Monday, April 20, 2009

The Youth Mamas

While in my culture the phrase “Youth Mama” might refer to a teenage mother, in the Episcopal Church of Sudan it is a group of marching singing evangelists. The Youth Mamas are made up of youth (into their 30s), Mothers Union, and old women and men. They come from many different tribes, they come from different places around Sudan, and they come together to share their love of Jesus and their passion for preaching the Gospel of love, reconciliation, peace and unity wherever they go. They perform choreographed song and dance routines, they march, and the travel far and near on the backs of semi trucks, carrying their food and mattresses too.

Their costumes may look strange to westerners, but there is powerful symbolism. The colors are the colors of the Sudan flag. They wear crowns of the Prince of Peace, emblazoned with the dove of peace. The over dress (in this case white) is part of the traditional clothing in many parts of Sudan. And because they all are wearing the same thing, it shows the unity among them, across the tribes of Sudan, and among the believers. They march in formation, an army for prayer, and army of peace.

I had the great honor of traveling with the Youth Mamas as part of the delegation accompanying the Archbishop on his peace, reconciliation, and evangelism mission to Jonglei State. Wherever we went, the Youth Mamas brought enthusiasm, hope, joy, and life to grieving communities. People just couldn’t get enough of them. In the evening people would search them out wherever they were staying, just to be near them, to talk to learn, to pray.

I would challenge anyone to not want to be an evangelist after traveling with the Youth Mamas! I have been wondering what lesson the Church in the US could learn from the Youth Mamas. Evangelism is very different in our different contexts, but we could use some of the Youth Mama’s courage, conviction, joy, and enthusiasm. They know in their hearts that Jesus’ message of forgiveness, love, peace, and reconciliation is the only thing that will be able to bring their people together, who have been torn for so long by tribalism, violence, and war. Perhaps in our country we have lost touch with the urgency and relevance Jesus’ message has in our own context. We could all use a little more peace, love, reconciliation, forgiveness, joy, hope… and not in a “it would be nice” kind of way, in a “the future of the world and humanity depends on it,” kind of way!

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