Wow, it is hard to believe that we have been here for almost a year. We have been reflecting on our time here, and many of the important things that have happened, have happened not through our structured work but simply through living here.
One important thing has been helping to encourage our friend Celestin. He has been working out of the city pioneering a preschool among returning refugees: we started sending him text messages once a week or so to say “Hi, how are you?” It doesn’t take much time and isn’t a big deal, but he says, “NO, it IS a big deal!” because to him it means that he is not forgotten; that he is not working alone.
Josephine runs a small business selling cloth and making clothes. She has been wonderful, because she speaks great English, and when I was introduced to her she explained, “I am a Christian, so I run my business like that. I won’t trick you into paying more; I will give you fair prices.” And she does. Sometimes bargaining is fun, but sometimes haggling over every penny, all the time gets exhausting, so it is refreshing to have someone I can trust to buy things from and to help me know the right prices for things. She came to a presentation about the outreach to South Sudan and came up to me after saying, “You are a REAL Christian, I didn’t know mzungus could be REAL Christians!” (!?!) I want to say 2 things about this: First, she deals with a lot of mzungus at her market stall, and I have been ashamed at the way I’ve seen some people treat her. Second, to her, being a real Christian means being kind and caring for the people around you, living with honesty and integrity, praying, and caring for the needy (especially orphans & widows). I am thankful for her friendship, her prayers, and what I am learning from her.
Many of you probably remember our laundry debate. In the end, we hired Florence to come and do our laundry once a week, for about $5/week: it takes her about an hour. (On a comparison scale, many people doing jobs like this get payed $50/month for full time work). She is a mother of 2 and someone who lives with HIV/AIDS, and has had a very difficult life. (A team was here last year and documented her story: you can see it here.) I have seen a huge transformation in her in the last year! When she first started, she was afraid of us, and wouldn’t look us in the eye, and she rarely smiled. (Part of this is because of her hurts/inferiority, and part is because she hasn’t had much interaction with mzungus.) When she comes in the morning, she waits shyly outside our door. Throughout this year, several things have happened: through the visits of teams and counsellors, she has forgiven some of the hurt that has been done to her. APRECOM has also helped her by giving clothes for herself and her family. And we have been persistent in our attempts to communicate and be kind. I realized that a huge change had taken place when I returned after 2 months away: when she saw me, she broke out in a huge smile and ran into our place to hug me! I was taken aback and so excited!
We don’t want to leave Florence without a way to support herself when we leave: there are plans for her to start her own business.
It will take about $150 $125 more to complete what she needs, and you can read more about that here. (Through your generous donations, Florence will be able to start her business!!)
It has been incredible to see what has come out of the plans and programs we have been involved with during the last year. But it is also great to recognize that we can have an impact through our normal, daily lives! (And this is true wherever we are, but it seems here there is much opportunity to re-present the character of Christ(ians) and especially people from the west.)