Last night I had the following vision just as I closed my eyes to sleep: I saw the field just outside the hospital gates. The tall grass glowed golden. There were children playing in the grass, then they just stood there starting towards me. Waiting for an answer. Their faces were so piercing. I vowed to do whatever I could to help them. The dead grass went on for miles. Then there was a stopping point, a straight line where the dead became alive. Green grass had sprouted and filled the rest of the field. It was lush, bright green with nutrients and moisture. “How long will it be until this time of restoration?” I asked. “In time. You will see.” He would not tell me the time, but I felt that it would be soon.
I met with Mary Garang to discuss plans for the women. We want to start a sewing program and need at least four manual sewing machines and some fabric and thread to start. Hopefully we can get these things donated to help the women. They already have basic entrepreneurship skills, as Mary has started with collecting money from each women and buying a bulk of sugar and oil for each women to sell. The first round of sales brought in 100 South Sudanese Pounds (ssp) of profit, the second round brought in 300ssp of profit. The third round will be completed this month and I am sure the profit will be even greater. With the clothing and crafts that are created from the sewing project, the women hope to make enough money to care for their families and get out of extreme poverty.
Christi, Paula and I worked on organizing the Operating Room in the hospital, preparing for the surgical team arriving on January 21st from Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. We sorted IV supplies, bandages, gloves, operating tools and boxes of other miscellaneous supplies. The four doctors that will be coming are well trained to perform almost any general surgery, except eye, heart and neurological—because we do not have the proper equipment. It is our prayer that one day we can offer every type of surgery with several full-time doctors on staff. Until that time, we have Dr. Gai, Nurse Abraham, Pharmacist John and Lab Tech Simon. All are South Sudanese and serving their people with skilful hands and generous hearts.
After work, some of the staff went over to the secondary school to play volleyball with the kids. Christi and Paula went and then Margit, Whitney and I trailed them. Walking through downtown, we stopped at the small market and bought mango juices. They were sweet to taste, a tantalizing treat to the water we'd been drinking since our arrival. We greeted the men playing chess, speaking broken Dinka greetings, but smiling to make up for it. “Yin Ca leec,” Thank you, I said to the vendor. He laughed and spoke English to me. I laughed with him.
Almost to the school, we saw Christi and Paula walking towards us. They were heading back to the compound because Deng Alier had accidentally popped the volleyball...he does not know his own strength! That was the only volleyball we had. I decided to pass out the paper and crayons I had brought with me for the children. There were already some running to my side. They wanted photos. I snapped a few, then pulled out my gifts for them. Kids from across the village saw this and came sprinting towards us. I was instructed by Whitney and Margit to give them to the mother and let her distribute them to the children. We all went into the yard of tukels and she passed out a sheet of paper and a crayon for each child. The children did not know what to do with them, so I drew a simple drawing of a stick person and a flower in pink crayon. The kids followed suite, drawing and laughing, smiling all around. I took pictures of their masterpieces, encouraging them with a thumbs up, “very good,” I said. On boy drew a warrior figurine with a sidekick in no time at all. A little artist. I was so proud of him and all of them.
The elder woman enjoyed the sight of their playful banter and stood crushing peanuts to make peanut butter. She posed for a photo to show off her creation. Whitney had engaged in another game with the kids, similar to Mancala. They had dug the board out of the ground, small grooves where the round homemade game pellets nestled. Such creativity found in these young ones speaks of the hope and promise of their generation.
I felt like a kid again. We made faces and posed for pictures hanging on to the clothes line. The boys posed in front of the tukel where they used rocks to write letters on it, like a chalkboard. One of the girls ran out to Whitney wearing the same skirt as her. She saw Whitney's skirt and went inside to change into hers. They took a picture together. So smart and adorable was this little girl. The mother also went and got dressed up. She took a regal photo with her oldest daughter, her crimson red as bright as a blooming rose. I promise, when I return to the U.S. and am able to upload photos, you will see all of these stories for yourself. Until then, close your eyes and imagine the clear blue sky, sun beaming down and thirty Kool-Aid smiles circling you. This is worth celebrating!