Archive for May, 2006

My Last Saturday in Africa

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

This is my last Saturday in Africa before teturning home and I find myself at the Anglican Guest House in Nairobi watching television, walking on tile floors, using electric lights and modern plumbing, and eating fresh vegetables. I don’t know what to make of it all. I’m getting clean, my clothes have lost some of their tan color (or some of the blue from Sudanese laundry soap) thanks to the AGH’s laundry and I’m drinking cold water. It seems at once strange and yet strangely normal. I don’t want it to be normal because I want to believe I have been changed by this experience. I want to always remember what it has been like to live in community with the Moru people. It is far too easy for me to stay in my room, drink bottled water and be what I have been before but it is said you can’t put your toe in the same place in the river twice. The life outside Sudan has flowed for six months. I can’t return to the same place. Be prepared for my return!

It has been delightful to find friends here: some of the diaspora Morus have greeted me, the staff of the AGS remember me and have been gracious, and I had a lovely time sitting with Darius Manyagugu, speaking with him and showing him photos and videos of his wife and children. He came in March to study for two years and was afraid I would forget him. Not a chance! Ramsey Vule had met me at the airport and is making arrangements for me to go to services at All Saints Cathedral tomorrow so I am still living in the care of the Moru community.

Leaving there was very difficult in many ways. When I think of the song the women composed and performed for me I can still cry. They sang: “Deborah heard a call from God and she said, ‘Here I am, send me.'” They sang it at my departure tea on Monday afternoon. This was the third of these I had attended and there were forty people present in the Meeting Room. More amazingly, the majority of the people present were women! They were given time to speak and time to sing. I felt they had been empowered to do so and that felt good.

I preached twice last week. I had the main service at the Cathedral and the chapel service at the hospital on Tuesday. The Sunday service started out blisteringly hot but, just before the sermon, the skies opened up. There was no way anyone could hear anything but the pounding of rain on the metal roof. Sylvester Paul lead the service so he asked the musicians to entertain us until the message could be heard. I was delighted because we needed the rain. When I could sort of be heard, the congregation moved closer (Mama Janifa sat on the chancel step) and Sosthen and I went onto the transept floor. Somehow we managed. Sosthen translated into Moru for me as I still can’t preach in Moru.

Later on Sunday, Simon (from SP) and I went to Sosthen’s house to meet Buna, Sosthen’s son who has Nodding Disease. I was able to see his reaction when given food. Pray, my friends, for the children who are Nodding here. Nearly every family is affected. The whole family, Simon and I prayed and laid hands on him asking that the would be healed in body, mind and spirit according to God’s will. It was an amazing, distressing, awe-inspiring, devastating, and ultimately humbling experience to be there. I have asked myself many times, what can I do to help? Why has my life been so blessed? You will hear if you wish but be prepared to be changed.

The rains have brought out the snakes. A young mother with a two month old baby, reached into a basket of seeds in her house and was bitten by a cobra on Tuesday afternoon. She was taken, not to the hospital but, past the hospital down to the Displaced Persons’ Camp to a traditional healer (my Moru friends said “witch doctor”). The screaming of women mourning (ruru) and of men (ciri) split the air as people streamed to her home to mourn. They lived across from the cathedral so I witnessed it. I was having tea with the Dean of the Cathedral and his wife at the time. On Wednesday morning, as I was leaving Lui, people were packed into her husband’s family’s compound for the funeral rite.

Joseph Philip’s family also had a loss this past week Joseph and Mary’s daughter lives in Juba. The daughter’s fourth child and only daughter, died of gastroenteritis. Her name was Ngia (en-GEE-ah) and she was only one year old. A prayer service was to be held at Joseph’s compound after I left on Wednesday. So there was much sadness in the past week.

I have gone from being sad to leave to being delighted to be coming home. It is probably good I have had the time in Kenya to sort out some emotions. I have been writing reams. I am also thrilled to anticipate seeing Ron and, together, to be seeing our old friends in England, Spain and France. It will be good to reconnect with them and with you when we get home. I can’t wait to see you all.

Advent to Ascension has been a whole life in many ways. I thank God for this time and for this call. For my last sermon I used Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. There was a time to go and now a time to return and to speak! Thank you for your prayers. I felt them.

Taliatokpe (peaceful words), Mio’ba (Hope) ago (and) Ngalu (Love),

Deborah, Nguti Moro Ro Yaingyi (Courageous Daughter of Moru as they named me

Last Saturday in Lui

Saturday, May 20th, 2006

I have been sitting here writing my sermon for the main service at the Lui Cathedral tomorrow and thinking what this time has meant to me and to the people of Lui Diocese. It has been the experience of a lifetime coming as it has at the very end of one of the longest civil wars in recent history and followed by intense tribal conflict. In these few months, life has changed a great deal in Lui. I see those changes every morning as I go to the hospital, even.

