“Go forth into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
I have recently been meditating on Pope Francis’ teaching about mission. His apostolic exhortation on The Joy of the Gospel, in particular, has helped me to focus on the essentials.
One quote from this letter sticks out for me: The Lord says: “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mk 1:38). Once the seed has been sown in one place, Jesus does not stay behind to explain things or to perform more signs; the Spirit moves him to go forth to other towns.
A second quote that I like (originally from the Aparecida document of the Latin American and Caribbean bishops) is: “ ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’”
When I arrived in South Sudan in January 2018, I knew I was going to a place called Yambio to teach at a Teacher Training Institute with a religious group called Solidarity with South Sudan. What I didn’t know was all the twists and turns, highs and lows, that I would encounter over the following years.
Like our role model, St. Paul, we are urged to keep moving. In my six years in South Sudan, I have lived and worked in four different areas of South Sudan. I have been tasked with a variety of jobs. I have tried to learn three languages (failing in all of them). Along the way I have made many friends (and a few enemies). I have fallen in disgrace and risen into joy — the usual ups and downs of any life.
The greatest grace from God that I have experienced here has been a much deeper relationship with my Lord. One learns to trust in God’s mysterious divine plan. I have a more profound understanding of Jesus, who accompanies me in mission.
I give thanks for the little things I have: water, food, health, good mind, friends, faith, hope and love. So many people have been so good to me along the journey that again I am reminded of Jesus and how he treated each and every person He met with respect and dignity.
These days I have been working on quieting my soul amidst the chaos, turmoil, and noise of this nascent nation. I have tried to “look into people’s hearts” as Jesus did. I try to appreciate the virtuous in everyone. This has helped me a great deal with the instability of life here in South Sudan.
A mission life can be like that: unknown, uncertain, constant movement and filled with frustrations and confusion, but also full of peace and joy. As long as one keeps focused on Jesus, you can’t go wrong. I pray to God that I will be healthy enough over the next several years to continue doing the little I can for the good people of South Sudan.
God bless you all,