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Expat wanderer

Manyang: Our Friend in South Sudan

God willing, in life, people cross paths and share their stories. I told you about Manyang, how he visited us near Christmas in 2012 and how his story changed our lives. Now, when we hear stories of the South Sudan, it is immediate, it is real, because we know the story of a young boy grown to be a very fine man, who survived the chaos and horrors of the janjaweed invasions and tribal conflicts before his country attained nationhood.

I recently wrote to Manyang, hoping he is still alive. It was that basic. I asked him, if he could, just to let us know he was alive, and that whether he could respond or not, our prayers were with him, for him, his family and his country.

This morning, by the grace of God, I received this wonderful response. Please, join your prayers with ours for Manyang/David, and his country, South Sudan, for peace, safety and prosperity, for justice and equitable distribution of resources.

I am glad to hear from you again. I have been talking of the nice people I was able to meet in Pensacola. Whenever, I talk about these people you are the first people I talk about. I still remember the nice dinner we had in your house.

I think God touched you to worry about my safety. You might have heard from news report the critical condition my country – South Sudan is going through. It is just like the story of my childhood to many other children now.

A political row in the ruling party here, turned violent in Juba, the capital of this country on December 15, 2013. Heavy artillary were fired and sporadic gunfire broke out in most part of the city. it was a genesis of another war which is now going on. Thousands of people were killed only in Juba.

I was in Bor, the captal of Jonglei State, about 125 miles north of Juba. The violent in Juba quickly spread to us in Bor and I was forced to flee to the bush with my family and the rest of the civil population as the town was quickly seized by anti-government forces. I carried my back on my head, walk long distant and drink dirty water again and eat grains when I was in the bush for seven days.

(This is a screenshot from Google Maps; Bor is the “A” north of Juba)

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(These are photos from Manyang’s BBC blog, referenced below. Please go there to read more in his own words about the terrors of the South Sudan chaos.)

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The government forces recaptured the town and we returned to the town. Many more people were killed and bodies were lying everywhere and there was a terrible smell. The rebels killed everyone they found in the town including old women, lame, deaf and all vulnerable people. And I was wounded in the upper left arm by a stray bullet of soldiers celebrating. The wound has healed and I am fine now.

It did not take long for the rebel to recaptured the town of goverment forces for a second time. And I was force to flee, this time cross the River Nile by boat to a makeshift camp across the river. This was where I got an access to go to Juba which was abit calm at the time. I am now in Juba staying in fear, not knowing where else to go.

God was speaking to you those conditions I was in in December and part of January. We spent Christmas and New Year Day on the run. I am glad for your prayers were able to lead me out of that mess. I still have hope that your prayers will continue to press political leaders to reach a peaceful solution to this crisis.

I have a live blog where I am sharing my bush experiences. You may have a look.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmediaaction/posts/Pens-down-in-South-Sudan

Share my message with the rest of the great people of Pensacola. My heart is always there with you.

Blessings

Manyang

January 16, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Safety, South Sudan, Sudan, Survival | , , , | 1 Comment

Where is Enugu, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Enugu, in Nigeria:

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As you pray for the well-being of Enugu, would you also pray for all those places where religion is a cause for strife? Syria, northern Nigeria, the newest country in the world, South Sudan? To me, it is just heartbreaking that those who should be living in peace, working together, are in armed bloody conflict against one another.

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , | Leave a comment

Doubt and Faith

I have fellow students who consider doubt “double-mindedness” and yet today, we have the Feast Day of Saint Thomas, the Apostle who doubted that Jesus had risen until he could touch his wound. His reaction – “My Lord and My God!” is the reaction of a searcher.

Doubt doesn’t imply lack of belief; doubt is hope that looks for evidence. A doubter is a person who is seeking; my greater concern is those who treat their beliefs with complacency – lacking self-examination – or the worst, indifference.

Jesus chose those who will follow him specifically. He chose St. Thomas for a reason, knowing how deeply skepticism runs in our hearts, and knowing there is no belief so deep as that of one who has sought and found.

SATURDAY, December 21 Saint Thomas the Apostle Ember Day

John 20:28. Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Today the church remembers Saint Thomas, often called Doubting Thomas. It seems to me he has gotten a bad reputation for doing something that I actually admire. Thomas had questions—and he dared to ask them. If I were creating his nickname, I’d call him “Good Question Thomas.” Doubt is the companion of faith, and it’s time for doubt to come out from under the carpet.

You see, I think every thoughtful Christian has moments of wondering about faith or God’s place in our lives. Alas, we too often keep quiet about our uncertainties, suffering with them alone. But there is great value to sharing our questions and our struggles. When that happens, a community can share them together and inspire one another. Every time I have shared a doubt or question with another, it has been a blessing.

When we raise our questions with sincerity, we are opening ourselves for God to enter our minds. Like Thomas, we might move past doubt to a place of confident faith. “My Lord and my God!”

Today the church prays for the diocese of Yirol, in the South Sudan:

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December 21, 2013 Posted by | Faith, Lectionary Readings, Sudan | , , | Leave a comment

Where is the Diocese of Yei, Central Equatoria, Sudán do Sur – South Sudan?

We don’t always see the timeliness of our prayers, but as we pray for Yei, in the South Sudan, we pray with increased vigor, as the country faces unrest and internal turbulence.

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We pray for our friend David, and all the people of South Sudan who have suffered so much for so long. The Lord has blessed them with oil, let them use their resources wisely, for the greater good, and may they enjoy the wealth of their nation in peace with one another.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Sudan | , | Leave a comment

Where is Terekeka, South Sudan?

