Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back from Sudan!

I’m back in Winnipeg and extremely glad to be home with my family! Though it was quite a trip, I’ve struggled to find the right words to sum it up. It was certainly an adventure – one that was both challenging and amazing in so many ways. From the start, it felt as though God placed a curtain not more than six inches in front of our faces so that we couldn’t know what was going to happen from one moment to the next. I like to know what to expect. I like to plan for what’s coming. And none of that was possible in Sudan – certainly not in the remote town of Aweil. We arrived in a town bursting with people displaced by the floods in the surrounding area with no one to meet us, no transport arranged, no place to stay, little idea of the cost of such things, and no clear idea what we would do there for 10 full days.
All of that gave God plenty of opportunity to show Himself faithful as we gave up control and just let Him lead. And that resulted in blessing after blessing coming our way as the trip became more and more fruitful. Aken was able to see one person after another who he hadn’t seen in 17-25 years! The joy-filled hugs were wonderful to witness. And as we walked about the town on the day after we arrived, who happened to come and sit at the same tea shop where some happy friends had brought Aken, but the former Minister of Education! So as Aken caught up with loved ones, Carlos and I peppered a very willing interviewee with questions. And later, as we met with the new Minister of Education, it seemed God’s timing as he pulled out fresh notes that he had just taken in the past month after traveling to all the areas surrounding Aweil Town to find out exactly what the current status of all the schools and teachers was! We later saw some of his statistics illustrated during a visit to a local school in which we found as many classes outdoors as indoors and several classes as high as 100+ students – with one class of more than 200 children! We also met with the Minister of Infrastructure (re land and buildings), the Executive Director of the Town Council, the former Secretary General of Aweil and the state Governor. Later we also stumbled into a UN/NGO Taskforce meeting of health issues in the area, which we sat in on as guests.
My personal highlight was how God led us across the path of John Garang, a wonderful pastor who ministers in Aweil. It all began with us first meeting one of his associates, William Deng – a man whose name we’d been given by a pastor in Uganda – a name which represented the only Christian leader we knew of in Aweil. Our conversation with William was just in time since he was leaving on a trip the day after we met, but our time with him was cut short before he could even tell us of any other pastors he works with. Later that afternoon while Aken was out visiting, I let God know about my regret that I’d had so little time with William, as I had so many other questions I’d wanted to ask him. And then, just minutes after expressing this disappointment to Carlos, there was a knock at the door. It was John Garang. William had told him about us and he had sought us out.
John is a former Lost Boy who, in 1986, with many other boys walked all the way across Sudan to Ethiopia to escape the fighting in Aweil. To survive, he joined the SPLA (Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army) for eight years. While a soldier, God sovereignly directed him to go to what turned out to be a church and there he was introduced to Jesus. John felt called to take the Gospel back to Aweil, and that resulted in his long walk back home. In fact, as a volunteer pastor, John walked the distance between Uganda and Aweil 6-7 times – an 800 mile, 3-month journey each time! As a pioneer for the Gospel in Aweil, John experienced significant persecution, including time spent in jail. Presently, he oversees pastors of many congregations while also leading one himself. It was a huge honour not only to meet him, but also to preach in the church he leads as he translated for me.
This summary wouldn’t be complete without many thanks for people praying for us. We felt those prayers as we ended up in what seemed like one divine appointment after another – one sense of perfect timing after another. We would constantly wonder what more we could be in Aweil to accomplish, and suddenly we’d find ourselves in yet another purposeful moment. Thank you for praying.
People’s prayers for our travels were especially appreciated. As we arrived at the airport on August 28 to leave Aweil, we received a cell phone call telling us that no plane would be coming to get us that day. The flight was delayed until the following day. That meant we would miss our connecting flights to Uganda and to Canada! At that moment, there was a UN plane sitting on the airstrip collecting passengers, and they admitted that they had three empty seats on their plane. But because we could not be officially referred to them by an NGO, they couldn’t take us aboard. So as that plane took off, we were left wondering how we would make our way back home. And then suddenly, as if on cue from heaven itself, in walks Vincent, a Canadian who lives about an hour from Aweil Town and whom we’d met the week before. After hearing about our situation, he explained that he had a charter flight coming in that afternoon which would be leaving with no passengers at dawn the next morning. It was an MAF (Missionary Aviation Fellowship) plane that wasn’t scheduled to stop in Juba but which perhaps would be willing to rearrange their schedule for us. In the end, they agreed to have us on board and to make a stop in Juba, and we arrived there just in time to make our flight to Uganda! So to complete a trip on which very little went according to a plan, that is how we made it home to our families as planned!

© 2008 by Ken Peters

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great slide show of Sudan Ken. Really enjoyed it.

Wow that is some tall giraffe! Good thing you had your camera ready or you would have missed it :)

Jon

Ken said...

Thanks Jon.
That was 100 pictures out of over 1,000 that Carlos & I took! It was a bit of a challenge to decide which ones to include in a slide show of reasonable length. Glad you liked it!
Ken

Ryan Cuthel said...

Hi Ken,

Ryan here, the MAF pilot! Thanks so much for putting your story into words and sending it to MAF. It was a real encouragement and a motivation for us to continue serving God here in Kenya and Sudan. I'm really enjoying looking through your blog! I hope to bump into you again someday, hopefully next time it won't be under such worrying circumstances for you...... but hey - its not a real african experience without that element of doubt and unexpectedness!!

All the best,
Ryan.

Ken said...

Great to hear from you, Ryan! I'm glad the account I wrote made it to you. I had hoped it would. I considered putting it into the blog in that format but wondered if it might feel a tad long for a blog posting. Anyway, I truly wanted MAF to know what a God-send you were in that situation! And yes, the trip would've been incomplete without a travel-glitch like what we got that day!
God bless you in all your travels - and I too hope we meet again!
Ken