A letter from Sharon Curry in South Sudan
Dance then wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance said he. And I will lead you all wherever you maybe, and I will lead you all in the dance said he.—The Lord of the Dance
Dancing. I feel like I have been dancing since I arrived back on the African continent. And what a dance it has been—all the beautiful colors and music of the best ballet you have ever seen floating across the stage is a sea of swirling motions. Some are high and light and airy, some low and dark, but together they create this beautiful dance of love.
I have been thinking of words to describe the time since I arrived back: beauty… motion… inspired… love… laughter… joy… happiness… care… concern… commitment and determination… awe… wonder are a few that come to mind. Along with peace, that perfect peace that comes early in the morning when you sit with a cup of hot coffee, steam rising off the top, watching the sun paint the sky in its brilliant colors as it breaks the horizon.
South Sudan is a harsh land that is full of beauty; beauty in the scenery, beauty in the people who cried when they found me walking down their road one day because “you came back.” They had given up hope after a year that I was coming back. There was beauty in the people who cried when I left for R&R in Addis and in the people who accompanied me to the airstrip to make sure I safely made it on to the plane and in their faces as they stood at the runway until I flew away.
Motion… there is constant motion in Akobo. I am not sure things, including me, are ever still there for longer than a few moments. The bush grass constantly sways in the breeze. The cattle are always moving in the distance and on the river. People are constantly moving up and down the road and the soldiers patrol at night. There is the constant motion of the Holy Spirit, and it moves through the village making a way for me to go and experience the life God has chosen for me in ways that are completely unimaginable to me, inspiring me to reach new heights and new goals I never dreamed possible.
Inspiring… to sit for a time in the dirt with a lady and explain that a simple stone from the river is not a curse from the “river witch” but a gift from God, and that even though her husband won’t let her go to church because he will beat her, she can still pray, right where she is and God understands. Inspired by her words, “God didn’t just send you to the church, he sent you to come and sit in the dirt with people like us.”
I thought my heart was full of all the love it could hold with the love of friends, family and supporters. I have learned that my heart never stops growing in its capacity to love the people of Akobo. I love their strength, their courage, their tenacity to keep going in spite of overwhelming challenges. I love that they stop what they are doing to pray. One day great groups of young men were pouring down the street with soldiers following them. We were gathered in the churchyard. Instead of holding our meeting, we stopped and prayed, crying out to God through words and songs. Things settled down in a couple of hours and life returned to normal. Their first thought was not to run to family. It was to run to the church to pray. My thought was, “If I were in the U.S., where would I run?” I love that their love of God is greater than their fear.
Laughter, joy and happiness describe our “learning” times together. The Nuer have a great capacity to laugh and find joy in the simple things. A lot of the time that laughter is directed at me and with me for my feeble attempts to learn their language and their culture. We do a lot of laughing as they try to teach me to say “ŋ.” Try it! It is like trying to swallow an n and g together. Nnggg—I bet you laugh too. They find joy in my willingness to try and I find joy in their willingness to teach me. Together we find happiness in our times of prayer, worship, teaching, learning and just sitting together over a cup of tea.
Care, concern, commitment and determination are examples of their longing for learning and education. I have seen them work hard, trying new ways to make decisions and determine what the priorities are for their communities. Akobo Presbytery, our partner, is made up of three parishes. Each parish sends women to represent them at our meetings. They don’t always agree, but they are determined to listen carefully to what each one has to say and everyone’s thoughts are valued and important. They are concerned for their futures and committed to determining what is best for them.
Awe and wonder are also words I would use to describe my time here. I am awed by the beauty of the people God has blessed me to serve. I am filled with wonder as we learn to work, grow and worship together. Oftentimes I sit, like I did this past Saturday on a day trip to Debre Labanos, in places of great beauty and pinch myself because, at the end of the day, I cannot believe that God has blessed me with these opportunities—the opportunities to serve and the opportunities to observe things I never dreamed I would see—a 13th century monastery where the founding monk prayed for more than 30 years, giving a leg in the process; a 16th century bridge made from lime and ostrich eggs that stretches one of the most amazing gorges and over the Jemma River valley to the Blue Nile River.
We all sat in complete awe and wonder as we were within 50 yards of a family of 20-25 baboons as they spent an afternoon playing and picnicking. It is moments like these that remind me of God’s amazing capacity to create beauty in the world around us in all that we experience as we go dancing through life.
May God bless you and keep you. May God shine his light on you as you follow the rhythm and go dancing through your lives.
Community Health Evangelism Facilitator
Akobo, South Sudan
In partnership with
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and
Presbyterian Church of South Sudan
Write to Sharon Curry