Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Sense of Something Greater

Ok, so MONTHS ago I told you I would fill you in on how our Thomaji Outreaches got started every Wednesday... Below you will find the very long, but very worthwhile story explaining it all :) Please read it, as it was the thing that kept me going for 8 months in the clinic, and something I STILL feel was the start of something still to come... simply, just one of those things were you get a sense that you're a part of something much greater than what you know in that moment...

(this is the email I sent to a select few right when it all happened... with a few edits here and there :P )

Hey to all my loves ones :) February 11th, 2010

Today was one of those days where, while showering off the layers of salt and dirt from myself, a smile creeps onto my face and I ask myself, in all seriousness, does ANYONE on this earth live as an amazing life as I am getting to out here...?! Now, I realize that 'amazing' is totally subjective and that bicycling 4 hours in on very bumpy bush paths, getting cuts and scrapes, and hiking your skirt up so you can cross a river, while gradually getting more and more dehydrated, isn't everyone's idea of an awesome day, but it's pretty much tops for me - these reasons plus many more meaningful ones :)

So, to fill you in - while I am working in the clinic these next number of months, I am, by the sheer Grace and Sovereignty of God, getting to do some of those things that I've been dreaming about, at the village level... There is so much to this story, but for now all you need to know is that every Wednesday I get to take 2 of our CHW's from the clinic and travel out to a village far away (a huge village... 4000ppl, on the other side of the river across from Gasmala) called Thomaji. Our purpose in going is to do Growth monitoring of children under 5, and pregnancy screening - for starters anyway. I had been over to Thomaji a few times in the last year and the needs on that side of the river are a stark contrast to what seems like almost 'urban' Doro in comparison (this place really does have 'the ends of the earth' within it's boarders!) Anyway, so a few weeks ago when Sandy and I started taking about this Wednesday outreach thing, the first village that came to mind was Thomaji...

So, today we went out there for the first time - I contacted the wonderful Pastor Daniel out there to have him gather all the chiefs and leaders b/c we wanted to discuss health things with them. I've been dwelling extra on this for a whole week - feeling extremely insignificant, crazy intimidated, and ridiculously honored to have this opportunity. I mean seriously, who gets to sit in a meeting with like 10 elders of a crazy rural village in SUDAN and make plans with them about improving the lives of their villagers!? Why doesn't EVERONE want this 'job' :)? I hardly slept last night b/c I was so amped and going over and over our conversation (in advance)... trying to think about what they would think of our proposed outreach, what their possible qualms might be, everything...

The Lord is so good. Seriously, He was preparing me for this meeting today. I had this odd feeling I couldn't put my finger on - not just nerves, but that somehow this meeting wouldn't be as straightforward, 'gee that sounds great thanks for coming!' as one might like or expect, given our context... Anyway, while I was prep-ing yesterday I felt strongly that I need to communicate that We (the clinic/SIM) care a lot for their villages and people, and that even though they are so far away from the clinic, we want to help them have and attain good health (among other things!) I soon found out why the Lord had me lead off with that assurance of our hearts for them...

So, it turns out that the people of Thomaji essentially feel "forgotten". You see, they live a good 2-4 hours way from Doro (clinic) and Bunj (market) (it's a huge hunk of land, Thomaji), and all the NGO's and people that have come to help the Mabaan people, none of them cross the river... Thomaji has seen very very little movement in the progression of their lives since returning from the war. They have almost given up and are now very skeptical of anyone who says they want to help... Apparently many have come to say that they would help, but they never come back and nothing changes, no improvements are made. This one, very ballsy chief (who I REALLY like), looked right at me and said, "Really, even though you've come all this way to meet with us, I am thinking that you've only come to exchange words, you aren't actually going to help us or give us medications..." Woof. Ok Lord, so how the heck do I give an answer that doesn't promise something I can't keep, but still instills hope without sounding false and empty?? *deep breath!*

Part of our goal in going out there today was to find out from them what concerns they have for their people - what are their issues as they see them? So, in order to get discussion going we told this story about a village that was pretty much over-run with lions. These lions would come into the village every night, wounding and killing people. Many had died. So the villagers tried to figure out what they could do to solve the problem of the lions... Well, they would build a hospital so that those wounded would get treatment... they did that, but the lions kept attacking - so that wasn't the solution... So, next they built a huge fence around their village - so tall that the lions couldn't jump or climb over it and they put big heavy doors at the entrance that the people would go in and out off.... and that solved the problem of attacks during the night, but this one lady, when she took her two children out to her field was attacked and the lions ran off with her little baby... The problem of the lions was still there... what would they do? The village decided that they need to train some of their young men to hunt and kill the lions. So, when they were ready the men left to track down the lions... two of the men died and a few were wounded, but eventually the men came back victorious b/c they had killed the last lion. This was how they solved the problem of lions...

