen. So if you offend someone, pray about it and try to understand why they might be offended. There’s a good chance it’s because you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

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Trying to explain South Sudan

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In the movie “The Matrix”, Morpheus tells Neo, “No one can be told what the matrix is.”  The same can be said for South Sudan. When I tell people where I do missions there, I get one of two responses. The first response is a cringe followed by, “Wow, rough place!”  They’ve seen the BBC stories about civil war, starvation, tribal warfare, etc.  The second response I get is, “Did you bring your wife and kids along?”  They know nothing about South Sudan at all. Neither is really a correct assessment of what South Sudan is like.

Even as I go to write this, I’m tempted to try to explain what South Sudan is really like, but I know that I can’t do it myself.  There are unfortunately too many preconceptions and paradigms that Americans have about the way they think life is and about what’s important, and any explanation goes through those filters first. There was a show a while back called “Meet the Tribe”, where five men from Vanuatu come to America and stay with families for a while to see what American life is like. When they got to California I can honestly say I was embarrassed for our culture. Between the in-house botox parties and the many luxuries that are seen as needs, I was made aware of just how hard it is for many Americans to comprehend what life is like for most of the world. Fortunately, I took a lot of video footage the last couple trips I made. I was lucky enough to be in on a conversation that really put a lot of things into perspective, and explain a lot about why South Sudan is the way it is. It is also a great explanation to those people who ask, “Why do you go all the way over there to do missions when there is so much to do here.”  It’s all in understanding what need is.  So check this video out. It was shot this last November, about 30 days before the town we were staying in was destroyed over things that are talked about in the video. Hopefully it will bring some understanding.

 

The Soul of South Sudan

My last several posts have all dealt with war and struggle and difficulty. Today I’d just like to show why I love South Sudan. I’m just going to show it through pictures, and let them speak for themselves. These were all taken between 2010 and 2013, and I’m richer for having been there. It’s easy to make generalizations about a nation or a people until you look into their eyes. So here they are, the eyes and soul of the people of South Sudan.blog-7507blog-0774blog-9965blog-9527blog-8165blog-8085blog-8016blog-7770

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A Further Update To The Fighting In South Sudan

It’s been over a week since I last updated this blog, not because there was not something to write, but because it was just too difficult to write it. I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but the situation has further deteriorated since then.  Only now when there is a glimmer of hope can I write about it. We have heard stories of incredible escape, but also tragic, personal, heartbreaking stories. The latter I may tell when there is some emotional distance, but perhaps never.

Last time I wrote, our friends were hiding in the bush as the town of Bor was overrun by Nuer rebels known as the White Army, named because of the ashes they cover their skin with to protect from insects. They are not much more than armed children and youths, but deadly nonetheless.  Our friends were able to return to Bor after about a week, after SPLA forces forced the rebels out. One of our friends escaped harm in the bush, only to return to Bor and get shot in the arm by a random bullet. Fortunately he will be alright. Another was caught by rebels and told to sit down. Had he complied they certainly would have shot him. As he put it, “I decided to make my own decisions. I ran. They shot at me, but God said no to the bullets.”

Since then, the SPLA pulled out of Bor, for two reasons as far as I can tell from what I’ve been told. The first is because the town of Bor was full of unburied bodies, and the risk of disease was a concern. The second and I’m sure the larger reason was that 25,000 Nuer rebels gathered to the east to try to retake the town of Bor, which they subsequently did.

So for our friends the situation became even more difficult. Their trip back to Bor was largely fruitless, since the entire market and the hotels were looted, and much of the town was burned. As the threat of a further assault built, thousands gathered at the Nile to cross  to safety in a place you can’t even google. A number of children drowned in the crossing, and many more died from dysentery from drinking the Nile water, which was the only water available. Thank God, though, it sounds like most of the people made it across.

From there the people of Bor were able to flee to Juba, where the fighting was not as fierce, though it’s still going on.  As a footnote, I’ve been to Juba probably ten times, and there’s never been a moment there when I didn’t feel like I’ve had to constantly look over my shoulder. So to flee to Juba, you know it’s bad.

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Refugees coming into Juba in the back of a flatbed truck.

At this moment, it look as if there is another assault imminent on the town of Bor from SPLA forces. The talk is that Riek Machar is trying to hold onto the town of Bor so he will have a bargaining chip during peace talks. It’s a tragedy that our friends are the bargaining chip he is using in his bid for power.  Please pray for our friends, and the people of Bor and the church there as this atrocity continues. Pray for a real peace, for the safety of our brothers and sisters, and that Northern Sudan doesn’t use this as an excuse to try to take back their former territory.

Civil War in South Sudan (again), and Facebook.

This is an incredibly hard post for me to write today. I was greeted with the wrenching news a few days ago that civil war has started again in South Sudan, and ground zero for it is where our friends are in Bor. The initial indications are that the vice president, (a Nuer), who was dismissed by the president (a Dinka) back in July, has begun to air his grievance against the president with an uprising. During this uprising, the town of Bor was taken by Nuer rebels. Bor is where most of our friends are in South Sudan. If any of my South Sudanese friends have more accurate information than this, please feel free to post.

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Now, with that short background, we are praying for them with a lot of nail-biting. This is the first time that war has affected me in such a personal way. People talk about the fact that only in the past thirty years or so have people been able to find out almost immediately via news what is going on in a foreign war. But previously it was still hard to see it as real , because the disseminator of news was always a news agency, and it was still a bit impersonal. You could always tell yourself that whoever it is that you knew might not have been wherever the bad news was happening.

Facebook changed all that. No we know within hours or even minutes what is going on with people who aren’t just acquaintances, they’re friends. And we can’t tell ourselves that they’re not involved or suffering, because these are personal statements being put on Facebook, coming right from their own experiences.

On one hand it tells me specifically how to pray for them, but on the other hand it breaks my heart to see what they’re going through.  We have a very hard time in the United States relating to what’s going on in a country many of us have never heard of, so I’m going to post some of their own statements (with no names on other personal info), to make this more real.

“All the displaced people of Bor Town are in the UN compound, but the open air will not be enough for the gunshot victims.”

“Gunshots have started now, at 4 AM.”

“Bor town is scare by gunshot at block 4 this evening.they were trying to be the part of what is happening in Juba. i don’t know how is gonna be tonight oh God !!!!!!! guard the live of these innocent civilians who are the suffer of this nonsense war.”

“Keep your battery charged.  I was told by a source that commandos together with tanks were on the way to try to retake the Town of Bor. Whatsup with Bor and the rescue mission? Do u hear sounds of artillery fire from ur hide out or it’s calm in town? The Army sent ystrday is really enough to push them out. God be with you.  XXXX refused to leave the house n she said if they wanna kill her, no problem! I am dead here man.”

“Hi! Freinds. I am fine with people in the bush on our third day sleeping in the cold. Thanks for your prayers.”

“Using computer power to charge phones in the bush, the only last chance for phones to stay on.”

“For those looking relatives, stay calm, all hiding are calm yesterday and today. I can still hear sound of heavy machine guns from Bor town. I don’t have an idea of what is happening there.”

Folks, it just got a lot more real. Please pray for these people caught in the crossfire.