I have finished up in Juba for now. I spent two more months with the girls, spending time with them, finishing up what I needed to with the training, and handing over remaining responsibilities so it can keep on in my absence. A designated person to buy supplies and a person in the office to handle the money. The girls are trained, competent, and when I left we’d sold over $3,000 worth of beaded goods. 60% of that is in savings for them. It was more successful than I could have hoped when I settled into the dorm last July. A grace.
I had a proper good-bye with the girls and staff. Notes, hugs, closure. The way it should be done. The director even wrote a song about Dan and I and the girls all sang it for us at a little farewell they threw for me. It was perfect.
Leaving was bittersweet, as I’m sure you can imagine. Those sweet, amazing girls invaded my heart. But I leave them in good hands. I did what I had gone to do. I made their lives a little better I hope. It was time for me to go.
I’m back in the US now for a time. Dan, my fiancée, is still in Juba, continuing to work hard in an unstable, difficult place. He’s by far the strongest man I know. South Sudan is a better place for having him there.
He’ll come to the US (for the first time) a week before we get married in September. We’ll be apart for 88 days, and then we’ll be together for a week and then married and together for the rest of our lives. We’re very, very ready for those days to hasten and to make our vows to each other after, what can only be described, as a very stressful, very tumultuous year for both of us. We’re tired. And ready for a break.
Being back is hard. And to be honest I’m not coping as well as I would have thought. Yes, in large part because my love is very far away in a not-so-safe place. But also because I don’t know how to deal with this last year, the things I have experienced and seen and heard, and what to do with that here and now, especially in the vast contrast of material goods and order and safety in the Western world.
I hear rain pattering on tin outside my window and freeze for a minute to see if it’s gunfire. When I go running on back country road in the evenings I think about escape routes through the woods if someone tried to attack me. Throughout the day my mind drifts to all of the possible horrific things that could happen to me or my fiancée before we’re able to be married.
This is not normal.
It’s like my mind has shifted into some sort of crazy self-preservation mode. Like it has rationalized that with all these terrible things that I have seen and heard about, especially in South Sudan this last year, that something terrible must be coming for me. That it can’t possibly be fair that unspeakable things can happen to all these people and I remain untouched. Happy. Joyous, even. Planning a wedding and a life with the best man I know. It feels like this crazy injustice. …And so my mind is doing this thing where it’s trying to think of all the awful things that could happen in order to prepare for it.
I know it’s ridiculous. I know I’m being crazy. And yet, thankfully, it’s not all consuming. I’m aware of it and I know it’s not healthy. And I know that there is an enemy who wants to rob me of my joy. Who wants me to live in fear. Who wants me to be scared of losing the things in life that give me life. And so I’m combatting this the best way I know how. Praying, journaling. I’m running and painting and reading–trying to relieve the stress of these last several months and restore myself. I try to talk about it, but it’s hard to know what to say.
People are still being killed. Children are starving. It looks like famine is getting ready to sweep the nation–already hanging on by a thread. I’ve held babies wounded from fighting. Sat in meetings where we talked about innocent men, women, and children had been shot. I got to know a very troubled girl who was locked in a room for three months and raped daily by a soldier. I spent months living with girls who were beaten and raped on the streets. I know of people who had happy lives and solid jobs who are now forced to live in UN camps, idling their days away, for they know if they venture out, because of their tribe, they’re likely to be killed.
My mind cannot compute. I struggle to explain, because I don’t even understand myself. I don’t understand how these things can happen. And I know that with knowledge comes responsibility. What do I do with this knowledge right now? I feel weary and emotionally exhausted. I’m getting the break I need–a tremendous luxury.
And I’m marrying a man who cares about these things as I do. Who is as passionate and driven to do something as I am. I am grateful beyond words. We’re not exactly sure where or what is next for us, but we know that we can’t sit back idly, we can’t choose a life of ease knowing what we know. We know that letting evil happen without doing anything is as bad as doing it ourselves.
So as I continue to seek the words and seek for understanding, I ask that you’d pray over Dan and I. For this difficult season and for rest in mind and body for both of us. We are weary.