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Main Street in Yambio, South Sudan

I cried:

I am in this ravaged country, living with the desperate, the abused, the oppressed. Pain and suffering abounds. Where are you, Jesus?

The people need you. I cannot heal the aching. I cannot lessen the thirst. I pray without ceasing. I yearn for a better life for them. I beg for respite for them. But I don’t see you, Jesus.

Are you angry with me? Do I so displease you? Are my prayers so worthless? Why don’t you come and help them? They are suffering, Lord, and they are oppressed on every side. Why don’t you see their need and grant them relief?

I try so hard to change things, but in the end it seems useless. My trivial efforts pale before the mountain. My weakness falls upon a rock. My emotions are swept away by the ocean waves. Why do children die? Why is society so cruel to strangers? Why do holy ones quarrel? Why are people so greedy?

Oh Jesus, I see and I weep. The leaders have turned from You. They steal the food and millions die starving. They start a war, and millions must escape naked. They eat the taxes, and roads are left unrepaired. They take the oil income, and infrastructure is left to rot. They pilfer the banks, and inflation soars. The people can’t buy bread to eat, Lord. There is no medicine to cure them of their diseases. There are no schools to teach them. The people speak the truth and are jailed. The leaders laugh and turn away.

Why do you allow this, Jesus?

Then Jesus spoke:

Do you not recollect when the little girl came and sat next to you in the church? You were the only white man. You couldn’t understand her language. Yet she held your hand and, looking up, smiled at you. She never spoke but simply held your hand and smiled. After Mass she returned to her mother. She left you with a wonderful glow all day. I was there at your side, my little one.

Do you not think of Grandma Abuba who puts fruits by your tukul door every day? Who gives you the choicest pickings from her garden? Who watches your clothes and shoes when you leave them outside so no one will steal them. She calls you “son,” even though you are a foreigner. You marvel that she loves you for no apparent reason. When she visits, I also am present there, my faithful one.

Were you not amazed when the Muslim holy man put his arm around you and called you his best friend? Did you not wonder how this man from another religion could be so generous and friendly with you? He was unabashedly happy in your presence. Both of you smiled, and there was a real warmth flowed. I was smiling there too, my cherished one.

Was it such a surprise when the poor man gave his last piece of bread to you, his guest? He insisted, even as you politely tried to refuse. His generosity overwhelmed your soul with shame. You had to turn away as the tears came into your eyes. He touched your shoulder and cried too. My tears were mixed with yours, my child.

I am present, my precious one, and I will not abandon you. I will strengthen you when the work is burdensome. I will feed you when you get tired of beans and rice. I will care for you when you have malaria and diarrhea. I will comfort you when you feel lonely, isolated and misunderstood. I will listen to you when you can’t speak the language. I will give you friends for the journey. I will strengthen your legs for the journey.

Look around and see me! Open your heart. Extend your soul. Give and you will receive. Bless and you will be blessed. Love and you will be loved. And know that I am with you always — to the end of the world.

I give THANKS to you, Jesus. You have blessed me abundantly. I will not be ashamed of you, Jesus. I will always turn back to you.

You are my strength. You are my God. Deepen my faith.

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.