After three weeks in South Sudan, it remains apparent that I am a stranger in a foreign land. I quickly became accustomed to the children shouting, “Kawaja! Kawaja! Kawaja!” as they come running to shake my hand (and ask for money). I learned to lay bricks, while many young eyes looked on. Men, women, and children all speak openly, but my ears do not understand their words. I am a stranger, a curiosity, and, because I am Kawaja, the supposed distributor of unlimited wealth.
When I consider how many people in scripture sojourned in foreign lands, being a stranger and an alien appears to be normal. Consider one man, Abraham:
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. … All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” [Hebrews 11:8-10,13-16]
I am an alien among the Dinka, but the Dinka are realizing that South Sudan is not their spiritual homeland as they look to Christ in faith for the promise of a better land. It is our hope that many more Dinka will be added to the city whose foundation is Christ and whose architect and builder is God. Because our God builds his church, we have faith that simple obedience will bear much fruit for the population of that holy, heavenly city. This obedience takes shape in several ministries of Cush4Christ: the training of men to be church-planting pastors, the broadcasting of the gospel by Wëër Bei 99.9 FM, and most recently, preparing to start a Christian school. My primary responsibility is the construction of a building for the Crossroads Training Center and the school. This building, containing four classrooms, is expected to be completed in April. These past two weeks have been filled with making bricks, laying bricks, and moving fill dirt.
- Giving thanks that I have adjusted well to life in Wanyjok. I was ill for a day when I arrived, but quickly recovered.
- That the truck of construction supplies will arrive soon.
- That visa uncertainties for all 14 members of our team will be resolved quickly and inexpensively. Since South Sudan became an independent nation last year, visa rules are changing frequently, making it very difficult for us (and even the government officials) to understand and comply with the requirements. This is yet another reminder that we are strangers in a foreign land.
- That the gospel will take deep root in the lives and culture of the Dinka, for the salvation of many unto new life in Christ Jesus.
In other news, I am becoming less of a foreigner, because I have now received my Dinka name: Athian. My father’s name is Akwei, and my clan is Panyer.