Thursday, September 11, 2008

Waiting in Aweil

In the 11 days we were in Aweil, Sudan, it was a strange paradox to get so much accomplished in a place where it took so long to accomplish anything. A Ugandan pastor who ministers in Southern Sudan told us that however long things take to do things in Uganda, it takes five times longer to do the same things in South Sudan. It is a war-torn region that is recovering from over 20 years of civil war (1983-2005), or from what the state Governor referred to as “the disaster of the last 20 years.” Yet despite all that, in a whirlwind 11 days we managed to meet with…
  • the state Governor
  • the state Minister of Education
  • the previous state Minister of Education
  • the state Minister of Infrastructure (re buildings and land)
  • the former Secretary General of Aweil Town
  • the Executive Director of the Aweil Town Council
  • two pastors of the Episcopal Church in Aweil Town
  • the lead pastor of the Sudanese Pentecostal Church in Aweil Town and for the outlying areas
  • two Presbyterian church planters in rural Aweil
  • a portion of the teaching staff of a public primary school in Aweil Town
  • a UN/NGO Taskforce on regional health issues
It had to be God, in answer to the prayers of His people, who ensured that we were able to have so many valuable conversations with so many people. I say this because there were times during our visit when the simplest things took hours to accomplish. For example, one day we planned to drive to a village northwest of Aweil Town to see Aken’s sister as well as to drop off Aken’s brother and Aken’s nephew.      For this to happen, we had arranged to borrow a vehicle from the Ministry of Infrastructure.
All we needed to do was to get the vehicle to come to the place where Aken, Carlos, Aken’s brother, Aken’s nephew and I would be waiting. This is how it all came together…
  • At 11:00am, on the day we planned to make this trip, Aken went to get some medicine for his brother and to confirm the vehicle’s availability while Carlos and I went back to the house we were staying at to get what we needed for the trip.
  • Having got our stuff, Carlos and I walked back to a tea stand at which we expected Aken to return with the vehicle.
  • There we sat around for awhile.
  • Eventually we got hungry, so Carlos and I told the people at the tea stand that we were going to a nearby restaurant for lunch.
  • After eating, Carlos and I sat and sipped our water for awhile.
  • Then after awhile, I pulled out my Bible to read and Carlos slipped on his MP3 player to relax.
  • Then Aken came to the restaurant without the car, without the medicine for his brother and unsure where his brother was.
  • Aken then sat down to have lunch with a relative of his.
  • Carlos then went back to the house to get something.
  • Aken, his relative and I remained at the restaurant and sipped our water.
  • After awhile, Aken’s relative left.
  • Aken and I remained and waited some time longer.
  • After some time, the driver of the vehicle appeared and explained that he needed money for gas.
  • We gave him money and instructed him to return after purchasing the gas.
  • The driver then sat down to eat.
  • Then the power went out and the restaurant’s electric fan, which I had strategically placed myself right in front of, stopped spinning.
  • Not long after that, Aken and I got up and went back to the tea stand, and as we left, I looked back at the driver still sitting at his table eating and I wondered how we could just leave him there when it took so long to find him!
  • After sitting at the tea stand for awhile, I pulled out my sermon notes to review them for Sunday.
  • Then, at about 2:30pm, Carlos returned to the tea stand.
  • Not too long after that, Aken’s brother appeared and sat down at the tea stand. All we needed now was Aken's nephew and the vehicle.
  • But then Aken got up and went to purchase some clothes from the market for his brother.
  • While Aken was away, his nephew then arrived at the tea stand. Now all we needed was Aken and the vehicle.
  • Then Aken’s nephew went away somewhere. What next? Would Aken's brother be the next to leave so that when the vehicle came, it would be for just Carlos and I?
  • Then Aken returned with the clothes.
  • And then suddenly, at 3:10, the vehicle arrived with Aken’s nephew.
  • But gas had to then be siphoned into the vehicle from two jerry cans.
  • We then loaded up the luggage, and at 3:17, we departed for our destination.
Whenever we faced long waits like this, it often seemed like everyone around us knew more about what was going on than Carlos and I understood. We would sometimes try to clarify what was happening, but people seemed to think that we’d be better off if we just trusted them rather than them having to explain things to two confused North Americans. And like I said, the things that were accomplished on this trip seemed to work out in ways far beyond what we could have accomplished by our own understanding anyway!

© 2008 by Ken Peters


Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

I'm the Ryan from Winnipeg that wasn't the one who picked you up in Aweil. I had a good laugh at your play-by-play account of your afternoon in the tea shop. Thanks for the report you sent to MAF Canada. I've forwarded it to Australian Ryan. Many blessings on your work and involvment in Sudan!

Ken said...

Glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for sending the other Ryan the story I wrote about our departure from Aweil. We were so grateful to be a providential part of God's plans for MAF that day!