In those five weeks we’ve honeymooned in the US, had a long weekend in the UK (including an unplanned and not entirely pleasant 30 hour stint in Heathrow), a few days in Kenya, and are now back in South Sudan for a few weeks. Which is funny to me because in all the ideas Dan and I have had and all of the plans we have made, being back in Juba a few weeks after being married was definitely, definitely not one of them.
But, alas, here we are and Dan is working very hard, as he always does. I am doing computer work type things in the mornings, and in the afternoons am going to CCC every day to be with the girls and keep pushing them along in the beading project I got going while I was here.
For me, it is gloriously joyful to be back (to visit). I said good-bye in June with the expectation that I wouldn’t be returning. I wanted to handle my good-byes properly and in an honest way. I think this is important for human copeability, but very massively important when you are saying those good-byes to children who’ve had difficult lives. I told them when I left that I didn’t know when I was coming back or if I was coming back but that I loved them and would remember them always. They told me they would pray for God to bring me back. Looks like the prayers of little children must be powerful because, here we are!
I was greeted by all of the girls hurling towards me in the biggest, most excited group hug I’ve ever experienced. It was amazing. They were more gentle with Dan, for which I think he is most appreciative.
When I left South Sudan and in the last few months since I’ve been away I’ve told myself that usually when the founder of a project leaves, usually the project fades out. I told myself that at the very least the girls had sold over $3,000 worth of handcrafts and they each had money saved for their futures. That they each possessed new skills and maybe somewhere, somehow down the road it could benefit them or someone else in some way. I told myself I did my best and that it’s unreasonable to think that in a year I could start something that could carry on. So I came back expecting the stock of things for sale to be low, most of the girls uninterested, and not a whole lot being done with it at all.
The day I got back I had two girls wander up with me to the large cupboard that acts as the CCC store. We opened it and I broke out into a huge grin. Lots of stock! New designs! Beautiful quality! Later on I sat down with Joy, a Ugandan lady who is on CCC staff, who I had handed over all of the materials to and inventory and books to record sales and pocket money. She started showing me her take on the systems I put in place, telling me about how the girls are using their pocket money, about special orders they’ve received, about Miss South Sudan’s enthusiasm for the project, and about how much they’ve sold since I’ve been gone.
I wanted to cry! The girls had sold over $1,000 during the summer, bringing the grand total of things sold since we started last September to over $4,000! That’s about $2,500 in combined savings! Even one of the 5-year olds is making little South Sudan flag bracelets nice enough to sell. Floored! Amazed! Delighted! Such joy.
So I’ve been hanging out with the girls every afternoon and it has been so good for my soul. They’re my little sisters, my little friends. I’ve had the opportunity to help share some of the coping strategies living in the dorm with the girls for 8 months with another American gal who is living in the dorm with them now. I do not miss that part, I will say. But, as I was chatting with this new friend, I shared that I feel like part of the reason that I bonded so well with the girls and that we’re pretty tight IS because I lived with them in the dorm and did life with them and was in and around allllllll of the time. Not super great for ones mental well-being perhaps, but it was very unique gift and blessing. Some of my most precious moments and memories and talks with them I wouldn’t have been able to have if I wasn’t living right beside them. It was challenging, but a great treasure to me and I think having foreigners willing to live with them where they are speaks in a special way to them as well.
It is a great and beautiful gift to visit another place that I’ve been gifted to call home for a season. He never seems to take us where we think we might go. Another reason that he is very, very good.
“Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the next hour or following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the next step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.” Henri Nouwen