And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Gal 6:9).
Living in South Sudan is not easy. There are so many problems, and often it seems everyone is simply looking out for themselves. Corruption and violence, deceit and theft, lies and immorality seem to have filtered all the way down to the lowest levels of society. Sometimes I can’t help but only see the bad and forget that the good people are there too. But every now and then, something happens to restore my faith in God’s creatures.
Ms. Nandasi is a single mother of four. She is a deeply spiritual and faith-filled person. I also notice she is an outstanding worker in the Peace Village and works harder than most. She lives on the same compound as I do. She usually eats alone. Sometimes she invites me to share supper with her as we are neighbors.
One evening, just as I sat down to share a simple meal with Nandasi, three large African men unexpectedly arrived and she invited them to join us. Since there was only a little food, they ate first, while Nandasi and I watched.
They ate every last morsel of her food! They then drank all the tea. They left and never said thank you. The two of us went without. I was a bit put out by their thoughtlessness. However, Nandasi said this was customary, that she was a woman, and that this is how a woman is: generous even to her own last piece of food. I thought: This woman lives her faith more than I.
I was in the Kapoeta market, running here and there, buying all sorts of things for our staff back in Kuron. Kapoeta is the closest town and 160 miles away.
I had to change dollars on the black market. I went to my usual lady in the vegetable stalls, and she helped me. I wanted to exchange U.S. $300 for South Sudanese Pounds (SSP). She wanted only $100, so the other $200 was exchanged by a man who came over. He gave me a pack of bills and we all exchanged. I was counting but doing so with only half a mind, as we chatted away. I left to shop around the market.
The man chased after me and apologized that he had only given me exchange for $100 not the $200 I had requested. He gave the correct SSP to me there and then.
I was so touched by the man’s honesty and integrity. He could easily have kept that money, and I would never have been the wiser. Yet, he went out of his way to make sure I had all the money. As I walked away, I said a prayer for him, thanking God for such good people in a world that often seems to have lost much of its morals. My hope in South Sudan and its people was restored.
Okori Emmanuel is the livelihoods officer, and his wife, Adongo Vicky, is a nursery teacher. They are recently married and have a newborn boy, Jeremiah. Although they both are working, their combined salaries don’t amount to much over U.S. $400 per month.
Okori recently visited a village where he was told that an 11-year-old girl was going to be forced into marriage. Okori couldn’t stand by and let this beautiful young girl be used that way. Her father, a widower, agreed to let her go with Okori. Without hesitation, he and his wife took the girl into their own home to serve as babysitter for their baby. They will send her to school next term.
I feel that Okori and Vicky did more for stopping childhood marriages than most of the interminable workshops held by NGOs in fancy hotels in far-off Juba. I credit Okori and Vicky for putting their faith in God’s justice in action. They are true charitable Christians.
In these experiences, I see graces from God. They illustrate that the faith, hope and charity of regular people are alive and well — and that humanity is filled with goodness.
Gabe, your reflection on being a lay minister in South Sudan touched me deeply. What moving stories of faith, hope, and charity. Thank you for being a witness to God’s love, and faithfulness and mercy.