After six days on the road we are back in Juba! It has been an incredible journey. Our journey officially started here in Juba as we went to visit St Mary’s Cemetary where many of our children lived before coming to us. We went to greet parents and family who still live there among the gravestones and poverty and filth. We prayed for many, including a teenage girl who fell from a mango tree in January and broke her thigh bone. They had no money for doctors or hospitals or X-rays so she found bamboo pieces and formed a cast of sorts around her still swollen leg. It is now April and she is still swollen and unable to walk. We were able to witness to three young teens who were prostitutes, help a family who had a two day old newborn baby with medicine and food, and gave a lady with elephantitis some money to help with food. We then went to another market area where there were people just sleeping in the open on the ground in the sweltering heat, small children eating from trash, sickly and dirty. One of the children was the five year old brother of one of our girls so we are taking him home to Yei with us on Thursday. The other three year old boy is really malnourished, both boy’s moms are severe alcoholics, and this boy will not make it if she doesn’t give him to us. We are praying for her to let us keep him alive with us.
The next day we were off to Aweil. We landed in Aweil and waited for our bags and the truck was unloaded and no bags. We watched the plane take off, us trying to flag it down, yelling, “Our bags are on that plane!” I knew right away that this was a God thing. We were not anxious, and were told our bags would come tomorrow. No problem, what’s one day? After checking into our accommodations at the Norweigan Refugee Council compound we went to the streets to see the boys. We walked to a place I knew some would be and I just walked up and looked at them and smiled and when recognition hit their face they screamed, “Carolina!!!!” And literally threw themselves into my arms, almost knocking me down, all climbing and clamouring for a squeeze. This happened all day long as we encountered more and more boys. Word started to travel and soon we had twenty thirty boys following us everywhere, telling others, “Carolina is here.” I just can’t describe how good it was to hug them all and see their shiney eyes after almost three years apart.
The next day we began our two day conference with our two Iris Aweil churches and the SPC church as they hosted us. Here in South Sudan when you are told church begins at 9:00 you expect to really begin at 10:00 at the earliest. We arrived at our church at 8:30 and all the people were there already and praising God in song! I was shocked and full of joy and stepped into a river of joy. The two days were so very powerful. The people were so hungry, a hunger I have not seen before in our country. These people came from hours away on foot with just the clothes they were wearing and maybe a mat to lay on at night. They were hungry for the bread of heaven. I just cannot say enough about the hunger and passion in these people who have nothing. I was so convicted in my spirit to be even more passionate for the kingdom. And I am passionate. We preached on the Holy Spirit and Baptism of fire and Holy Spirit came and made a wonderful mess of things. My entire team was so full of the Word of Fire, the church encountered God this week. All of us felt a strong bond in the Spirit as the conference ended.
We preached about eternity and this small present suffering and how we had such a small amount of time to gather in the lost. Our luggage never came in the six days we were there and we wore the same clothes everyday for these six days. We had our clothes on our backs and our Bibles. We were truly one and it made all the difference in our ministry. We were just as poor, just as dependent on God, just as full of faith in His provision and grace. I have never felt so “one” with the people I have been called to live with. We made a deep connect. Our pastor, James, has been so faithful all these years, no support, just relying on God. I have just been able to start supporting him in these last few months, and that by faith. We have two churches in the Aweil area now, one in Warawar and one in Abying. They truly carry our DNA, very spirit filled and so full of faith.
At night we hit the streets and did open air preaching to crowds gathered in the market. It was so easy to call people in. Everyone crowded in and everyone prayed and many received salvation and hearings. One lady said she has had pain in her knee for so long and when we prayed for her it was gone. We saw her early the next morning at her coffee stand and she was still pain free and rejoicing! We then spent to two days with the street boys, tending to wounds, giving a billion hugs and squeezes and love. Yesterday, our last day, we fed them at our old compound and played football with them. It was total extreme chaos, just as in our first days of street boy ministry, lots of fights and grabbing for food…. I was literally laughing and shouting hallelujah because I remembered those first terrible days in 2013 and knew that I could now manage it all with ease and even joy.
In the midst of all the chaos a blind man came in and fumbled around for a place to sit, his small grandson leading him with a stick, as is normal. Some of our team prayed for him and he suddenly jumped up and began waiving his arms frantically. He could see!! He was totally blind and he could see! He told our pastor James that he wanted to repent and be saved. It was a glorious end to a glorious week. This morning we had some time before our flight and we sat and talked about those things that impacted us the most.
Everyone was so encouraged by the fruit that came from the original movement in 2013. Those who knew about our labor back then knew that I was on the verge of quitting and was so very tired and even skinny sickly because we laboured so hard. The fruit from that is so very evident in Aweil. Pastor James is well known and respected in Aweil as a very humble man of God who loves his people. Everywhere we went, people were greeting him with respect and smiles. He loves like Jesus. We now have two churches full of faith and beauty and courage and passion for the Lord, and moving in step with the Spirit. The boys on the street, I still see light in their little eyes, that has not been dimmed by their hard little lives. I brought them a message of David, who was a street boy, hiding in caves, running with a rough crowd, who became a king because he loved God with all of his heart. I see that Jesus is still with these precious boys and that they know how to love.
As a team, we now have an even bigger vision for our destinies that God is calling us into. We have truly seen that even in this really hard place, the glory of God can easily rest because there are those who will run with Him into these places and believe in Him. It has become even more of a reality that we really can do anything through Christ who is our strength. We saw all of the lack of resources and even a place to start from yet are now encouraged that God can bring so much from nothing because He truly does have everything we need.
The Lord shared with me this morning that He is calling us, all of us, higher, to see farther, to expect more, to encounter Him in fullness in the vast emptiness of some of the places we are going, His harvest field, to see His glory pour out in this place of the desert, to see a people who want only Him, to go the distance, no labor being in vain, no mountain insurmountable, no expanse too vast; He is bigger than it all and so much more than we could ever hope to imagine Him to be. He says, be tenacious, be unstoppable, be relentless in our pursuit of Him and His will, be His, completely His. We came to Aweil to encourage the church yet the faith and passion of the church here has encouraged us so much more. I see how the church of God should look. A people with one set of clothes, a mat to sleep on, broken shoes, a Bible, no water bottles, not even a cup, fully poor so we can become fully rich with Christ and Him crucified. When we see a broken world, it should cause us to do something. We have an answer for every problem. We don’t have to be THE solution, just some kind of help.
I can’t stand to see so much suffering and do nothing. I cannot stand before God at the end of the age and look back at all the times I walked by when I could have stopped. This week we learned that we can so easily live with just the clothes on our backs. Yes we had beds to sleep in and food for our stomachs and that’s okay. Yesterday morning I woke up and was singing in my room, looking at the empty space because I had no luggage and I looked at the stack of money I brought being dwindled down to nothing because I chose to spend it all on the kingdom. I was singing, “God I just want to spend Your money on Your kingdom! What can I spend Your money on today!” I want to become so rich so I can help so many more poor. I want to save the world. There is nothing wrong with that. I want people to give me lots and lots of money so I can spend it all on HIS kingdom business!
I am leaving here with a new desperation to do more for the people of Aweil and Bor and Malakal and Eda and all over South Sudan. The world has turned its face from us and many are dying. Sixty percent of the Aweil population is gone, selling their souls to the Muslim north because the Christian south isn’t there to help. Jesus, where is the justice in this? I want more, more of everything, so I can help more to not give up. I wish I could take all of my readers on outreach to Aweil and let their hearts be opened to the bigness of our God. He is so faithful and so good. I am so excited to see what He will do with our little lives, all of my team, especially our Sudanese team.