Lists. Piles. Trash.
More lists, piles, and trash.
In some ways I feel like I am dying, or at least what I perceive part of the slowly dying process might be, as I make lists of things to do before I leave, stack piles of give away stuff, write letters to people I may never see again, and throw into the trash anything I don’t plan on giving away and can’t take with me. Oh, and I am preparing for my final prayers as they say here – my final thanksgiving-farewell-prayer-celebration-of-sorts. I even plan on killing a cow. Maybe two. Not as a sacrifice, but as a means of feeding the hundreds of people I’ll be inviting to the celebration.
I spent my first four months back in South Sudan this year cleaning up messes, throwing things away, and organizing others things. And almost none of it was mine. I don’ particularly enjoy that kind of work, and I don’t want to burden others with it, so I am determined to clean up all of my stuff and take care of as much of my business as I can well before I leave South Sudan. Luckily my house is small, only two rooms, so not too much extra stuff has accumulated over the years.
There will no doubt be some unfinished items before my departure arrives, but I’m trying to minimize them now. I want to spend my last few weeks here visiting local people as much as time and energy allow, so I anything I can do now to make that happen later is my goal. My departure date from South Sudan is January 6. I’ll be in Uganda for a few days, and then arrive in Dayton, Ohio on January 13.
Earlier this week sickness laid me low and confined me to my house, so I went on a cleaning/sorting rampage. A pile of things to give way (big pile). A pile of things to burn (medium pile). A pile of things to take back to the USA (very small pile). I was feeling good in the Zen of my task-oriented mind at the moment, trying not to hold onto to too much stuff I’ve amassed over the years, but rather praying that God would help me hold onto memories. And then in walked Kaya.
John Kaya is the South Sudanese boy, well really more like young, tall man, that I have been living with for over two years. He is like a younger brother/friend/roommate/son-all-wrapped-up-into-one to me. He had just returned from school and was in his normal jovial mood. After several minutes of watching me run around and enlarge all my piles, his mood slowly changed. He was quite. Contemplative. He’s been this way more than usual lately.
I asked him what he was thinking about. His reply, “Seeing you clean up all your stuff and sort out things to give away makes it seem like you are leaving tomorrow and not in two months. I’m just sad when I think about you leaving.”
I’m not exactly sure how to help Kaya and other South Sudanese friends process my leaving. I’m not exactly sure how to process my leaving either. That’s what makes all this goodbye stuff so hard. Perhaps though, I am lucky in that it is hard to say goodbye. I’ve seen and heard of others in similar situations in which they were absolutely ready to leave. They may not have expressed it that way, but you could tell they were eager to leave one foreign culture and head back to biological family and culturally similar friends. They were more than ready to go. And that is not a bad thing, as it likely speaks of their deep love of their families. Perhaps it speaks more of me than it does of them, in that I am more eager to stay here than I am to return to the USA. Maybe I am clinging too much, or maybe I just think life is seemingly more unstable here in South Sudan, and I will likely be leaving while South Sudan is still in the midst of war, and I am not sure what all that will mean for my friends here. Regardless of my feelings one way or another, I consider it a blessed thing to have crossed cultures, and seas, and languages in an effort to have made friends here. And not just casual acquaintances that I call friends, but people that know me well, people that know of my hardships, people that I have offended and subsequently apologized to, people that have allowed me to enter into their lives and walk amongst them amidst their joys and struggles. And for that I am honored and overjoyed.
So as I continue to navigate these murky waters over the next few weeks, I pray the Lord will fill me with grace upon grace. I pray for many moments spent with friends, listening, talking, laughing, and sharing life. I pray the task-oriented side of my personality is not overly dominant, as it tends to be in times of great transition, and my love of relationships will grant me the favor and mercy to let some things go that I am not able to accomplish or finish before I leave. I long to be present, in the moment, each moment.