First night. We landed in Juba and after being introduced to several new things about South Sudan, I was settled into the MAF guesthouse. It had been somewhat strange for me to chat with friendly immigration officers at the airport. Friendly immigration officers are not easy to come by anywhere in the world. They had a good grasp of English and one, to my great pleasure even spoke Sheng! For the first time I was in a country where they drive on the right side of the road. I was glad to see tarmac roads in the town, the Chinese were at work here…I can only hope they got for themselves a better deal than most who do business with them.
Two pleasant surprises awaited me at the MAF guesthouse. The first came with meeting the team leader of the MAF team. He turned out to be a former member at EBC, Stephan Haganier. They had resettled to South Sudan late last year. I got to have supper with them, spend some time with their lovely family and replenish my water bottle. This family are a great testimony to the worth of Christ, they chose to move from Nairobi a city with many comforts to Juba, the most expensive city in the world to live in boasting a harsh climate and difficult working conditions. For a young family this is a great sacrifice they willingly chose to make so as to serve their Lord. Their labor is not in vain! Second surprise was that I spent the night in an air-conditioned room. This never happens. My body and mind had to do some major readjustment to get accustomed to this. As soon as I begin my trip from Nairobi I expect nothing below 35 degrees Celsius…I was not complaining though.
The next day started off with some minor drama. The local contact came to get me 50 minutes later than he said he would. When we got to the airport he was besides himself in a totally panicked state. The guards were unwilling to let him in through the gates to go and deliver his cargo to the chartered plane. These guards had received a different version of the “how to treat visitors hand book” from the one their colleagues whom I’d met earlier had obviously read from. After some haggling he was allowed to deliver his cargo. I helped the pilot load up the plane, was totally impressed with the ministry these men engage in so as to make inaccessible places accessible to missionaries and aid workers to make supplies available, things that are not available where they are. It is a one-man crew. The pilot serves as the mechanic, the loader and off-loader, the pilot and co-pilot. After a few minutes the pilot and I lifted off in a small plane full of construction material and medicine.
It was by and large an uneventful flight. This route provided a more picturesque view of Sudan, landscape with some character, some hills, the Nile, beautiful. As usual my right ear did not pop which produced some discomfort for me as we descended. The touch down was soft. I was back. Juaibor.
The door opened, I stepped out of the plane, the crazy heat slapped me in the face, just what I expected, this is Sudan. The usual crowd around the plane had shown up. Hugs and hand shakes from the pastors. It was great to see these men. It was good to be back. The walk with Koang (the CMA facilitator for the pastors training prog.) to the camp revealed some bad news. Several of the men who were supposed to attend the class were not in town. Getting the same men to repeat the course has always been tough. We arrived in the camp, prayed with the pastors for a good two weeks of training and proceeded to lunch. Pilau and goat meat…good stuff. The cargo had contained a deep freezer for the Juaibor team…we have to wait 48 hours before turning it on but I can wait. This trip was off to a comfortable start. A few hours later, three liters of water down, a nagging migraine, a page or two of Treasure Island and I was ready to call it a day. We had had a meeting with Koang on the concerns I had with the men we were training, shared with him some of my thoughts about the way to move forward but did not want to load him up with too much on day one. I really hope that the vision and mission of these men can broaden. That they would own the cause for themselves and risk it all for the King. I wasn’t sure it was happening. Not as far as I could tell anyway.
It was a hot night but I had cotton bed sheets this time so my skin did not itch as it had in previous trips. A nagging migraine woke me up but the painkillers dealt with that in a few minutes and I was back to sleep.