Humbled by hospitality in South Sudan - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2023 newsletter


Gabe Hurrish, South Sudan

Toposa children

Blessed are the lowly, they shall inherit the land (Mt 5:5).

Many of the people I meet and work with are some of the poorest in the world. Yet they show a humbleness and generosity beyond any level I have ever attained myself. As an example, I will relate a composite from experiences from my time in South Sudan.

I often wander about and visit villages of friends or students. During one such visit, my friend and I entered a very rundown and shabby kraal (homestead). Everything inside the fence was broken, shabby and ragged. Dust-covered children ran up to me extending dirty little hands in greeting. A widow and her several children were the only occupants.

This woman had no extended family. All siblings had died off from various causes. A year ago her husband was killed in a cattle raid. She was left a widow with four children in a harsh environment and even harsher culture. As is often the case, the husband’s family took everything from her and expelled her from the village of her deceased husband.

All she was allowed to keep were the children, leaving her quite destitute. This woman suddenly found herself alone, with no income, and no source of living. She discovered an abandoned kraal and in desperation took up residence. The family made it their home.

A Toposa woman bathing her child

Somehow she was able to get some goats — with the agreement that she would pay people back when baby goats were born. She was hardworking and began to cultivate and plant sorghum. Through superhuman efforts she has been able to find the means to feed her hungry children. They only eat one meal a day, and the goats provide milk for the children. None of the children had clothes or shoes and none were in school. No money for such things.

I didn’t know all this when I showed up at her home. As I looked around, I noticed that most things were broken or torn. I was given the seat of honor which, was a log in the shade. My translator and I sat and chatted with the children while the mother disappeared for a time. It was a hot day and the kids crowded in tight to us to take advantage of the shade. They told us they had to fetch water and firewood, find roots and berries and watch the goats every day.

The widow reappeared from a shabby structure in one corner of the kraal and offered us her only hospitality. I was presented with basic food items such as boiled sorghum, sour milk and some wild fruits. All of this was presented to me without the slightest hint of regret. The children knew that this was all the food they had for the day, but strict cultural norms demanded treating foreigners with courtesy and respect.

The mother said a short prayer to first bless us and then the food. I thanked her and tasted everything asking God to protect me from any serious food infections. Then we shared everything with the children. They were delighted because just a moment ago they thought they would be going hungry that evening.

This destitute woman and her children gave me the best of what they had. I wondered in my heart if I could ever have such humbleness of heart to give my best to anyone who would visit me?

It is these lessons of life which I carry in my heart and thank God for. This woman thanked me profusely for visiting her and listening to her stories. She was very grateful for the gift of cash I left with her for future needs.

With the same generosity of heart, I also thank you, my supporters. It is these kinds of lessons that create a more generous and sharing attitude in me. Part of your financial support for me has gone to such people on various occasions, as I always provide something to help them survive yet another day. It isn’t much what I offer, but they are so grateful and humble in their appreciation. It is your generosity to me, which is then paid forward to these meek people.

God’s blessings to you and your family,

Please consider joining our circle of COMPANIONS IN MISSION. Companions in Mission are generous donors, like you, who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information visit  Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 

Gabe Hurrish
Gabe Hurrish works in parish ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Riwoto in the South Sudanese state of Eastern Equatoria. He has served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in South Sudan since 2018.