Some of you may or may not know i have living in Southern Sudan for the summer doing volunteer work in a Displaced Persons Camp. As my stay here has lengthened and relationships have deepened, i am realizing that these experiences are far too priceless and extraordinary to not share.
So many of the experiences i have had here have been surreal and unbelievable; while others have been heartbreaking. Upon our initial arrival, it became immediately apparent that this place is far more rural than any of the places i have seen before and certainly more rural and hidden than most tv crews are willing to venture into. in fact, there were a few familiar sights– kind of like you might see on tv of dirty children with the ‘starving belly’ and flies swarming their faces.but there were far more unfamiliar sights- like the unique context in which these people are living. This area, as i said before, is extremely rural. Meaning that the people reside in mud huts (generally if not exclusively), and aside from market vendors and motor bike drivers, the main source of sustenance is farming. i remember driving through Uganda into Sudan and seeing sights that made me feel like i was dreaming. Here’s an excerpt from my journal entry that evening after our bus had passed numerous farming plots. ****Miles upon miles of farming…Both men and women laboring under the scorching sun, shorts rolled up with no shirt. shinny black skin dripping and bodies probably aching from the pain, but most likely thinking little of it- because that’s what they know of life. Honestly to me, it resembled what i always would have imagined slavery to have looked like- men, women and children alike, boiling under the Sudanese sun, plowing–plowing—-plowing, hacking at the soil. Taking only a quick moment to stand and look as we passed by, wondering what life it was that we led that made us so privileged to only be passing.**** Still the sights of that day still haunt and amaze me. i think that day might have been the beginning of my realization that this trip was a real thing. Besides such cultural and continental differences that make such sights seem unimaginable, there is an additional twist that makes this community and region unique from just any rural african region.
For 21 years this region was torn apart by war. the details of the war are quite honestly too deep and complex for me to explain and even for me to understand at times. But what i do understand is the suffering that has resulted from
these 21 years of war, which i am now witnessing with my own eyes. alcoholism is a massive issue in this area. just as it was for our own war vets and all people experiencing trauma in the world, alcohol is unfortunately the comfort of men, women and even children who suffer incomprehensibly from trauma of this war. Can you imagine how terrifying it would be as a young child to be in the care of a drunk and traumatized relative, or even worse, under the authority of drunken soldiers- which is most often the case ( not to mention the fact that most soldiers move with AK47’s…… and you add drunkenness to that?) another after effect of the war here is a huge population of parent-less children. i don’t think this piece of information became real to me until i myself spent time counseling within a local high school and had the opportunity to hear their stories. i quickly learned that most if not almost all of the students in this region, lost their parents during the war. many parents were killed by bombings from the north, many were killed by SPLA soldiers, others abducted ,tortured and murdered be the rebel group known as the Lords Resistance Army. story after story ive been confronted with the unimaginable tragedy of losing a parent or even both at such a young age. one of my students, who is now 17 shared his story with me that touched my heart to the core. 3 years ago at the age of 14, the infamous army known as the LRA ( who you may have heard about in films like Invisible Children, or the feature film Blood Diamond) abducted him and his family. he retold the story of them cuffing him violently and that he turned to look over his shoulder just in time to see the rebels shooting his father in the head. after murdering his father before his eyes, they took he and his mother off into the bush under their control. as is explained in mentioned films, the purpose of his abduction was for his initiation into their child army. his mother was abducted simply to carry things theyd looted from homes. he said that once his mother grew too tired to continue carrying the heavy materials, they simply shot her and left her to die. as he watched this, he was forced to continue walking with the army. after 7 days in the bush, with torture and being forced to do unimaginable things, he escaped and by the grace of God he says he survived to tell the story. stories like this come before me each day and i am forced to realize how lucky i am to be in this place and to hear these stories and meet these modern day heroes.