A letter from Sharon Curry in the U.S., waiting to return to South Sudan
“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” - Agnes M. Pharo
This picture reminds me what a long road this journey has been. As it winds through the mountain, there seems to be no beginning and there seems to be no end. I often wonder how many times Jesus felt like that on his journey, except he went confident that God was with him each step of the way, and so do I.
Jesus’ beginning in a small stable in Bethlehem and his ending, crucified on a cross and walking again among his people, are reminders to me to never give up. God has a road for each of us, whether we can look back and see the beginning, or look forward and see the end.
In this time of Advent and Christmas, many of us, along with the children, sit and wait anxiously for the presents that are piling up under the Christmas trees and spilling over on to the floor and every available space around, for the lucky ones. Some are waiting for the appearance of the one gift that will signify this very special time of year, and others are struggling to figure out how to pay for even one gift.
It is in this time that I am reminded that no matter the outcome of the decisions to be made in the coming weeks, that my tree has been piled with more gifts than I can count. And as I struggle with information and decisions, that there is only one gift that really counts. That is the gift of God in my life, and it includes many pieces that have to be assembled to make it whole.
As I write this letter, I wish I could give you answers about my return to South Sudan. There are many political, social, malaria related medical reasons for the delay in answers. I don’t have them yet – I face the mystery of waiting, the anticipation that comes with returning to this season of Advent and Christmas once again this year. But like a small child waiting for the presents or the present under the tree, I wait with anticipation and excitement and joy in my heart. I know, that whatever is inside the present I open, it will be filled with the Spirit of God and his hopes and dreams and plans for my future. A future much like the present under the tree that is still wrapped in mystery about what will come.
So, my wish for you my friends, as we enter this time of Advent and Christmas, waiting impatiently for that all important day, as we rush hurriedly into the season, is that you are wrapped in the mystery of what is to come. I wish for you, time to stop and enjoy the moment. I wish that you joyfully unwrap each gift from God in your life; take time to slowly unwrap it. Examine it and to revel in its mystery.
As I look back, I remember the joy and excitement of my first Christmas in Akobo and the churches marching through the village with their flags raised high, proclaiming the coming of the “new Christ baby.” It was a day filled with love and excitement, joy and anticipation. As I stood on a rock outside the church grounds to take this picture of the people entering the church after the march, I looked around. We were surrounded by armed soldiers, placed every ten feet or so. I had seen them inside the fence and thought, “How nice, they came to worship.” As I saw them outside the fence, I realized I had seen them coming and going all afternoon, some were but shadows, coming in and leaving. I learned they were there to provide protection in case of an attack. And God is much like that. He surrounds us with his love, providing an army of soldiers, surrounding us, to provide us protection, even when we don’t see them and even when they are just shadows. The gift of his love is God’s present to us.
I take this time to thank each and every one of you for your love, your prayers, and your support, not only for me, but for our partners in South Sudan as well. You too are a part of God’s army that surrounds me, this day and every day. I invite you to join us in our work and mission in South Sudan and throughout the world through your prayers, your correspondence and your financial gifts. You can learn more by visiting the South Sudan web page at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/global/south-sudan/ or about World Mission at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/world-mission/
May God be with you until we meet again, my friends. May Christ be with you and surround you with his love and peace during this frantic time of preparation and this wonderful season of love. Peace be with you as you sit back and enjoy the fruits of all your hard work in preparation for this wonderful time.
May God bless you and keep you.
- for our partners, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan,
- for prayer and discernment for all involved in the decision to return to South Sudan,
- for all of the mission co-workers throughout the world who will spend this Christmas season far from home and family.
Write to Sharon Curry