A letter from Sharon Curry in South Sudan
Adventures of the traveling suitcase…
“I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
"I love to tell the story, because I know 'tis true; it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do."—Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911
Whew! I am tired! I don’t know what it is about Sharon. She just can’t sit still. It seems like she never unpacks me. I can’t remember the last time I was completely empty. It seems we no longer land in one place until we are off on another adventure. I thought her surgery would give me a break. It didn’t…for long.
Let me tell you, this summer has been hard on me, a suitcase. We left Ethiopia in late April and we’ve been on the go ever since. I have spent more time in her car or going from airport to airport than elsewhere. We’ve had some adventures and seen quite a lot of the U.S. we hadn’t planned on. I know that she’s had lots of fun visiting with family and friends and meeting all kinds of new people.
We began the summer visiting churches close to home in Grace Presbytery…St. Philip, St. Stephen, First Presbyterian in Bridgeport, Trinity in Denton, presbytery meetings and Presbyterian Women meetings. She slowed down after her surgery—for about two weeks—then it was on the go again! Two weeks after surgery, do you know what she was doing? Standing in the front yard, her arm in a sling, pitching a tent with one hand!! I had to scratch my handle and ask, “What is this all about?”
A week later I found out. She stuffed me full of all kinds of camping gear—sleeping bag, pillow, air mattress, dishes, silverware and more. I wondered, “What is she up to now?” We were off to the airport and landed in strange city called “Denver.” The next day she stuffed me on a bus and we were going through the most beautiful countryside until we landed in place called La Garita. “Finally,” I thought, “I am going to get a break.” Well, I did. Once she pitched her tent and blew up her air mattress, I figured out what we were doing—primitive camping in the desert! In July! Three weeks after surgery! I just had to wonder, “Is she crazy?!” Crazy is probably not the right word. Maybe determined is. I shouldn’t complain, except for digging around in me two or three times a day to find new clothes, or to move me in out of the rain. I was on “vacation,” basking in the sun, working on my tan and viewing the beautiful countryside. She was off to build a house! Not just an ordinary house, but one made out of something called “earthbags.”
It was very interesting to watch as they filled all these bags with mud and started stacking them on top of each other to build walls. Then they covered them with something called adobe and they didn’t look too bad. And I know everyone had fun dancing around in all that wet mud as they mixed the sand, gravel, clay and water together with their feet.
It was a start; they didn’t finish because it kept raining¸ or was so hot in the afternoons they had to stop, but we have the general idea now. The most exciting thing about this project was watching them all come together. They started out as strangers and before they finished they were friends and family. They bonded over a common project and became a community. I think when we get back to Akobo, she can actually build one. Not just the house, but the community as well.
Three weeks later we were on the road again and headed back home. I thought, “Now I can finally rest.” I should have known better. We didn’t stay long before we were on the road again. This time to Tucson, Arizona. What an amazing place it was! The people were all so nice. We went to a presbytery meeting and she met lots of wonderful people and told lots of stories about her time in South Sudan and Ethiopia. The next day I listened to her tell some more stories at Trinity Presbyterian Church. We took a break and we drove all over Tucson—what a beautiful city it is!
I thought we were on the road home, but I should have known better. When she picked me up from that baggage thing (you know, a suitcase can get dizzy on those things!), I thought we were home, but nooo, we were in a place called Nashville. It is in Tennessee. She left me with her cousin one day and came back very excited. I heard her telling them about a meeting she had with some Nuer men from the International Center for Empowerment. I don’t know what they do there, but they sure empowered her to go back to Akobo with lots of new ideas. She couldn’t stop talking about it. She was fired up and ready to catch the next plane to Africa. But, not yet. A few days later I was back in her aunt’s car and we were headed north. They said we were going to Wisconsin.
After an overnight stop along the way, they both came out, eyes full of wonder, a few tears, and a little subdued as they talked about seeing Jesus there. In a place called “The Shrine of Christ’s Passion.” They couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful He was. According to them there were statues that depicted the last days of His life, and they were life size! I didn’t get to see them. They left me in the hot car.
On the road again, and we were in a place called Franklin, Wisconsin. That was a nice place filled with nice people and this time she preached a sermon and told her stories at Faith Presbyterian Church. I really liked it there, but I knew I wasn’t going to get to stay very long. Uggh! Back in the car I went! And, on the road again we were. Heading south, back to Nashville. I thought, will she stay a while this time? No! Of course not! A few days later I was chunked in the hold of another airplane! At least this time we were headed back to Texas. And as I went round and round on the baggage “thingy” waiting for her to notice me, I thought, “At last! We get to stay a while.” I should have known better!
We did stay in the area for a while, but I still had to ride back and forth in her car. She’s been staying at her daughter’s, her mom and dad’s, and at a friend’s house since she came home. It is about 60 miles between them, so I have been spending a lot of car time. Then she throws in a presbytery meeting, leadership development program, back and forth, back and forth. I know I am not finished yet.
I heard her saying we’re leaving for Detroit this weekend and then we’re going back in a couple of weeks. She has to spend a weekend in Dallas in between. I am sure I will be along for that ride too. Detroit, Dallas, Detroit, and then it will be off to Weatherford on a Saturday and Granbury on Sunday. More programs, more meetings, more sermons. Can’t that girl every stop?! I guess not! But I am very excited. I heard her say it will only be a couple of weeks after the last stop until we get to go back to South Sudan. It takes at least 24 hours to get there. I hope I can rest on that plane!
I am tired. I am worn out, my seams and straps are a little worse from the wear of all that packing and unpacking, from car to house, house to car, car to airport, and back again. It is hard on me, but worth it. She comes back from every “adventure” all fired up and ready to go. I heard her tell her friend today, it is not about all the travel she’s been doing all summer, it is about building relationships and how grateful she is that she has been able to tell so many people thank you in person. That is a lot better than a letter any day when you can look them in the eye and think back as she prays for them and know who they are and what their church looks like and put faces to names on emails. I know she is sad because she couldn’t visit every one, but we’re looking forward to the next time she is home and visiting others we don’t know yet.
I heard her say it is about loving God and sharing that love and excitement with others. It is about loving the people of South Sudan and being able to tell their stories and show pictures of their lives. The people she tells may never get to meet the people of Akobo or other parts of South Sudan, but we are building bridges that will connect the churches that support her with the people of Akobo and South Sudan. The people she has met and talked to here will have a picture in their heads of the people of Akobo, the lives they lead, the challenges they face, and stories that will bring them together when she goes back to and tells the people there about all the people here who are praying for them and supporting their work together. It’s not about the traveling. It is about the relationships that cross the bridges of time, space and culture. It is about the thing that binds us all together. It is about the love of Jesus Christ that is the bridge that connects us all. It is all about telling the stories of Jesus and his glory.
Thanks be to God.
1) For my preparation to return to Akobo
2) Prayers of thanksgiving for all the people and churches I have been blessed to meet
3) For the people of Akobo and South Sudan
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 94