I heard a quote the other day from an old John Wayne movie that struck me when I heard it considering my present surroundings. A character in that movie said, “We must pay for everything in this world one way or the other. There is nothing free, except the Grace of God.
Wow, what a true statement.
It is strange here. When I go to the villages to teach God’s word I look around and I see the struggle of these refugees. We have access to so many things and they have access to almost nothing. Why is it that we live in a world that is so rich and still we have over 100 lepers showing up without fingers and toes to be helped by our SIM missionary nurse, Vicki? If you tell a professional nurse in a normal situation that she is going to see 100 patients at a time she would probably laugh at you. Add to that the fact that Vicki many times walks or rides for miles on an old ricketty bike to go see her patients. I know because a friend of mine (Caleb) and I helped her fix it today because the chain was falling off. I have often sat with Vicki over the years (even in Zambia) and listened to her talk about her life. What an extraordinary woman! I asked her not long ago why she did this, why she had continued to stay in this same ministry over the years. She said that she did this work because this is what she loves. She does not know this, but that statement brought me to tears when I was sitting in my tent later. Woe is me for complaining about the difficulty of some of the ministries I have been in over the years. Vicki quietly does her Leprosy ministry and blesses so many people with her love and tenderness for them. She also does Bible Studies and talks to people about The Lord. She is truly His heart, His hands, and His voice. I praise God for the privilege of knowing her.
I have been a missionary for a few years now in different situations and I think it needs to be said that often our lady missionaries are the toughest, most productive, most motivated, most driven missionaries on the field, bar none! I have personally seen families come out to arduous, difficult fields and leave after only six months, and I knew the wife did not want to go home but they left because the husband was unable to take it. I have also seen single women come out long after men had come and gone. They stayed the task and never gave up. Women are often the Marines of the mission field. I know of two single women who are missionaries in the Western Province of Zambia who have outlasted everybody. And they continue in the daily grind of living in that malaria infested, extremely hot and difficult place. It was you, Stacey darling, who kept us on the field in Zambia. We went there in 2000 with two little girls and had two boys while we were there, both while you suffered from Malaria, then if that was not enough you had to withstand that awful spider bite on your leg while you were pregnant- having it cut open to the light of a lantern with no anesthesia and just a pillow to bite on. And just the daily living in a place with little water or electricity… You went through so much of this while I was “church planting” and being recognized by my peers for the great ministry I was doing. Why am I saying all of this? Because I have been reminded of it in the three weeks I have been out here in South Sudan. The exhaustion of these wives here cannot be properly described in this correspondence. There is no escape for them. They work like oxen, and they get the job done so that their husbands can be freed up to do what needs to be done as far as ministry goes. I am sure The Lord God has a special reward awaiting these missionary women. They do the unnoticed stuff that is never mentioned in mission’s classes at seminary or church missions conferences. Wouldn’t it be great to hear of a conference one day that was called “Church Missionary Wife Conference.” Missionary men should thank God for their wives every day because they would never make it on these foreign fields without them.
Two men from South Sudan told me they killed two snakes not far from my tent the other day. They killed them for me. That makes five killed since I have been here. If one comes out here to be a missionary they better be ready to kill a lot of snakes, deal with scorpions in their home (a family here killed two scorpions underneath their bed the other day.) They just said they were big and black.
A pastor walked up to me here recently. I was surprised at how well he spoke English. He took out a pair of glasses and one of the lenses had been broken. He has been coming to my Church Leadership classes and has been having trouble seeing. Unfortunately, it was not an easy fix. They were not merely reading glasses. He was near- sighted, and I couldn’t help him since there is no optometrist in the area. I thought to myself, what an easy fix this would be in my own country, but out here in the land of little it is near impossible. Life in this refugee camp numbering in the tens of thousands is all about standing in line. They have to stand in line for water. Stand in line for food. Stand in line for near everything. The dignity of making your own way is hard to come by now, but in the future they have high hopes. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the birth of South Sudan as a nation. One of the Sudanese school teachers here named Helen stood up at a local gathering and she told us how her people have not yet seen what will become of them, but they have high hopes in the future of South Sudan. I thought about Helen today. She probably would have done well in another place that was more stable. She is educated. She speaks great English plus several other languages. But she lives in South Sudan and every day she gets up, cooks her meals over an open fire, teaches in a class room which depends on the sun for light and her students sit on plastic chairs and have wooden picnic like tables to sit at and learn. There is no air conditioning, no multimedia, just a chalk board. What amazing people these Sudanese are! They know the cost of freedom. One man I met here experienced members of his family including his brother being lined up and shot to death. This was a guy who I have sat and talked to almost every day since I came and a missionary friend was talking to me one day and he asked me if this man had mentioned anything about his family. When I said no, he told me the tragic story of what this man had been through. I hate war. I hate it so much. There is no glory in it only tragedy. Age and experience has taught me to hate war. They say a massacre happened here that may equal or surpass the genocide that happened in Rwanda according to BBC. When I look at these tribes, these Mabaan, these Uduk, these Jum Jum, and the multitudes of other refugees from many other tribes I wonder what horrors they have experienced. God, I pray that you would pay special attention to this land and these people. South Sudan is one of the only countries where SIM is working that is not sending missionaries from the SIM -planted churches. God, I pray that this would not be the case any longer and that soon this country, like Ethiopia and Nigeria, would be sending out countless missionaries to fields around the world.
Well, Stacey, after tonight it is one more night and then a wake up. Apparently the flight is going to take all day long so pray for me. You know how I get sick on planes. Pray that I would have a safe trip. I love you beloved.