The Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, sounded the alarm this month in a letter to the international community. “Arms smuggling, re-armament and incitement of tribal violence is being carried out by enemies of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement… Why is the international community allowing this violence to continue? I beseech you to act now to prevent it and protect the peace of my people.” (full text)
The Archbishop is a man of tremendous vision, and I am honored to be working for him. In his first year in office he has been working tirelessly and without pay to bring development to Sudan. But development work cannot happen in the presence of violence and insecurity. I had an agriculture workshop scheduled today, which was canceled because of insecurity in the area. Now, as the CPA is threatened, the Archbishop has become an outspoken advocate of peace. Last week, the front page of the Juba newspaper had his photo and the title, “Church sounds the alarm”. He is struggling to find the means to travel to some of these conflict torn areas to preach about peace, and reconciliation. His voice makes a difference. The Church makes a difference.
It is easy to feel hopelessness in the face of mounting uncertainty for the future of Sudan. It is easy to see only the bad things that are happening anywhere in this world. But this week, I am inspired by this leader who stands firmly with the Gospel message of peace and reconciliation. And I am honored that my presence here is helping support the programs of the Church, which bring hope.
I had my first agriculture workshop last week in the diocese of Lainya. I met with 17 pastors and lay leaders for a day-long discussion and practice. We started with a bible study on passages that talk about stewardship of the land, and a discussion. “We need tractors, tools, seeds…” this is a refrain I have heard everywhere. But this time, we used it as an opportunity to talk about what they do have, and how God might be calling them to act with what has been provided in creation around them. One thing we came up with was that they could plant a teak plantation using seeds from the wild trees, and use that for an investment for the church and the pastors. We also went out into the field to observe and practice some improved techniques. By looking and evaluating, the participants came up with 7 different benefits of mulch! Convincing people to mulch instead of burn is one of my priorities as an agriculturalist. Since we talked about what happens in both mulching and burning, and looked at the results, and connected that to what we read in the bible about learning from creation, it seems to have made an impact. It was a good and hope-filled day.
God has been moving in my heart on the subject of hope. As I sat praying a few days ago, demanding answers to my worry and longing, a single word came to me – patience. And all my questions and demands of “why” and “when” and “how,” seemed to be clouds of darkness and confusion, and at the center of it all was a dazzlingly beautiful light, that was the love of God. This seemed to be the answer to my questions… take a step back, remember what is important. I find it immensely difficult to trust God, because after all, bad things happen to good people. But this picture in my heart is a reminder. There is no truth in these questions I ask, no hope. Hope is in the love of God, everywhere and eternal.
Patience is a choice, focusing on the love of God is a choice. I have been frustrated that I don’t find these choices to be natural. It takes me whispering the words “rely on God” before I can even consider that patience is a choice! But I think this is the work of life to which we are called. We can choose whether our work is fulfilling or not, based on the choices we make every second of the day. Many of these choices are too hard, too different from our normal way of being. But we have the Holy Spirit inside us, just waiting for us to remember that we can’t do it alone.
So in spite of all that is going on, and because of it, I feel the presence of the peace which passes understanding. And I am assured that it is through our weaknesses and failings, and through the troubles and hopelessness of this world that God’s glory is revealed.