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Today the church prays for the diocese of Terekeka, in the South Sudan. I have never heard of Terekeka – have you?

When I looked for it on Google Maps, it didn’t have any information. When I went to The South Sudan and then googled Terekeka, it came up with a reference, and I had to go to this website to find it – they had a map.

The organization who put up the map, Harvesters Reaching Nations, has two locations in the southernmost part of South Sudan, the newest nation on earth. They are building hospitals, and taking in orphans. If I hadn’t gone looking, I would never have heard of the good works they are doing, saving lives, changing lives.

This is what they say:

We currently serve more than 190 orphans in two locations in South Sudan – Yei and Terekeka. Our school in Yei provides a Christian education to more than 500 students. In addition to our school-age orphans, more than 400 children from surrounding villages attend our school.

The Harvesters campus in Yei consists of 90 acres of land donated by the South Sudan government. Since our beginning in 2001, we have built homes, dorms, classrooms and other facilities within a fenced-in campus. We use the land we own beyond the fencing for planting and growing corn, tomatoes and other vegetables for use in the orphanage.

Harvesters’ campus in Terekeka, South Sudan opened in 2010. At this campus, we currently provide care for 44 orphans, but will grow to 80 in the near future. We have built homes, dorms and a clinic within a five acre, fenced-in campus. Additional facilities, including a church and school classrooms, will be built in the near future as the needs and resources dictate.

To do this, they sold everything they owned, and moved to the South Sudan, and used the proceeds from selling everything to build the hospitals and schools. I bet they are the happiest they have ever been, and the most thoroughly engaged in life they have ever been.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Values | , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Kindness to Change Lives

This week AdventureMan and I have been blessed, greatly blessed. We have met some wonderful people and heard some amazing things. Two stories in particular have shaken the earth for me.

“How It Happened for Me”

The first story is about a friend we met from the newest country on earth, South Sudan. A group of us were sitting together when one woman turned to this man from the South Sudan and asked “How did you find Jesus?”

This was not a religious gathering, so it is an unusual question on a social evening. But this quiet, modest man responded “I will tell you. It is a long story. It starts when I was only five months, not a baby, five months in my mother’s womb.”

He told us of a life with no security. His parents and family fled to the forest, and were on the run continually most of his life – until recently. He told of a life trying to find safe places, sometimes being separated from his parents.

He told of a priest who, when he and his brothers and sisters were very young, taught them to say “God bless Mother and God bless Father and God bless my brothers and sisters and watch over us always.” He was kind to the children, and taught them that God loves them, that God is kind. He said they did not know who this God was, but he and his brothers and sisters said this prayer every night, to keep his family safe. He said they learned other simple prayers. There would be rare times when someone would teach them a letter, or some numbers, drawing in the sand, or the floor of the forest, simple, quick lessons.

“So I don’t know all the stories you do,” he said. “I don’t even know the bible very well, we never had educated priests, just simple men who taught us simple prayers. Only later did we become more educated.”

As we listened, we had huge lumps in our throats. I could hear Jesus’ voice saying that we must believe as little children, and this man had the pure simple faith of a child, a memory from his earliest years, as he prayed for his family to be safe in a world where life was continual chaos and a struggle to survive.

“When I understood about God,” he went on, “there wasn’t even a church or a pastor-man who could baptize me; I had to believe for many years before I could become a Christian.”

As a footnote, he told us that somehow, most of his village managed to survive, helping one another. His entire family made it through, his parents are still alive. The village children little by little gained education, becoming doctors, lawyers, professionals of all kinds. His village now has a church, a simple church, not always staffed, but a church. The war is ended. For him, the simplicity of peace is all he ever wanted.

We will never forget his, and his story. We have met an extraordinary human being.

Today, we went to a lunch, invited by a friend, to raise funds for public education. LOL, this is what I used to do; I worked for an education foundation and raised money for public education. I love this kind of thing. I knew just what to expect – lots of success stories, stellar achievements, and a gentle pitch.

Whoa! Wrong! Darling kids – check. Recognition of important guests – check. Gentle pitch – no way! They got right to business; you will see this form, please take your pens RIGHT NOW and fill it out and give what you can, education funds seem to get cut more every year and we are trying to do more with less and less. Give NOW. CHECK!

The final speaker was a local businessman and patron-of-just-about-everything, a man who also brought baseball to Pensacola. He talked about his own public education. He talked about his speech impediment, and his deafness, he talked about his short stature and his inability to sit still and concentrate. He talked about teachers who identified him and instead of treating him as an obstacle, made him believe they were glad to have him in their class. He talked about teachers who gave him special assignments, who taught him math by having him calculate baseball averages. He knew their names, these saints who kept him in school, no matter how discouraged he might be.

He graduated with a 1.9 grade point, and had no intention of going to college, but ended up astonishing everyone by doing well on the ACT test and having a guidance counselor who found him just exactly the right environment where he could flourish on the college level.

Important people usually enjoy telling you the great things they have done. This man focused on his disabilities, his humiliations and his weaknesses, and how the kindness of educators had pulled him out of a very dark place and set him on the road for the success he is today.

I am willing to bet that the education foundation gained a lot of donors today. We were caught by surprise. We can defend against the powerful and successful, but when the heart speaks from vulnerability and failure, our hearts respond. This man is a success, but he gives credit to those who looked at him with caring eyes, with caring hearts, who lifted him and helped him on his way to the incredible (wealthy) success he is today, with a flourishing business and innumerable local charities who are grateful for his support.

What a week! And it’s only Tuesday! I wonder what the rest of the week will bring?

November 13, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Community, Cross Cultural, Dharfur, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Fund Raising, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Relationships | , | 1 Comment