A letter from Nancy McGaughey in Sudan
Greetings in Christ,
I thought you might enjoy reading some of my thoughts on life in Sudan.
There is a book written by a missionary in Nepal entitled Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees. My version will be “Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Papaya Trees”!
With the dry season come new unwritten rules for grazing. While during the rainy season people are responsible for keeping their animals off other peoples’ land, come the dry season, they are allowed to wander wherever they can find something to eat. As the fence around our compound has many “gaps,” the goats have become frequent, although not welcome, visitors. I have had several discussions with the students about how we are living in a “community” and therefore are all responsible for chasing goats. They, on the other hand, see it as the responsibility of the watchman and will usually just watch them wander around. The principal told me that even amongst the staff I have quite a reputation as the “goat chaser”!
One afternoon around 5 p.m. as I was teaching class, I looked out the door and noticed several goats eating the papaya trees we have planted in front of the “guest” quarters (i.e. where we live). I knew I couldn't leave class to go chase them, but kept looking over at them. I wrote some notes on the board and as the students were copying them, I went to the office to ask the principal or other staff to go ask the watchmen to chase them away. I have carried water and nursed the trees since we planted them some months ago and was looking forward to the shade and fruit they would supply in another year or so. To my dismay, the office was locked, everyone had left. What to do?
I went back to class and finished my teaching (but kept pacing and looking out the door). Of all days, the students had many questions. I had to answer them, but ...
One student asked, “What is wrong?”
“The goats are eating my papaya trees,” I answered. Still more questions kept coming. Why today of all days do they have so many questions I wondered?
Then the student stood up and said, “I am going.”
“Going where?” I asked. “I have not dismissed class yet.”
“To chase the goats,” he replied.
Maybe, just maybe, some concepts do get through!
Today I began my travels. I will fly to Juba, meet up with a group from PC(USA) and travel around Presbyterian area of Sudan. From Adol it is a one hour drive to Rumbek, the capital of Lakes State. The students will begin their 1 month practical attachment to health units on Monday, so we are transporting some of them as well. One group is going to Cueibet, north of Rumbek and as I have never been there, I chose to go along for the ride. The roads in our area are not paved. They do not even become close to being smooth. In fact, we often refer to it as “taking the washboard” to wherever we are going. Today I learned a new definition of “rough road”! The road from Rumbek to Cueibet can hardly be called a road. In fact, we spent more time on the “shoulder” of the road than on the road itself. Just how rough is the road? Here are a couple of our answers:
“It is so rough, you could put laundry in a barrel of water on top of the land cruiser and they would be washed by the time we get there.”
“It is so rough, if you put a jar of milk on top, it will be butter by the time we reach Cueibet”
The students really are pretty clever.
Back in Rumbek, we (a colleague and myself) are staying in the guestroom of the Across compound. There are 2 beds in a small room, but only one has a mosquito net. I have not noticed the mosquitoes being so bad the last couple of weeks and it isn’t mosquito season, so I volunteered to take the bed without the net. News traveled quickly and soon the mosquitoes had a convention going. The night can best be summed up by “I fought the mosquitoes and the mosquitoes won”!
I arrived from the USA one year ago today, and my very first night in Sudan was spent here in Akobo! One year later I am back in the same place.
Dr. Michael showed me to my room. It is in the same building as last year, but a different room. On the bed was a 3" thick cloth covered mattress. On the floor was a 1" plastic covered mattress.
Dr. Michael said, “Let me switch the mattress for you.”
I look at the one on the bed, then the one on the floor, and think no way. I will just take what is on the bed thank you very much! “Don't bother,” I said. “This will be just fine.”
“Oh, it will be no trouble,” he replied.
“Really, this is ok. I will be fine.”
Then he pointed out a couple of small holes in the mattress cover of the one on the bed.
“Sometimes bats will go in there and hide,” he explained.
Now, bats are not my best friends. I could imagine lying down in the dark, mosquito net tucked in and suddenly bats come flying out of the mattress!
“If you would be so kind as to switch them, I would be most grateful,” I replied.
I hope this gives you an idea of what life in Sudan is like.
God Bless you and keep praying for peace in Sudan, especially as elections in April draw near!
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 47