A letter from Sharon Curry in South Sudan
Dixie Cup Dreams
Do you remember? Do you remember your little Dixie Cup full of dirt and seeds that so many of us made as children in Sunday school? Do you remember how excited we were when we carried them home and waited for them to grow?
I don’t remember my Sunday school teacher’s name, but I remember, and I am telling my age here, my scratchy, stiff net petticoat and my dress with the stand-out skirt and big satin bow on the back that made me feel like a “princess.” I remember struggling to make a Mother’s Day card out of a cupcake liner, green construction paper stem and leaves, and a little gravel for the center of the “flower.” I remember her telling us a story about how planting a flower would make the world a prettier place.
I also remember a few weeks later we carefully planted seeds in tiny Dixie Cups filled with dirt. We carefully took our cups home and watered them, and waited for them to grow. Every day I went to look at my cup, waiting and hoping that this would be the day that a tiny seed poked its head out of the ground. You know, I can’t remember if it grew or not, but I remember that we repeated that lesson several times in my growing up years. And every time, just like that first time as a 4-year-old, I waited with a bit of anxiousness, with a bit of excitement and a whole lot of hope that the seeds would grow.
How about you? Did you bring your Dixie Cups full of dirt and seeds home from Sunday school? Did you wait anxiously, full of hope and excitement for them to pop their tiny first green leaves through the dirt? Do you remember what it felt like?
That is the same feeling I am approaching my return to Akobo with. It is a feeling of excitement and hope, and I am anxious for the next part of this journey to begin.
Those tiny cups of dirt and seed taught us much about carefully guarding a tiny gift from God. They taught us much about patience, waiting, watching and wondering. They taught us how to care, even for such a tiny thing. They taught us that no matter how hard we try or how careful we are, not all things grow. They taught us about anticipation and excitement. They taught us about the wonder of God’s provision.
I am filled with all those feelings as I look forward to returning. The time here has also been a time of looking back and realizing God’s hand was at work the entire time I was “stuck” in the States. I wasn’t really stuck. It was God working through me, planting his seeds and watering them and watching them grow new vines and new branches. It was God taking me to so many wonderful churches and connecting me with so many amazing people during my visits this summer. Every step I have taken this summer filled with journeys has shown me new and exciting things that will strengthen our mission and ministry when I return.
I was fortunate to visit with some South Sudanese men in Nashville. And their words have stayed with me ever since. If you bring one bag of food you can save 75 people. I can save them for the moment, but what about the long run? Their words sparked a journey that has created a memory of me and my aunt that will stay with me forever. That journey took us to every Dollar General store we could find between Nashville and Franklin, Wisconsin. At each stop we entered the store full of hope that we would find seeds. We laughed at the expressions on the store clerks' faces as we approached the cash registers loaded down with all the seeds we could carry, seeds that I will take back with me and seeds that will be the beginning of gardens in Akobo.
Life is hard there. The ground is barren. Right now it is flooded, and when the water recedes it will have taken the crops they worked so hard to plant. And when it has taken the crops it will have taken their food for the coming season with it, and with it, their hope. Hope is a hard thing to come by there. I once asked a man why he didn’t plant a garden. He answered, “Why should I plant for someone else to eat?” Harvest time is fighting time and one of the first things taken is the food they worked so hard to plant.
I have a vision to help create new ways of gardening that might make their food harder to take and prevent it from being washed away in coming rains. A vision of a way to plant that they can carry when they follow the grazing lands, and one that will use less water and reduce the workload of the women and children who must carry it great distances. I have a vision of raised gardens that are safe from rising waters. I have a vision of gardens in bags filled with dirt being tied to the cattle or oxen so they can take them with them as they travel. Gardens in bags propped against the sides of tukals so that the women can recycle their wash water into the top, water the plants, and feed their families with the vines of beans growing up the sides to provide a little more insulation, climbing to the roof to provide more shade to cool their homes. I am preparing to go with a suitcase full of seeds and a head full of visions and hope for what is to come.
The Parable of the Sower rings true for our seeds as well…
Jesus told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop…
Some of our seeds will fall along the path, some will be eaten by the birds, some will fall on rocky places and die quickly, but I go forth in the hope that some will fall on good soil and produce crops that feed the people not only with nutritious food but with spiritual food and hope as well.
As we near the end of October I have a date for returning to Akobo—after Thanksgiving. And so it is with thanksgiving in my heart that I thank God for the extra time spent growing new vines and new branches, for extra time with family and friends, and for the many opportunities to visit churches and share our mission stories (and sadness that I couldn’t make it to all). I am thankful for the returning.
May the peace of Christ be with you all.
- For my preparations as I prepare to go
- For the people of Akobo as they prepare for my return
- For all those suffering from the recent floods
- For peace in the coming dry season
- For the seeds we plant to grow
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 94
Write to Sharon Curry