The last two days in Arua and Rhino Camp have been a whirlwind. We’ve barely had time to unwind let alone process all that we’ve been seeing and hearing. Both days, we have driven into Rhino Camp (the South Sudanese refugee camp on the Ugandan border) and the journeys have been half the experience. The drive is over 1.5 hours with the last half on broken, unpaved roads. Multiple people on our team have nearly fallen ill time and time again. But the Lord held us together. Today was no exception. It started raining in the morning and did not stop until late afternoon. Because the roads are made of dried mud, our return today seemed nearly impossible, and yet we trudged on. At one point, we got stuck in the mud and couldn’t get moving. So our wonderful Senior Pastor, Barry, and our amazing team leader, Mike literally went out in the trenches and pushed our car til we were able to navigate it to safety. We thankfully made it home!
In Rhino Camp, our team split in half to serve alongside two different ministries. Rejoice – a ministry connected to OneTribe and Radio South Sudan – provides the community with training on sanitation and hygiene. Half our team helped lead those trainings and taught community members how to sew pads and make soap.
The other half of our team helped train church leaders and pastors on the impact of trauma through ALARM. The most impactful experience for the participants and our team was our grief circle when each person shared about their own grief and trauma. The pain was palpable and yet the resilience was just as strong. As people wept, the entire group would sing the song “we shall overcome” over them. It was a holy space and we were honored to receive their stories and trust and share ours as well.
Another beautiful thing we’ve learned from our South Sudanese brothers and sisters is the incredible power of joy alongside pain. After hearing such deep pain, their songs and dances of joy were all the richer. Their joy was vibrant but did not erase the depth of their grief or minimize the weight of their weeping. In fact, the wall was lined with paper links that documented some of their losses – there were hundreds. But their joy stood in juxtaposition to the reality of their grief. They carried both so tenderly and near to their hearts. I was struck by their courage to hold both. Their joy welcomed me in and their grief called me friend.
There is so much we have to learn from these brothers and sisters. God is gracious to have let us sit under their incredible witness and leadership.
Pray for us as we head to Yei, South Sudan today. Pray for us to hold these stories near to our hearts and ears to truly listen. Pray that God would expand our ability to love and for our South Sudanese brothers and sisters to feel the depth of that love.