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A letter from Nancy McGaughey in Sudan

June 2009

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit…” 
- Romans 8:16

Greetings from southern Sudan,

What a learning experience this past four months have been! As I learn more and more about Sudan—its history, culture, people—I realize how much more I have to learn. I am reminded of my anatomy class in nursing school where we had diagrams of the human body. There were several plastic overlays. Turn one and see all the muscles of body; turn that back and see skeletal system; turn that and see organs, and so on. Sudan is a lot like that: you think you begin to understand something about the people or customs and then realize that is only one layer and underneath there is so much more! And so I continue learning.

During my early days here, someone told me, “Sudan will make you weep.” And at times it does. There is so much poverty, disease, and lack of basic infrastructure, and even though the war is officially over, there is still fighting amongst tribes and even within different clans of the same tribe. And there are some very strong cultural beliefs and traditions that I find it hard to think that people still believe. More about these in another letter.

But I have also discovered that the Sudanese can make you laugh. Many of the little children like to shake hands with the kawaajas (foreigners, white people). I noticed that several times the children, after shaking hands with me, would then look at their own palms. It happened so often, that I finally asked someone why that was so. The reply? “They are looking to see if any of the white from your hands had rubbed off on theirs.” Some of our staff at the Adol Training Center are very good storytellers. As we sit under the tree having lunch together, they sometimes have me laughing and laughing as they tell stories from their past.

I am now settling in to Adol, a small community about an hour east of Rumbek in Lakes State (which is northwest of the Juba, the capital of southern Sudan). Adol is where the health training center is located. We have a compound large enough that we have planted lots of ground nuts. There are classrooms, living quarters for staff, dormitories for students, and a kitchen and dining hall. Several trainings for teachers are done on this site, as well as health trainings. We are getting ready to start a 10-month training for community health workers (CHWs) similar to the training I helped with in Nepal.

Sometimes I am asked how Sudan compares with Nepal, or how ACROSS compares with working with the United Mission to Nepal. There are some similarities—both countries are very poor, both have a lack of basic health services, poor infrastructure, and insecurity. But they are very different in climate and terrain. A big difference is the freedom to share Jesus Christ. Southern Sudan has no restrictions on religion. Every ACROSS site starts the morning at 8:30 with staff devotions. We sing hymns and praise songs, both in Arabic and in English. Staff members take turns leading the devotions and then, before everyone goes their different directions for the day, there is a time of prayer—for what is happening in that area, for particular staff, travel safety, any special needs, and also to thank God for blessings received. It is a nice way to start each day.

Praise God for

  • Finding my “home” in Adol.
  • Wonderful prayer support I feel from many of you.
  •  Students recruited for the community health worker training.

Please pray for

  • Rain: the crops need it badly and it would make it cooler
  • Peace and security for southern Sudan.
  • A smooth transition from home to compound for our students.
  • That CHW training go well and students will see the Holy Spirit in the lives of staff.

Peace and Grace

Nancy

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