The flow of human misery into this clinic is unrelenting.  Like a faucet of suffering that’s been turned wide open and the handle broken off, they come each day the clinic is open.

Mothers with young children make up the majority of those who wait in the heat for their turn, but there are others as well.  I walk throughout their midst to go into the clinic and they all look at me hopefully.  I’m a white guy in a medical clinic and they mistake me for someone useful.  So i pray for them, but they rarely understand what I’m doing.  I sat across from a man who was of indeterminate age but his face was weathered and hard.  He had made the four hour journey on foot from his village, carrying his two or three year old son.  His son had malaria, and he lay beside the man, never moving.  There was concern on his face, but only traces.  These are strong, hard people who’ve been forged from a brutal land and shaped by the anguish of war.

I’ve seen some terrible things in the time I’ve been here. Injuries that most ER doctors bak home would see, but here there are no deep pools of technology to draw solutions from, only raw courage and ingenuity…and grace.

The workers here at this mission and clinic are stunning.  Day in and day out, they pour out and pour out help and concern, from stores that can only be from God. There’s no fat paycheck waiting for them at week’s end, only the chance for rest and the promise of a new week of emotional intensity to come.

Last Wednesday was difficult. The midwife here had worked all morning long trying to deliver a baby that wouldn’t seem to move and was showing signs of distress.  The mother was barely in her teens, it’s how they treat women here.  Finally the decision was made to evacuate the mother to the hospital in Wau where an emergency c section could be performed.

Later that night during a bonfire/prayer meeting, word came that the mother was recovering, but the baby had died. The midwife stood up, as though she was going to say something, but just stood there with her eyes closed and palms up.  The pain and frustration of that moment radiated through everyone present; we all sat in reverent silence.  One of the girls who had been leading worship songs began to softly strum her guitar, and quietly began to sing “Blessed be Your Name”. We all joined in, including the midwife.  The only force greater than the oncoming pain and sorrow here is the grace and love that God pours into these workers.  Its like a sea wall of grace that braces against and stops what should be an overwhelming flood of hopelessness. These are remarkable people, and our God is wonderful.

I don’t have the time to detail all the heroics done here…of the 21 year old guy who knows so much from theology to welding, who works tirelessly to keep things running smoothly…of Sabet who moves like an anti-storm, bringing calm and peace to every potential crisis…and on and on.  Know that they’re out here, usually unnoticed but forging ahead and giving of themselves without reserve.

The good that’s done in this mission and clinic is palpable. It’s like a heartbeat in a vast, desolate, lifeless world.  God is at work here and the Kingdom is advancing, changing the world around it.  I hope we’ll continue to pray for the dear, broken people of Sudan and pray for these special souls called to serve them in God’s love.

I Will Carry You in my Heart

Freckled sunlight danced at our feet in the clearing under the konyuk tree. Crude wooden benches stretched out from the clearing, all facing the tree. Arrayed on the benches the occupants of the Lachook leper colony sat and sang at the top of their lungs and clapped in time to a worship song to welcome us, their visitors.

Sabet presented Tom and Dave and I to them.  They liked Dave and Tom’s names, informing us that “Tom” in Dinka means to give someone an injection, so his name was very appropriate.  My name however was foreign and difficult to pronounce and it would have to be rectified.  Sabet asked the colony to give me a name in Dinka.  An old and gentle man, missing most of his toes and fingers, as well as part of his nose, called out “Deng Mallou”.

Sabet nodded and smiled, looked at me and said as if to present me afresh, “Deng Mallou!” to an eruption of clapping and cheering.

“Please tell me it doesn’t mean cow manure or something.”

“Its a very good name, it means a strong rain, it’s a good thing.” Sabet said, smiling between me and the people who bestowed this new moniker on me.

“Deng Mallou!” I said, giving my thumbs up in approval, which was met with a unified shout “Deng Mallou!” from the group.

Then in one of those unexpected moves that make me wish I were a good pastor and always had something brilliant ready to say, Sabet leaned in and asked me to share something with them.

There I stood, looking out at expectant, dirty faces; at human beings dressed in rags and missing digits and dignity.  What could I say to them? I took a deep breath and  asked God to fill my words.

“Thank you for such a warm welcome for my friends and me.  I came a long way to meet you, and I’m so very glad I did. I’ve taken pictures of you with my camera, but I’ve also hidden you in my heart.  You’ll be in my heart when I go back to my home, and to my church, and we’ll be praying for God’s grace for you.
It’s good for us to meet like this, to catch a glimpse of each other while we’re here. If we all belong to Christ, then we’re all family, and we’ll be spending forever with each other.  This is a hard world and we’re very fragile, but one day Jesus will bring us all home and our struggles will be through.  I’ll look for you then, and you look for me, now that we’ve met we won’t be strangers.
Again, thank you for having us, and God’s love be with you.”

After that we distributed bags of sugar and tea to each door of the colony, and having plenty, we went back and gave each room two bags.

Watching through the back window of the Rover as we drove away, i watched a child who wore only a shirt run after us, waving.  I waved back. “I will carry you in my heart, I will take you home with me there.”

I Am So Happy You Are Here

“I was born in a time of war.” the Sudanese representative of Evangelical churches said to my friends and I as we ate dinner at a missionary house in Nairobi.
“I was married during war, my children were born in war. I have only known peace for five years. If the referendum brings war again, I’m not worried, I’m used to it.”

He took another bite of the diner the house had served and smiled. Looking at the a nearest attendant he asked. “This is called what? It is good.”

“The task before the church in Sudan is great. We must monitor elections and speak for those who have no voice. BUT, more importantly we must train the people to understand what is good government. Honest, transparent, protecting the people, so that they don’t fall into the same pit they were in. This is what God wants for all people.”. He looked at us and smiled broadly, his eyes becoming
thin lines of joy. His skin was a glossy ebony and his forehead bore faint scars that betrayed his pastoral youth.

“I am so happy you are here. To come from America to the Sudan, it is a great thing. You would only come here because God told you to come. Why would you leave America when it’s like heaven and come to Sudan…God told you to come, and it makes me so happy to see you.”

Laying in bed staring up at the mosquito netting over my head, trying to puzzle through that encounter. How could three middle class, middle race, middle age guys be a blessing to a man like that?
I kept mulling over his words, “God told you to come and it makes me so happy.”

Then it hit me. If God told us to come to Sudan, it meant that God is aware of the needs in Sudan…that God had not forgotten them…that God cares.

It’s good that we’re here. Dave and Tom and I are getting along. We’ve had a few setbacks in getting all the way to Tonj, but we are here now. It has to be seen and experienced to be fully understood, but it’s amazing. I’m having some trouble getting photos translated to the iPad I’m using…but as soon as I get it figured out, I’ll put some up.
Thanks for your prayers…Saber and Suzy tell you hello!