We were to start off at 5:00am but my friend showed up at 2:00am! The last time we did one of these trips with the students he showed up 1hr 15 minutes late. I’d figured then that the problem had been not having a watch to tell him what time it was…I guess he was determined not to be late this time round.
This was going to be a tour to explore more of the communities in the area and find out what the state of the church was. I prayed that we would get to share the Gospel with people who had never heard it before. We gathered in the mess at 5:00am, had a quick cup of tea then prayed together. Waskei is a village 3-4 hours walk away from our village. A few of my students had suggested I visit this village because there was a work in there that they were involved in helping out with and in this community visitors are greatly treasured. Just my showing up would greatly encourage the brethren.
The only technicality was going to be the fact that we would have to go and come back on the same day…that would be a potential 8hr walk in one day. Sounded like fun, so we made the plans and here we were now, starting off in the dark, all the needed food and water supplies on our backs, silent prayers on our minds.
An hour and a half or so into our journey we came up to a cattle camp. This was a pure treat for me to see. After the harvest season (which is typically the beginning of the dry season) the young men and some women take the cattle away from the village to a location closer to a water source. They stay there for months until the rains come. The young men engage in dances and mock fights with young men from other clans. We approached it just as the sun was rising over the horizon…reed huts surrounded a cluster of cows, smoke rose up from the ash heaps to keep bugs away…it’s a beautiful scene. I convinced the guys to take me around the place and get a closer look. One of my students showed me his pride bull. Pretty impressive animal.
15 minutes and 50 pictures later we got back to our trail. We took a break about 3 hours into our trip for a snack and a rest for our feet.
The journey had provided a good opportunity to reflect on the significance of the work we as a church are doing in South Sudan Will this count in eternity? Or will it count just as another blog post? Is this all about the glory of God or were there other motives behind the critical “why” of this mission? The reflection led to prayer, prayer that God would fulfill His promise to build His Church…prayer that our meager work would be a means to that end…prayer that the Lamb would receive the reward of His sacrifice…and that we would be the means to that end, prayer that God would open up the eyes of those who would hear the good news.
I continue to pray that these men would be greatly burdened with the urgency of the work in this region. I’m not sure they are there yet.
We got back to our trail and in an hour’s time we had arrived. Waskei turned out to be a decent little village right next to the Nile river. It has a population of roughly a thousand ppl. It’s somewhat of a trading post because of it’s proximity to the Nile, which is a major trade “route” in Sudan. However it is not as populated as our village because it floods during the rainy season.
Our men led us to the homestead of one of the elders of the Presbyterian church. From the looks of the place I gathered that he was a well to do dude. He had about four huts in his compound, the compound was fenced, the place was petty clean as were his children, and food was readily available.
We had tried to catch them on radio the two night before without success. This meant that our coming was a total surprise to the church.
Chairs were brought out quickly, tea was brought from the market then chilled sodas…this was overboard as far as hospitality went. They would later offer us lunch which the church elder would serve himself. South Sudan is just coming out of their dry season which means food supplies are in scarcity. For this man to offer to feed five hungry men at a moments notice is a display of extraordinary generosity. I would later learn that he had sent for a goat to be brought from the cattle camp. His intention was to gift me with the goat. We ended up having to leave before the messenger could get back. Pastor John Jok then decided to walk the 4hr walk to our village the next day to personally deliver this goat to me before walking back in the same day! He undoubtedly outdid me in showing honor. He received us in the name of the Lord, we who to him were strangers, who were in reality less than the least of all the saints. His reward will not be lost.
We had a fruitful time in the village that day. Got to share the Gospel with a man who said he had never heard anything about Jesus except that He was the Sin of God, shared with leaders on the administration, then got to speak to a church full of the most adorable kids ever.
God was exceedingly gracious for the return trip. A huge storm was brewing just as we were about to start off but then the wind blew the rain away but left a thick cloud cover and a chilly breeze. This provided shade for us at 3:00pm for the next three hours as we walked back! Without that it would have been very difficult on me. Mini Mars chocolate bars, and the singing students got us back one hour earlier. We met some young men coming from a dance, they were playing around with their spears and throwing dried dung at each other…they also had an american flag hoisted on a stick. I found it very interesting. They were very friendly and were excited to have me take a photograph of them.
It is a pure privilege to get to do this stuff for my Lord.