Monday, October 4, 2010

Reflections on America and recent happenings


The bustling hills of Kampala, Uganda are flickering as I look out from the ‘million dollar view’ Christian run guesthouse I am staying at. It has been a good, full of rest, relaxation, contemplation, and supply securing day. Now I sip on my herbal tea as I reflect on the previous four weeks, recalling my time in the United States as my body still feels the sundry effects of lingering jet lag. I sit content.

Though my holiday in the States went way too fast, as I had assumed it would, I am thankful for many aspects of my venture. I approached this period by dividing it into three categories in my mind before my travels began: 1. Time with family. 2. Wedding and friends. 3. Support raising.

It was a joy to see much of my immediate and extended family. Pinochle playing, late night Settlers of Catan action, coffee drinking, and catching up all occurred in abundance. I particularly found it wonderful to see eight of my nieces and nephews. They are so very sweet, talented, and independent! I miss them already!

As a missionary living in Africa, I am constantly ‘losing’ or ‘giving up’ some things in order to gain others. One thing I sacrifice is being able to see my family as often as I would like. I wish I could be more of a present uncle, instead of an absent name. Credit to my siblings though, for striving to keep me as part of the lives of their family, making sure their children spend ample time with Uncle Scotty when I am home.

The second week of my time in the States brought me to Nashville, TN for the wedding of dear friends Scott and Mariam. Scott has been a long-time friend of mine. A former co-camp counselor and confidant extraordinaire. It was an honor and privilege to stand along side him and Mariam as they joined their lives together.

An unexpected, yet much needed and appreciated, blessing was all the connections that occurred while in Tennessee. Mariam’s great uncle and aunt lived in Khartoum for many years and then later relocated to Juba, Sudan. One of Mariam’s aunts and another cousin also spent time working in Juba. Several of Mariam’s friends and relatives live in Philadelphia and are connected with my former church (New Life) and World Harvest Mission in various ways. Conversations with Scott and Mariam’s families were God-centered and God-glorifying! I even had a conversation with a 75-year old Indian woman about Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. This eclectic lady new her pop music stuff and filled me in with all the latest in American melodies.

I left the wedding refreshed and encouraged, thankful for friends, new and old.

My last week in the states was all about support raising. Sudan has proven to be more expensive than I had originally anticipated, so my support surplus has dwindled fast. It was a joy and challenge, as I had four speaking engagements in four days. I enjoy public speaking and am always thankful when given the chance to speak about things that matter to me.

I had the privilege of speaking at my former high school and middle school to all the students and staff. Though 500 high school and middle school students at first seemed intimidating, it was a pleasure to spend time with them. Many of my former teachers are still there, educating youth with all their vigor.

I spoke briefly about Sudan history and politics, showed pictures of my everyday life, and told stories of three young men from Sudan. I emphasized the importance of goals and dreams, and the power of education and determination. I detailed many of the similarities between youth in Mundri and youth in America, but also spoke of vast differences. I tried to encourage the students to pursue big ideas and bigger dreams.

I grew up in a small farming community where many of the students have never ventured more than a county or two away and probably never will. People are homogenous in appearance, and many times in beliefs. Roughly 50% of graduating students will attend traditional four-year universities, while others will pursue technical colleges or military service, and quite a contingent will enter the workforce as soon as possible. None of these things are bad, but I challenged the students to think beyond themselves, to learn more about the world around them, and to appreciate that they were born into a developed country where guns and bombs are not part of their every day existence.

Later in the week I was invited by the local Nazarene Church to speak at their evening service. It was a joy, as I was given the whole allotment of time to ‘tell my story’ and speak of the work God is doing in Sudan.

Preparing presentations and speaking publicly about my life and the lives of people in Sudan was helpful to me personally. It allowed me to have a voice, expressing who I am and what I do. To try to give explanation of what my life is like, while glorifying God for what he is doing in Sudan, and attempting to tell the stories of men and women whose lives have been so strongly impacted by war, disease, and death, is not always easy for me, but is good for me. Too often I fail to completely process all that I see and experience. Too often I fail to speak on the behalf of others, lending voice to the speechless. Too often I shy away from boldly teaching and preaching about God and Jesus.

I also had the joy of writing cards and sending packages to many of my supporters. Handmade baskets, kitange cloth napkins and table cloths, hibiscus tea from Sudan, and black tea from the Rwenzori mountains of Uganda were only a few of the things given away. It was with great joy that my friend Viza sold me the hibiscus tea in the local Mundri market (she emphatically noted, “I am so happy today!”), that my friend Lexon sold me the cloth to be sewn, with delightfulness that my friend Bakhit diligently sewed away making the napkins and table cloths. A slew of other Sudanese and Ugandan friends were involved in the gift making process, and all of them repeatedly implored me to greet my family and friends in America.

I truly feel that I am not on this adventure alone, but it is through the support and encouragement of others that I am able to do what I do. When my friends, family, churches, and people I don’t even know support me I see it is an ongoing relationship. I like writing out cards to you, though I don’t do it often enough! I like praying for you (though again, I don’t do it often enough). I do show your pictures to my African friends, and I do consider you fellow sojourners as I live and work in Sudan. Thanks for journeying along.

Now, as I sit here thinking of you, my supporters and friends, I am deeply thankful. I wish you could each see the joys I have seen – the smiles, laughter, dancing, singing, and joking of the Sudanese and Ugandan people. I also wish you could see the devastation of war, disease, mal-nutrition, and corruption. I wish I could communicate clearly to you the needs of the people here, but I will always fall short.

But I can communicate to you the need for prayer. Uganda is a country devastated by war, but diligently trying to recover and rebuild. Sudan is a nation riddled with a destructive history of fighting (two million people killed during the last civil war), approaching a very tenuous referendum set for January 9, 2011. The weeks and months leading up to the referendum and the weeks proceeding it are a critical juncture in the history of Sudan. Peace could last or war could return.

Please, JOIN ME IN PRAYER for the people of Sudan, especially those in power. That the bloodshed would cease in the entire country (genocide claims continue in Darfur, western Sudan) and no new fighting would erupt. That a people plagued by a life of continually running from bombs, gunshots, and murderers would instead be marked by stability and growth. That God would be glorified and all would know the peace, joy, and freedom found in Christ.

1 comment:

Maria Payne-Sioux Falls, South Dakota said...

HI Scott I am Maria. Apparently you met my husband Ben and the team from Sioux Falls.Thanks for your hospitality. I know the cold drink of Tang made their day! Blessings on your ministry.