A letter from Sharon Curry in South Sudan
Waiting for the Glory…
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
This is one of the hardest letters I have to write. I returned home for my grandson’s graduation anxious to see family and friends, anxious to tell the story of my time in South Sudan and Ethiopia as much as time would allow.
Many of you heard the story of my wild ride from Malakal to Renk to the Women’s Leadership Development conference I participated in. It was a wild ride down a rough road filled with mud moguls designed to slow down troops as they moved south during the many years of war. I thought it would make a great road for a chase scene in an action thriller movie, complete with vehicles racing and bouncing over rough roads and through dust so thick you couldn’t see where the other cars were. We were chasing each other back and forth through switchbacks and bouncing sometimes until I thought we would turn over. It was during one of those “pitching” moments that I reached up to grab on to the roof to stabilize myself only to discover I was grabbing air. It was the next stop when we got out that I doubled over and saw stars as the pain went searing through my arm.
I went through a lot of physical therapy and even a manipulation while I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was blessed with an amazing American orthopedic surgeon at the Korean Hospital there. He did a great job and everything he could. He saved me a lot of time on this end with what he did, but apparently it wasn’t enough.
The pain in my shoulder has never gone away, so to keep people from telling me I should get it checked out, I did. By the time you read this I will be recovering from surgery rather than returning to Gambela as I planned. There is a lot of work to be done to repair the damage I did.
It would be easy to get discouraged and frustrated. I have had those days, but not too many and not for long. I am constantly reminded that I didn’t choose Jeremiah 29:11 as the theme for my mission. God did. Apparently there is still work for me to do here while I recover. And while I am extremely disappointed that I won’t be returning for a while, I look forward to what God has in store for me next as I reflect on my time in the States so far.
It has been a wonderful time of rest and renewal and reconnecting with family and friends. It has been a time of being here to experience my youngest grandson’s firsts. I missed his first crawls, but I laughed at his first laughs. I have seen his first teeth come in and loved his first attempts at standing and hopefully will see his first steps.
I laughed as my youngest granddaughter met me at the airport and said, “Momma, Grandma got out.” We’ve been skyping on a regular basis since I left in December. She just turned 2. I guess she thought I went to live in the computer. There is nothing quite like the smile on her face as she comes running, arms stretched out, yelling, “Grandma!”
I watched with a few tears in my eyes as my oldest grandson took his first steps across the stage and into life as an adult as he prepares to leave home and head off for college in the fall. I am sure God is with him as he takes these first steps towards independence and building his own life.
It has been a few weeks of spending time with the rest of my grandchildren. Exploring the city on a daylong scavenger hunt and just spending time to hang out as they begin their summer.
I have had stories to tell to churches close to my home that I have visited and shared with them the joys of this mission. Some of them I have known and others are new friends. Words can never express my gratitude for the opportunities to visit with them, or my sorrow that I can’t make it to every church that supports me this summer.
One of my great joys is finding a Nuer congregation close to my home church and the opportunities to worship with them. They are an amazing group of people who have welcomed me with open arms. I am not sure who was more surprised that first day I visited—me or them. I met one family in the parking lot and greeted them in Nuer, “Mali.” I thought her eyes were going to pop in surprise. And then the tables were turned on me when I started to introduce myself to the pastor and had barely gotten my first name out of my mouth when he said, “We know, you are the one from Akobo.” Eight thousand miles away from Akobo, I was stunned.
That first meeting has grown into a family that I will hate to leave behind. A family that is surprised when I can sing their songs and participate in some parts of the worship service in their native language. Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t say in amazement, “I saw you singing/praying/talking in our language.”
I am grateful for the opportunities to worship with them and to share in communion. Their native songs and drums bring back memories of my time in Akobo and Malakal and the welcome I received there. It is building memories that I will take with me as I learn language and culture in the process. It also fills me with a longing to go back, especially as they thank me for serving their people. It makes me long to return to do the work.
I am excited to be a part of the prayer service on July 7 as all the South Sudanese in North Texas join together to pray for their new nation. God has expanded my horizons and prepared the way for me to make more connections between here and there. By keeping me here a little longer to recover and heal, he has allowed time for the bridges to be built that will connect us when I return.
I was surprised to learn they are committed to building a church in Akobo. Presbyterian? No, but does the denomination matter? God’s Word is being spread and the people of South Sudan are the ones spreading it. God has provided the connection that will bind me to this congregation. When I return to Akobo I won’t be leaving them behind, as I first feared. We will remain connected through God and the church they are building as they cross the bridge to Akobo to watch its growth and development. I will visit with them again when I return. Isn’t it nice to know that bridges go both ways?
This has been a time of learning from the many pastors I consider friends. You have nurtured me and supported me and lifted me up in ways you will never know. You know who you are and if I began to name you, I would undoubtedly leave someone out, so I am just not going to try. I have learned more from our conversations than I could have in hour upon hour of study and research. You have put your faith in me as you invited me into your churches to share our stories and invited me into your pulpits to preach God’s Word. I will be eternally grateful for the time you have taken from your busy schedules to help me.
It is off on another adventure, not the one I had planned, but an adventure nonetheless. It will be surgery and recovery, healing and physical therapy. It will be a time of building, not just physically but spiritually as well. It will be a time of waiting anxiously for the glory that will be revealed when I return to the work God has called me too. In the meantime, know that you are in my thoughts and prayers and I appreciate all of you who are praying for me.
God be with you,
- Rapid healing and recovery from my surgery
- The people of Akobo
- In gratitude for God’s many blessings
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 94