A few weeks ago I was in our capital city of Juba when I received a phone call from one of my team informing me that a man and woman from Canada came for a visit. They had heard about our work and wanted to know more. They came to see our program in action and were very excited by what they had seen, love in action and a genuine concern for these little lives. They wanted to meet me and discuss a partnering option as they too had begun a work here three years ago. But, they were due to leave South Sudan the day before I was to return to Aweil. They delayed their trip so we could meet.
We spent almost two hours sharing our vision and dreams concerning these boys of Aweil and found them to be identical! We had been given the same vision by our Lord in for same city. So much confirmation was received and shared this day and we were excited about the work we were going to accomplish, together, working hand in hand, for the sake of these children. We are now very excited to be working with Cities of Refuge Canada. Our focus remains the same, to be on the ground raising up a generation of laid down lovers of Jesus who will overcome evil with good and to bring reconciliation to families as we reunite these children with their families. Cities of Refuge is sowing into us to accomplish this goal. Praise Jesus!
This last week marked our third month in Aweil. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been here a lifetime. I guess I should say, we sort of fit in now. People all over town know who we are and wave and smile as they greet us. My permanent volunteer team has now grown to five. These men come and help us every day and never ask for anything in return! It is a great thing when the men in a community step up to father these children, especially the boys. They really need godly men in their lives who will love them and correct them in love. We are growing so fast that if I close my eyes I will open them to another big change or cool addition.
I look at the resilience of these people and it causes me not to complain. There are people here who drag themselves along the dirt road because they don’t have a wheelchair. It is so hot here that the ground will literally burn your feet 125F degrees. Yet, here are these crippled people dragging along on all fours determined to get to their destination. They don’t sit around and cry about being handicapped. I saw a guy today who was in a wheelchair so his legs obviously don’t work. Also his right arm was crippled. So here he is bent all the way over at the waist using his left hand to paw at the ground in front of him to pull himself and his chair along, sweat just rolling down his face. This is normal life here. There are no handicap stalls or parking spaces or special needs help. It’s pretty amazing and I love how there is no shame. They just do what has to be done.
We are finally settling into a routine with the children’s program and I am now pulling at least one kid a day aside and listening one on one to hear their story. Meet Tang who is six years old, a cute round faced boy who is usually pretty happy but has been very disobedient of late. He has burn scars all over his little chest and upper arms. He lived with his parents and grandma and older brother, a happy family, in Khartoum, which is way north from here in North Sudan. When the treaty was signed to separate the two countries, Tang was sent ahead to Aweil with his grandma and older brother with his parent’s promise of joining them soon. When Tang was about three years old his grandma died. During this time his mother also died in Khartoum. Soon after that his brother left to go back to Khartoum. Now Tang is on the streets on his own. He sleeps in the empty market place at night and begs for food during the day. He wants to find his daddy. I told him that I would do what I could to work with the social workers to accomplish this monumental task and for him to be patient.
Meet Abuk who is a ten year old girl. She also lived in Khartoum with her mother and father. From what I can understand, she got separated from her parents somehow and was shipped as an orphan to Aweil. She left them alive and is longing to be with them again. I told her the same thing as Tang. Be patient as I start the process of talking to social workers to get these kids reunited with their parents.
Meet Mary and Adut, two teenage girls, very smart looking in attire and cleanliness. They were very humble and asked if I could help them with school uniforms as their school was going to kick them out for lack of. We talked a bit as they know English, and I learned, as is the case most times among the Dinka, that their father has many wives and now many children and cannot care for the needs of everyone. I prayed with them and gave them the funds to buy their uniforms. They returned the next day with the receipt and thanked me again with a handwritten letter of gratitude. Last night they arrived with a beautiful rooster as a gift from their mother who is so thankful for this help. She remarked that no one has helped them and she can’t say enough what this means to see her daughters continue their education.
One of our street boy leaders has really grown in the time we have had our program. He lived on the street because his father died and he wanted to earn money for the family. He had a small job with his friend as a mechanic assistant, fetching tools and such, but that fell through when his friend was fired. Joseph has really been a huge help in our program, always arriving early and staying late to help with the children, never expecting anything from us. We have grown to trust him and treat him as an equal. I learned his story this week and asked him if he had ever been to school. No he hadn’t, ever, and he is 19 years old. Here in Aweil they have an accelerated learning program for kids such as these and I registered Joseph this week, praise God!! The smile on his face was priceless. I bought him a new uniform and shoes and school supplies and am so happy for him as we have brought a “revival of hope” to this one. He still comes every day to help. That is a true heart of love.
Joseph’s friend Deng, who is also in our program, was jealous when he saw all that had happened with Joseph and has asked why not him. We gently told him how Joseph had been faithful and righteous, not fighting and sniffing glue and drinking. Deng is still involved in all of this. I then asked Deng to tell me his story. He lived at home with his father and wanted to go to school. His uncle told him no there is no money, he must watch the family goats and sheep. Deng ran away and now finds himself suffering on the streets. I asked Deng, “Would it not be better to be a shepherd in your uncle’s house than living in the filth of the streets?” He said it would. I asked him, “If we take you back to your home and talk with your uncle and pay your school fees, will you go back home and agree to be a shepherd?” He said yes he would. Yesterday Deng returned home, wearing a new set of clothes, to the great joy of his uncle who was there to meet him with open arms, literally. He had been so worried about Deng and kept thanking us for bringing him home. Deng will start school in two weeks.
It is our heart to see these children with their families, not living in an institution. This next story is of a girl who has elephantitis. She lived with her parents in Aweil town. One day, three months ago, she accidentally set fire to their home. It then reached their neighbor’s home and burned all to the ground. The neighbors became angry and told the parents that they must pay for the building of a new home. The next day the parents left and were not heard from again, leaving this girl on the street. With the help of the Ministry of Child Welfare, her aunt was found in Darfur and this week we paid for the transportation to get her to her new home with her auntie. One by one, we work to get these children off the streets.
Meet David, one of our volunteers. He stands well over seven feet tall and talks so softly that you sometimes have to strain to hear him. He built a small hut and took in ten orphan boys by himself. His hut is on church property and he has been receiving help in supporting the boys from the church. The church experienced a split and David was asked to leave the property with his boys. David could not abandon them. He talked with the church leaders and they agreed to let him stay but they would not help with the boys. David remains faithful to these ten boys even though he has no job except building small things with his hands. He trusts God to help provide for these boys. Iris Ministries Aweil and Cities of Refuge together sponsor David and his ten boys, praise Jesus! This is true religion, to look after the orphan.
Lastly, we started a new training and equipping program for our staff and volunteers and the older youth from around Aweil who are interested. We meet twice a week for two hours teaching the Kingdom reality and anointing them to do the works Jesus did and more. Today we had seventeen men come hungry for the Kingdom! Verily I tell you, God is surely on the move in Aweil!!
The times are drawing short and there is so much yet to do in the Kingdom. Now is not the time for sleeping, but for action. Jesus tells us that the harvest is ready but few are those who will go to reap it. If it isn’t reaped it will rot and die on the vine. Imagine the rich harvest of all these children, and no one to reap it, and them rotting and dying on the vine. I cannot imagine it and I refuse to. We have to harvest. Jesus is planting faster than we can reap, as the plowman overtakes the reaper in these last days. Go ye and see what an amazing God we serve!