-So, following a more elaborate telling of that story, we asked these leaders what their "lions" are - what were their big issues that needed attacking b/c they were hurting their people...? This was a huge discussion and there's no way I can tell you all that they said, but, they did say some predictable things like "we need more clean water - our people are drinking from the river" (you should see this river, it's like chocolate milk), "we need a clinic - this is our first priority" (of course it is, and they are absolutely right, they DO need a clinic), etc... But, one of the most heart wrenching responses was from a man who addressed me by name when we came to join the meeting (I have no idea how he knows me, I don't recall his face, but that probably made his words tug at my heart even more). He said, "Katta, we thank you for coming, it's good really. And I like this story about lions very much - it is very applicable for us as we have many lions. But, we will be killed completely by our lions - they are too many, and we have no way to fight them. Our Lions are going to kill us before we can kill them." Holy moly - are YOU crying b/c I sure was... (and dang I was trying not too!) How in the face of that hopelessness can I offer our little "under 5 clinics" every Wednesday and think that they should be excited about it...? I felt like I was sitting before a man who was absolutely starving and I hand him one little peanut and then look eagerly at his face waiting for his gratitude. Seriously. Get real.

But, as we know, SO much, the Lord is SO good, and He gave me, multiple times, just the right (I think) words to respond to them. It's SO hard, man, I can hardly explain it to you, to offer what, in their eyes seems like so little... but it WILL make a difference and it IS a start. I told them that I agree with them, they do need a clinic... and as we know things like that take much time... but, I assured them we were on that road with them... this (monitoring the children) is the first step. I said, "when you want to build a house, before you can build upwards, you need to first dig holes in the ground - you go down before you go up..." Such is it with this - even though their ultimate goal is a clinic, these are the first steps... Amazingly, they seemed ok with this. Even though my ballsy opinionated Chief said "I still think you won't show up next week... but it's a good idea" :) He also asked, rather forcefully, "We are all sick, why are you starting with the children!? What about us!?" ... To which I took a deep breath, prayed, and said... "if we don't start with the children but start with you, there will be no one alive in Thomaji tomorrow... We need to start with the children to make sure that Thomaji people are still living here in years to come. If we start with the adults only, you will all die" (man, it sounds really sinister all typed out, but it wasn't said like that... the Lord put the words in my mouth so well that Daniel could hardly wait to do the translation - and it made my cynical ballsy chief laugh :) Then he said, "ok, ok... start with the children" :)

So... NOW do you think I had an awesome day?? There is SO much more I could tell you - but, I have a splitting headache and my bed is calling my name! But PLEASE... PLEASE keep praying for us every Wednesday... I feel like we are walking a very fine line in order to gain the trust of some of these men. I need SO much Wisdom from the Lord and Discernment of the Spirit on what and when to say things. I also need SO much energy to do this - it's REALLY far from Doro and the work out there is going to be incredibly exhausting (plus the weight of responsibility for the 2 CHW's I take out there). BUT, I AM CONFIDENT OF THIS... the Lord is ALL OVER IT.. it was HIS idea, and HE has NOT forgotten these people (as I told them repeatedly today). HE will give us what we need to accomplish what HE has set out to do - and amazingly enough, He's letting us be apart of it... is there seriously anything better in this whole world then knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is working and wanting you to join in?? Woof! :)

Ok you guys... I love you - thanks SO much for praying about today - and thanks in advance for praying about EVERY Wednesday! :) I'll try to keep you posted. I'm really excited about visiting that one Chief's village - that will be two weeks from now :) hehe... over time, I pray he trusts us... but more than that, I pray he learns to put is trust in Jesus. Pray for us, pray for them. Thanks you guys. Feel free to pass this email along to others.

An exhausted but very contented, Chris xoxo

**It's important for you to know that this Chief and I are now very good friends :) His name is Binge Loude, and when we arrived in his village for our first week, he came over to our group to greet us, looked right at me & stuck out his hand... "You CAME"... "Yes, we CAME". This exchange IS part of a typical Mabaan greeting, but for both of us this day, it had a double meaning :) Please continue to pray for this man... I'm anxious to have more stories to post about him in the future :)

****Congratulations... you made it to the end****