Friday, September 02, 2011

Bombs and Bubbles in the course of a day in South Sudan

Today has been an atypical day.

I slept in until 7 since it was a ministry day for me—ministry day means I don’t have to be in the clinic and can do things like visiting, studying language, hanging out with nutrition program children, etc.

This morning during personal devotions I heard a strange sounding plane pass over, but only gave it a moment;s thought. About an hour later I learned that is was an Antonov, an old Russian bomber being used by the Sudan army. 30 minutes after it passed over us it dropped bombs on Kurmuk, a largish town in the disputed Blue Nile State. Fighting had ensued during the night in another town in that State between the Governor and the Sudan army, but I was unaware of this until I heard about the bombing. Needless to say my heart fell when I heard about this upsurge of violence in a new area along the border. There have been fighting and bombings taking place in South Kordafan State and the Abyei region, but it was limited to those two areas since Independence Day (as far as we know) until this week.

After hearing this news and praying, I carried on with my original plans and spent the early morning preparing to lead devotions at the TBA meeting. This is a quarterly continuing education meeting for the Traditional Birth Attendants in our area. We provide them with information, pertinent to births in this part of Sudan, and with birthing kits so that they can help women have safer, healthier deliveries at home.

Midmorning, during my time with the TBAs, a plane landed on the dirt airstrip near our compound. A teammate ran out to find out what was going on. It was an AIM charter plane that had just done an emergency evacuation of Kurmuk and Yabus, two towns just north of us. Both towns were bombed within minutes of this very plane departing from their airstrips. We praised God that they were removed safely just before the bombings occured.

When I finished devotions with the TBSs I ran to the airstrip to greet the people who had been evacuated from Kurmuk and Yabus. Amazingly the conversations were relatively light. The people in Kurmuk and Yabus had a very stressful night and morning, learning of the need for their immediate removal around 3am--but having the delay of waiting for a flight to come from Kenya to evacuate them. By the grace of God, everyone was able to smile, though the smiles of the two pilots were a little tight--they were making a second flight into Yabus for two more missionaries who did not get on the first evacuation flight.

After seeing the plane off to return for those missionaries, I went to my tukul and threw together an emergency bag in case we also needed to leave in a hurry.

Thirty minutes after take off from our airstrip the flight returned with two shaken passengers who had been at the airstrip when the bombing occurred following the first evacuation flight. They had run for their lives into the bush at that time and made the decision that they needed to evacuate as well. However, they had to wait for the plane to leave its passengers with us in Doro and return. When it did return for them it was on the ground in Yabus for only a minute to remove them.

Back on our airstrip in Doro the evacuees, nine in total, loaded back up and flew off for Kenya. Thank God for AIM missionary pilots John and Jay!

After waving them all off, I resumed my usual Friday afternoon ministry--always one of the highlights of my week. Our nutrition program has an inpatient compound where malnourished sick children are admitted and monitored while receiving special nutritional milk formula every three hours and medications for their illnesses. The mothers and children (strangers brought together by the diagnosis of malnutrition from many different villages) live together in tents for a few days to a few weeks while we daily weigh, assess, feed and medicate them. On Fridays I go and cut the children’s dirt caked finger nails and do manicures and pedicures for the mothers and grandmothers. This is a treat for them as such things as fingernail polish, clippers and lotion are only possessed by the wealthy.

While there I introduced the Mabaan women and children to bubbles! Oh what fun! One little girl shrieked in fear initially, but within seconds was giggling and trying to catch them. By the time I left, all the older children—who are not so sick--were blowing bubbles and having a grand time. There is something about bubbles that lightens every heart.

Throughout the remainder of the day no further news of fighting or bombing reached us, but let me tell you--I take notice and my heart starts beating a little faster than normal when I hear any aircraft now.

I arrived home wet, muddy and shivering as it rained while I was a the nutrition compound and I got a little wet trying to get everyone’s nails done. It drops into the 70s when it rains and when you are accustomed to 90s and 100s all the time, that is cold! I kicked back for about 30 minutes with a book about inspirational women in the Bible and then helped my teammate Karissa prepare dinner for the team. We did our best to make Mexican food, something we sorely miss here in Sudan without cheese, chicken, salsa, guacamole, etc.

As it is Friday night, our team is now having Movie Night in the common room watching a movie on someone's laptop. This little escape from the reality of Sudan is a weekly indulgence for us. I’m sitting this one out as I’m so behind on correspondence and wanted some time to process this roller coaster day. This was an atypical day--but one I wanted to share with you.

God has been faithful in protecting our SIM team in Yabus and other ex-patriot friends working in Kurmuk, but we know that the nationals haven't been removed from danger by any outside power greater than their own legs taking them into the cover of the bush and God giving them the strength and opportunity to do so. Our prayer is for them, that God will cover them with His feathers (Psalm 91:4), that He will show Himself powerful and a Rock of defense for them (Psalm 62:2). We ask Him to end the violence and bring reconciliation between Sudan and South Sudan, between governments and armies, between races and tribes...

Galatians 3 talks about a world of people who are one in Christ and therefore reconciled to God and each other. Sudan is very, very far from that place, but ultimately that is why we are here and we do not lose hope.

"Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:26-29

Will you pray for reconciliation with us as well?


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