December 2021 newsletter
Gabe Hurrish, South Sudan
Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the anawim with salvation.
As I looked through my archives, I realized I had no photo of him. I asked other Peace Village staff if they had a picture of the young man? No one could find one. He was always around in the shadows, in the background, off to the side. Perhaps, as in the Bible, he could be referred to as one of the anawim — those who have nothing, are unseen, but who are faithful to God in life. And so it was with my friend. Now, God has called him to heaven.
No one knew Mark Lopiir’s exact age but most thought around 30 years old. Lopiir was born with a developmental disability and was not able to complete his studies in primary school. After grade three, he left school and simply began doing odd jobs here and there for the Peace Village staff. Due to his slow intellectual capacities, some unscrupulous people took advantage of him and stole his hard earned money, robbed him of his few clothes, and mistreated him. The Kuron Peace Village staff, however, took him under their wings and made sure his belongings and money were safe. Everyone treated Lopiir with respect and encouraged him to do well.
Despite his disability, he was able to overcome many challenges. Everyone liked Lopiir. He was quiet and reliable. If you gave him a job, he did it at his own pace but finished the task in the end. He never turned down a chore, no matter how onerous or dirty it might be. He was always heard singing songs while he washed clothes, picked stones, swept the yard, hauled dirt and did a myriad of other errands. As mentioned above, his presence in the compound, the village and all around was not always noted as his unassuming figure usually remained in the background.
Although his home was in Namuton (five miles away), he lived in the Kuron Peace Village. With the help of Peace Village staff, this young man was able to save money and send to his family to help support them. When needed, he would go home to assist with cattle guarding or sitting in the fields scaring the birds from the sorghum. This is how he died. On Oct. 20, 2021, Lopiir was on a tree platform and fell to his death in a freak accident while trying to throw a stone at birds. He was found the next day by a nearby farmer.
On Oct, 24, a large group of staff and students from Kuron Peace Village went to Namuton to commiserate with the family. Gifts of food, oil and other household items were brought and placed at the door of his house. His parents were present with many siblings and relatives. It was a sad affair as the mother and father spoke lovingly of their lost son. The father was particularly distressed as he had been gone when the incident occurred. When he returned from Boma he found his family crying. They told him the sad story.
He was upset that the body was disposed in the usual, traditional Toposa manner of simply being left in the bush for the hyenas. The father spoke slowly but firmly, “God will give. God will take. God wanted my son to die at home and not in Kuron Village. For that, I am grateful. He was baptized a Catholic. I just wanted to bury him. Not throw him like that. Now it is too late. You are coming here to strengthen us otherwise, we are ready to die. Thank you for coming to pray with us.”
Traditional Toposa culture simply discards the body in the bush. There are many superstitions that surround this practice. Since Lopiir had a developmental disability, the community felt that if they buried him, the disease would affect the rest of the family. One surviving sister is also slow of mind. After the accident no one would go to scare the birds in that field so the family lost all the crop.
The religious leaders of Kuron Peace Village spoke to the family about this, with the idea of shifting their minds in the future. It takes a long time.
As there was no remembrance of Mark Lopiir in pictures, I wrote this memorial and sent it to all our Kuron Peace Village Staff. At least we can remember Mark Lopiir in this small way.
He will be missed by the people whose lives he touched. May his tender soul rest in peace in heaven with our living God of mercy and love.
With prayers for all the faithful departed,
I am so grateful for your continuing support of my ministry. During this season of giving, I would like to urge you to consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign. This new campaign raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us.
A group of donors has already pledged to match the dollars raised by this campaign 2-to-1. That means that every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. This campaign will ensure that Maryknoll Lay Missioners will be able to continue to send and to support missioners like me in the years to come. Please pray for the success of this campaign and if you can, please donate at the “Walk With Us” button below.