I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about our time in South Sudan for a couple weeks now. To be honest it’s so intimidating and overwhelming to me that I just keep putting it off. I just don’t feel like I can do justice to the way the history and situation seems almost impossible, the hurt nearly every person faces daily… and then the passion and love Seed Effect team has and the incredible things God is doing there. So, I totally wussed out at first and asked Rick to write a post blog about our time there, and he did an awesome job!! Thanks, babe!
But I feel like I want to add a few other thoughts and experiences of mine that aren’t as well organized. The best way I can think to do it is a list of the things that surprised me, stood out to me, and where I saw big impact.
1) There is so much power in what is considered status quo in a society. Over the last few years I’ve really come to see how much who you surround yourself with defines your worldview and so many facets of your life. But I hadn’t seen such broadly held societal influences have such power. And it’s so sad. The status quo in South Sudan is a deadly and depressing cocktail made with 1 part corrupt leaders, 1 part regular loss of property and loved ones, 2 parts lack of sense of value of human life, and 1 part “no light at the end of the tunnel” visible for most people. And if you’ve never known anything or seen anything different, how could you possibly believe, work and risk for something different??
2) The war’s lasting effects include many people who have really only known refugee camps for their adult life. And when they were told to return to South Sudan, they had literally NOTHING to return with. Imagine starting a new life, in a new place with no bank account or money, one change of clothes, no tools, you’ve lost everyone you know, no seeds to plant, no house, shelter or tent even, no food, no containers to put water in…. And then when you think you are going back to the town where your family is from, you show up to find that another family from a different tribe has already claimed that property as their own. Nothing you can do about it. Where do you go from there?!
3) The passion and energy that the native Seed Effect team has for Jesus is effervescent and incredible! They are GIANTS in faith. I am so encouraged by them, and inspired, and challenger to grow my faith. They are not exceptions to the above two bullet points, they have lived and are living through some big, tough things. But they embody delighting in the Lord like I’ve never seen. And out of the overflow of that, they care for Seed Effects clients and share who Jesus is with an intoxicating enthusiasm. They have seen God fulfill His promises in their lives, even through incredible heartbreak and hardship. Here are just a couple of stories from folks on the team: Scovia’s story and Butti’s story4) The life change, and hope, and joyfulness I saw in the clients leaves no doubt that God is mightily at work in Kajo Keji through Seed Effect!! To hear a woman tell you that she used to feel she was not worth anything to anyone, she had no value in the world… and now, because of Seed Effect showing her who Jesus is and what she means to Him, telling her she does have worth and showing it by investing in her so she can have a business, she not only values her life, but her kids’ lives, and values the lives of others in her village and is helping them know worth and love. It’s pretty incredible.
5) I felt like there was a “theme” to my time in South Sudan, a phrase that continually ran through my mind like a song stuck in my head, that so many of my experiences fit into… That was God’s Promises. Not an entirely new concept, but it felt like God revealed it to me in a new way. I mean EVERYTHING was like “oh that’s one of God’s promises to us from the Bible”, or “oh, WOW, that’s God making good on one of his promises”. Maybe it was that I was reading through Genesis with Join The Journey while I was there too. A couple of the ones that stand out in my memory:
- God promises to be our comforter in hard times, and “delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” psalm 37:4 If he is our biggest delight and source of joy, then our hearts desire will be for a deeper and closer relationship with him. It’s an awesome Catch 22! I saw people who had lost so much embodying these and have a joy shining out of them like nothing I’ve ever seen.
- God promises he will not allow us to suffer forever and that He is there in that suffering, 1 Peter 5:10 “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace… will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you” It was a pastor in South Sudan who first pointed out this verse to me, and it echoed in my mind as we visited different clients, especially some of the newer clients who had not experienced as much life change yet. I encouraged them with this verse, but only because I had been encouraged with it from other Seed Effect clients. They saw it in their life – they experienced true suffering, suffering that I can’t fully fathom. And they stood in front of me with huge smiles and this crazy sparkle in their eye talking about how God and the work of Seed Effect had given them hope and strength and joy.
- ….and that His love never ceases and his mercies are new every morning, Lamentations 3:22-23. God gives us new mercies every day because each day only has enough mercy in it for that day…. We will not have to bear tomorrow’s troubles with today’s resources, God gives us new hope and mercy each day for it’s own trouble. In so many of the stories we heard in the markets of Kajo Keji, there seemed past days when Regina or Kenny’s circumstances were too much for any person to bear, but as they revealed their stories, God had provided just the right event or person to give hope, or a hand up, or love them, or just the right guidance just when they needed it.
I hear God, as He’s looking over South Sudan, declaring “I know the plans I have for you, and you, and you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. I hear that for Rick and I, for Seed Effect’s leadership team, and most loudly for the Seed Effect clients.
Currently, I’m working on more posts for the Seed Effect blog with client stories and more of our experience. As those get published, we will put them on this blog as well. So stay tuned!