It’s been a little over two weeks…two weeks since I was in the most remote, undeveloped, recovering, and beautiful place I have been to date. I traveled to South Sudan with Wonderkind Studios for Life In Abundance to see and experience our world’s newest country.
And I need to be really honest here before I go on—I was pretty nervous. My time in Ethiopia and Kenya were life-changing and very different. But this trip to South Sudan was even more unique, on so many levels. It still had some of the elements I had been witness to: a lack of material goods, generations of struggle, and beautiful brothers and sisters who are in desperate need of empowerment.
But South Sudan had even more. It was a challenge just to get there. The “airport” was a dirt strip where a plane landed now and then. There are basically no roads. It was very remote and extremely hot. I really had no idea what to expect. I was going to a country where everyone has been touched by war and/or ethnic cleansing in some way, shape, or form. So, yeah, I was intimated and yet excited as well.
When we arrived, reality set in: I was in a different world. The sun was intense, and I sensed that I was about to discover a whole new way of life. When our local LIA contact helped us through customs and we packed up to go to our temporary home for the next week, something happened I didn’t expect… I got really calm and peaceful. Zigzagging in and around potholes on the “road” rocked and rolled us in the car, but as we approached the compound I couldn’t wait to meet the community we would soon be living with and interviewing.
But how do I sum up a trip like this? It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. So, until I work through some of the observations, here are some highlights:
- The countless stories we heard of people walking ten, twenty-five, fifty, and even seventy-five miles to come to the clinic
- The two-hour drive we took on a “road” that was more like a two-hour, nonstop demolition derby
- The beautiful smiles of the children we met
- How every person I interviewed had lost a loved one in the war—the mother who lost all nine of her sons; the young man who lost his dad and saw his brother killed; and so many more
- The day we were caught in a flash flood and our van got stuck in the mud. (After trying unsuccessfully to push it out, we ended up walking through a foot of water back to the compound in pouring rain, carrying our gear.)
- The hospitality and warmth we felt from the community
- How eating local food was occasionally scary
- The heat. The bugs. The latrine.
But the one thing I’m still processing, inspired by, and working through the most is the overwhelming feeling and excitement of HOPE that being free has given South Sudan. There is much work to be done, but where there is HOPE, there are possibilities.