Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Echoes of War

(an article I wrote for our "Medical Progress Notes" that goes out quarterly)

Sometimes I think I forget the context in which we live.

For 4 days every week I get to be a ‘fly on the wall’ in a village called Gasmala where I go to learn Mabaan, the local language of the people. I get to watch their routines, their conversations, the interactions between husband & wife, parents and children. I get to “participate” in jokes and stories that they tell. I learn from them, not only the language of Mabaan, but the culture of their people – the things that are important to them, the things they cherish.

There are days when I get caught up in the “now” - in what I am seeing at that very moment; the laughter, the sharing, the working, the playing children... I forget that under all the happy layers and appearance of normality there is a current of remembrance; a dull and ever-present awareness of everything that has transpired on this land, long before the laughter that I see today.

I have found myself ‘snapped back’ to a reality that I can’t grasp when the people there casually tell me, “oh, when we first came back we collected many bones in this spot” on our way to the river. Or “...and here was a big battle ground where many of our people died... and those holes in the ground are where the soldiers would stay and shoot from.” I have walked by bullet casings and not noticed. I sat reading one day while two little boys ran by playing with a real gun. Not a toy. It was not plastic. It was a real gun. Everything was disabled and safe mind you, but none the less it hit me like a ton of bricks. These children have grown up with war. These adults don’t just see a tree or a field, they see a land mark where someone they knew was killed, or a house was burned.

Every single night in Gasmala the church families gather for a time of worship, a short devotional, and prayer. Every night when they go over the things they need to pray for they pray for their country, that peace would stay, that God would give wisdom to those who are in positions of power, and for the many Mabaan people displaced in the West, in Khartoum, and in the Refugee Camps.

Even with all this I struggle to comprehend what they have seen and gone through for their whole lives. And I realize just how free I have been for the 26 years I have been on this Earth. I am convicted by their dedication to start over, start fresh. Many left more ‘affluent’, although not necessarily easier, places of living to go back to the basics of living the bush, cooking over a fire, and growing their own food. They came to this relatively opportunity-less land because it is their home, because they love it, because here they are free, even if only for a time.

“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19