When I came here, there were perhaps two vehicles on the road. They were the ambulance for the diocese and the Samaritan’s Purse ambulance. One might hear the motorcycle belonging to the Mother’s Union going around occasionally but that was it. We knew who was going or coming according to the sound of these three motors. Now vehicles of every description can be seen here. The sound of car horns in the morning signal that another vehicle is headed for Juba–a destination unheard of when I arrived because of the then uncleared landmines.

Trucks come in from Uganda to the market bringing more goods for sale. Shops now have more things for sale and there are people expanding their shops with goods outside the stalls as well. It seems that peace has settled in some and it is good.

There are new faces in town as families that have been divided by war for 21 years have gotten together again. The family of the church has also gotten together to agree on new songs for the Moru hymnal for the first time in that long period of time. There are now 78 new hymns that have been approved and plans are in the works to meet again in November to continue this work. People feel hopeful again, it seems.

The land here has changed from the bare, dry, dust red color to a bright green and the earth smells fresh when it is dug for a garden. People who have been around with seemingly little to do are now in their gardens and dreaming of the first harvests. That is good, too. There is, of course, hunger and even famine in the distant corners of the diocese and we are worried that they will receive enough help to survive but I also hear people saying that they survived eighteen years in the forest so they will make it through this time, too.

People who were sleeping in the forest when I arrived now are living day and night in their homes. They no longer fear tribal fighting here in Lui. That is also good but it needs to be peaceful throughout Southern Sudan if they are to succeed in building a nation–one or two depending on the elections in six years. They need peacetime to continue in order to succeed but now I do hear people talking about long range plans. This sort of thing was unheard of just four months ago.

Some things haven’t changed. Health is still an issue and accessibility is even a greater problem as people can’t get to the hospital easily. Travel is even harder these days because of the rains. Now to get to Minga one has to cross over into the other diocese to come in from the other side. The Täpari River is wild and uncrossable where we crossed in the dry season

I noticed that I was having trouble getting my hands rinsed after washing them and the same with my bathing but realized that I was now using rainwater for those purposes. The water is softer than the borehole water from before. Rainwater means that women don’t have to go so far to get it and wait so many hours in lines to get it. Bugs are different with each change in the season–each season has its own delight!

People are delighted with the Diocese of Missouri and the companion diocese agreement. They no longer feel forgotten but know that people are praying for them and that means a great deal to them.

I am looking forward to being home and telling stories to you. Your support has been something I will never forget nor will the people of Lui Diocese You have changed lives here without even knowing it. I can’t say more than “Aro’boya para!” Thank you very much!

Plans are for me to leave Wednesday on a Samaritan’s Purse flight for Lokichoggio in Kenya and from there to Nairobi on Thursday. My friend Simon has invited me to visit his congregation in the Masai community in Kenya and I hope to be able to do that. I’d like to see some animals in Africa besides goats, sheep, roosters, hawks and the very rare baboon! Animals, being very intelligent, went to more peaceful places like Uganda, Congo and Kenya to escape the war here so one doesn’t see the animals we have associated with Africa here in Lui. Not that I want to see lions in the market in Lui.

I may be able to do a posting from Kenya but the computer will be staying here to give them access to e-mail. That is a good thing, too.

Taliatokpe (peaceful words) and Mio’ba (hope)


Hymns of Lui

Saturday, May 13th, 2006

Music and laughter are filling the air of the cathedral as the song composers in Moru language have gathered in Lui to sing their songs together, to check them for theology, and to get them ready to publish in a new hymnal. I have a small part in the project. I am typing the hymns in Moru and e-mailing them to Nairobi for setting them into the hymnal. Typing Moru accurately is a problem especially if you know my typing!

I knew we were in trouble when I heard that there were at least 200 new hymns! By the end of the first day, five hymns were approved and typed. Pretty hard for me to imagine doing all of them in the seven days we have. The composers have come from all over Lui diocese as well as from Mundri and Juba. They are all being enriched by contact with their fellow composers. It is a beautiful thing to see and to hear.

The singing is all acapella without even so much as a drum and it is lovely to hear. There is no photocopier so scribes are writing in composition books as singers sing the songs from their long-hand notes. I keep thinking of the story of the Septuagint! We are perhaps not so accurate as those writers were. Or maybe we are! At any rate, it is fun especially when someone on tea break is sitting under the mango tree on a log bench singing with his or her colleague working on phrasing and rhythm. It is beautiful. The composers are aged from youth to the elders who knew Dr. Frazer and all are at the same table. All have voice in the proceedings.

