Sunday, August 30, 2009

Malakal and Renk

Three of us from the provincial office traveled to Malakal and Renk for the last two weeks. It was a wonderful trip and an adventure.

Malakal and Renk are about 200 miles apart, both on the flat plain that surrounds the Nile river, just north of the Sudd (the largest seasonal swamp in the world). It rained in Malakal while we were there, and I have never seen such mud! It was the kind of mud that adds an extra quarter inch to your height with each step.

This was my first visit to Malakal and Renk, and the purpose was to get acquainted with the area, find out and see what kinds of agriculture projects are going on, and identify the vision the diocese has as well as agricultural potential for future projects. We had meetings with organizations, and with diocesan leaders, andi visited diocesan facilities and farms. I got to give an introduction to agriculture lecture to primary school students in Malakal, and a short, two-hour workshop to the students at Renk Theological College, and members of the Mother’s Union. We talked about how a pastor can take on the role of an agriculture advisor, and we went out to talk about specific techniques in the Mothers Union garden. We also spent some time talking about attitudes of abundance, and looking for the resources and the opportunities existing in their own congregations.

Through our time in Malakal and Renk we were shown wonderful hospitality by each diocesan staff, and the Mothers Union. Mama Rebecca, a deacon and Mothers Union leader in Malakal, accompanied us on the whole trip. She kept us all in order on the journey. She speaks six languages, and talks about God with just about everyone she meets. She carried a thermos of tea with us, she doesn’t like tea herself, but she had it there for us and others she met on the way.

Between Malakal and Renk we took a boat on the Nile, because the roads there are impassable this time of year. The river ride was amazing, both coming and going. Downstream it took 8 hours, upstream it was 25 hours, but I didn’t get tired of seeing the smooth surface of the Nile, the horizon of reeds and water hyacinth, the sun and clouds, the sunset, and the moon and stars all reflected on the glassy surface of the water. As the sun set, Mama Rebecca served tea to several passengers, dishing out milk and sugar. I couldn’t understand the language, but I could tell she was telling stories from the Bible.

On this trip, like Kajo Keji, I was again struck by both the beauty of creation, and the power of people. As we look around us we can choose to see only the suffering and vast need, or we can open our eyes to see also the effort, unity, and love both great and small shown by the people. Mama Rebecca’s thermos of tea is a great symbol of this for me!

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