Shaped by Our Stories... Transformed by His Love
|A little girl shares with her brother|
Gatluak spoke softly, his demeanor peaceful. “My mother died when I was 2 years old, and my father had another wife.” “Did the other wife raise you and care for you?” I asked. “No! She refused me. She did not cook for me. I spent my time with the cattle so I had milk to drink. My older brother was the one who cared for me. He became a pastor. So did my uncle. When I was 12 years old, I fell very sick, and was close to death. I received healing prayer. I felt the Presence of God. Something told me that I was loved, and that I would not die.”
Stephen was matter of fact. “My parents died when I was a small boy. I do not remember their faces. My uncle took me to be his son. My aunt and uncle had only one child of their own; a daughter. One day, my uncle called the community together. He wanted to make an offering to the local ‘small god’. He gave four bulls. But the evening that the four bulls were sacrificed, his daughter fell into a water hole and died. It was then I began to question and to look.”
Altogether we had 11 young men attend our Discernment Conference held, sharing their stories; praying together for discernment. In their own way, each of them told us this about God: “He suffered for me.”
When we were talking about how to help others to learn what it means to serve, I asked Gatluak, “How would you teach this to an old woman who was blind and who could not walk?” “By speaking very loudly,” he answered!
|Discernement Conference Aug 17-19,2015|
One month later, in the middle of a “Trauma Healing Workshop”, an intensive course for clergy, lay readers and the students of our St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College, Gatluak and Nassir were woken up in the middle of the night. Both students at St Frumentius’, they had become friends and were rooming together. Two of Nassir’s brothers had been shot and killed by two of Gatluak’s brothers. In total eighteen were dead in a clan conflict in nearby Jikwao. Gatluak and Nassir’s friendship, shaped by grace and now marked with tears, forgiveness and prayer, continues to grow.
|Artwork form the Trauma Healing Intensive Course Sept 15-19,2015|
"A tree on Fire" Nassir
A couple of days ago, one of our staff came to give us an update on his children and to tell us that he had just lost his teeth. We often thought that this gentleman, with his remarkable gift for losing things, would ‘lose his head if it wasn’t attached’. He came close to expectation with the loss of his partial denture.
Several months ago, his wife had suddenly left, taking their young children with her. Rumour had it that she was headed for Khartoum, apparently intending to sell the children. The next news was that his wife had been imprisoned in Khartoum after starting to make and to sell home-brewed alcohol (alcohol being illegal in Islamic Sudan). His children, the oldest of whom was only 8 years old, were alone and fending for themselves on the streets of Khartoum. In Nuer culture, it is the father who has legal custody of the children in the event of a separation. Accordingly, he sent his brother-in-law to find and bring the children home. The next thing we heard was that the money sent with his brother-in-law was not enough to purchase additional ‘exit visas’ for the children. More money was procured. Then right at the border, some armed men arrived with a letter written by the wife, stating that her brother was trying to steal her children while she was in jail. End result: now brother-in-law was in jail. So much pain; for him, for his wife, for their children, for the extended family.
Recently, as we sat with Ojullu in hospital, he spoke of going to Addis ‘to eat good Ethiopian food, and to stay in one of the big, big hotels’. Too weak to stand, unable to walk, dying of AIDS, he avowed, “Nothing will stop me from getting to Addis.” Confused and occasionally incoherent, was he alluding to heaven, we wondered. So loved by us, by his fellow staff at the Gambella Anglican Center, and by his fellow students at St Frumentius’, he lay there, in the stench of uncontrollable diarrhea, and revealed the gentle dignity of a beloved friend undiminished by degradation.
Our stories - they aren’t over yet.