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A letter from Nancy McGaughey in Sudan

December 2012

Murle Church In Jabel, Juba

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines.… Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, so that He might save us.  This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.  Isaiah 25:6, 8-9

It had been my wish to be writing this from Pibor, but in keeping with the Advent Season, I am still waiting in Juba.  And I am preparing for that journey ahead.

One way has been by attending one of the Murle churches here in Juba.  The first Sunday I attended the service was over four hours long. And during that time there were fewer than 10 Murle words that I was able to recognize.  I confess to a sense of relief when the next service I attended lasted just over two hours.  That is more like what I am accustomed to attending—and, I recognized many more Murle words!     

So my Murle language, at least in vocabulary, is increasing.  I have continued with lessons here in Juba provided by different teachers.  It is sometimes difficult, as I will plan for a lesson, knowing what I want to learn, even have some activities to reinforce the learning, and then go to class to find it is not as appropriate as I thought.  For instance, one day I thought it would be good to learn names of some common foods.  I already knew some words, like water, tea, coffee and milk.  I prepare my list and go to class.  The conversation goes like this:

Me: “How do you say spinach (greens) in Murle?”

Teacher: “Well, we have a word, but that isn’t really available in Pibor.”

Me:  “How do you say eggs in Murle?”

Teacher: “We have a word, but eggs aren’t usually available in Pibor.”

Me:  “How do you say vegetable in Murle?”

Teacher: “We have a word, but there really aren’t many vegetables available in Pibor.”

Me:  “Why don’t you tell me what you normally eat when in Pibor?”

There are some sounds used in Murle that I find difficult to say.  Mostly it is the "ng," which seems to be very common.  My tongue just does not want to go to the correct place for that; still I struggle on with the hope that one day it will become as natural as rolling my r’s.

Murle Youth Choir

Other words in Murle are just fun to say!  Words like karaboong (perhaps), kidichilim (slowly), bili alingling (stop working), and achangkai (not tasty).  And, I can almost sing "head and shoulders, knees and toes" in Murle!  I have also learned that some words can have more than one meaning.  The Murle word ii means "yes," "true" and as well "sun."  The first two meanings I can connect easily.  But, as my Dinka friends would say, I need to "cook my mind" (think about) the last one.

With temperatures in the upper 90s and rising, it is hard to realize that Christmas is almost here.  I can lie on my bed, fan on high, close my eyes, and see Christmas trees sparkling with lights, see Nativity sets depicting our Saviour’s birth, hear Christmas carols playing, and if I try really hard, I can dream (?hallucinate?) of large snowflakes drifting softly to the earth.  I can almost feel the peace and love of family and friends.  Christmas, the birth of our Saviour, Prince of Peace.  But then I open my eyes to the stark reality of this world around me.  A world where last week 28 were killed in a cattle camp in Lakes State—over a dispute regarding bamboo poles for holding up mosquito bed nets!  People who were living together in one cattle camp, who knew each other, were most likely even related.  Or I think of the over 2,600 people who have been killed in the last 18 months in Jonglei State alone (according to United Nations sources).  How desperately we need this Saviour, this Prince of Peace in the reality of our world today.  We wait for the Lord and rejoice in His salvation.

As you celebrate with family and friends I hope you will remember and pray for peace, peace that passes all understanding, to come into all the world.

This comes with my prayer that, as the world rejoices in the wonder of His birth, may you and yours be blessed with a beautiful Christmas and with every happiness in the new year.



The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 94
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 103
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