The youngest person, I guess is from Minga where, it is said that ten people have died of hunger. It is a long way to Minga and the Tapari River makes access even more difficult at this time of the year but there have been truck drivers in the compound from one of the local NGOs taking food to them so some help is on the way. We are all disturbed by these stories and hope to do whatever we can to help. The church does not have the means of transport to get food there nor does it have the access to the food in large enough quantities to
do what the others are doing. The NGOs here have such access and transportation. It is hard to stand even here in Lui when I know that there is hunger there but the fact is that we are at the mercy of the situation.

It seems strange to be singing “Alleluia!” when people are hungry and suffering but that is the way of the Moru: they sing and know that God is with them even in their suffering and they praise God for the rain that has occasionally drowned out the singing entirely during this event. The rain has been great during the conference but I know I will be in trouble when I get to Europe as I was turning blue when it got to 71 degrees this morning!

One more thing: the composers have told Vasco that they will not be able to finish all the hymns in the five remaining days so would like to schedule another meeting so they can do more work and get every song heard. It will be a wonderful book when finished. There are some fantastic songs including a setting of the Gloria by Darius Taban that is already one of my favorites. I have already asked him to do the rest of the Mass and could just hear it at the Easter Vigil!

See you all soon!


Realities of Southern Sudan

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

As I write this morning and listen to the cries of babies in the cathedral’s kitchen, I am struck by the way that a chiasm of tribal violence has bracketed my stay in Sudan. Some of you know of the murder that occurred at the airstrip upon my arrival and now, at the end of my stay in Sudan, more tribal violence has touched us here. This time it was between different tribes but it touched us nevertheless.

I was sitting in the gathering room of the compound here several evenings ago when a friend, Simon, arrived saying there were women in the cathedral’s kitchen who had been evacuated from an area north of here. Did I have anything for lighting the space? While we were waiting for the compound manager, I got some of the candles Lisa had left in March, some matches, a few bottles of water, some leftover rice and a flashlight and went with him to see the women.

Huddled under the new thatching of the as-yet-unmudded kitchen were about ten women and their children. They were sitting on the damp earthen floor with a few sprigs of damp grass strewn about. It was drizzling lightly and so it was cold. They had been given some staples to cook–flour and rice, maybe some beans–but had no firewood and no way to light it. The firewood we found in the compound was wet as was the grass we tried to light it with but the candles, stuck in plastic water bottles with a bit of water in them for stability, lit the space so they could see.

The lovely mat that was given me by the group in March was intended for sleeping so I gave it to the women so babies could have a place to sleep (I hope that group doesn’t mind). The babies ate the leftover rice so they could go to sleep as we continued to work on fire for cooking for the rest. Simon got firewood from his compound that finally caught after about ten tries and, when I left, a woman was beginning to cook outside in that soft drizzle.

Three of the women/girls were hospitalized immediately upon arrival and as the days have passed some of their story has unfolded. There has been tribal conflict between two tribes in their area that resembles the violence that occurred here last year. Two tribes claiming the rights to the same land, one tribe with cattle and one tribe that is agrarian, have been fighting.

These women apparently escaped to the bush to get away from the fighting but were seized by the other tribe and taken to a cattle camp where they were held, beaten, and probably assaulted sexually (although they have yet to admit it) for eight days. They were finally allowed to escape when someone refused to allow it to continue any further. They were reunited with their children–children previously unweaned who now don’t understand why their mothers won’t breast feed them anymore–and brought to the safety of Lui.

The hospitalized women have septic bruises from their beatings. They were beaten on the face and on their feet and everywhere else besides. One is a young person who does not know her own age but who kn ows her chest hurts because that is where they beat her. Each woman has a haunted look as they watch everyone here. They are not Moru so don’t speak that language but do speak some Juba Arabic. It is difficult to reassure them that they are safe with us but we do the best we can. It is hard, though.

Some of the women have made their way to the sewing house and gift shop to see what we are doing there. The Moru women are able to communicate with them and have begun to have some conversations with them. One mother told us about her son who didn’t understand why he was weaned so abruptly wanting a “biscuit”
(cookie) to distract him from his crying. She and one of the women went to the market to get some cookies for all the children. They came back with the very same cookies that we use here for Holy Communion. I thought that was appropriate.

I hope tomorrow they will find their way into the church for worship and prayers. We will certainly be praying for them as they wait for their husbands and fathers to come for them if indeed they are still alive. No one knows.

Tribal violence baffles me. Life here is difficult enough without fighting among the different groups of South Sudan. It makes me terribly sad to see what they are capable of doing to each other. Prejudices are deeply etched and it is difficult to see how one could bring about reconciliation under such difficult circumstances. Only God can do such work and we can only witness to that power.

Pray for us all and especially pray that fighting among tribes will cease.

Taliatokpe (peaceful words),