The past week has been surreal and exciting and a bit of a blur all at once. I thought I would share some of the events of one day of my life, last Monday, as things seem to take a bit longer, are a little less straight-forward, and sometimes a bit more stressful in this corner of the world.
A group of us left our respective housing in Nairobi before sunrise last Monday to catch our flight to Juba. Despite ample time to get checked in and through customs and security, we found ourselves being escorted to our gate as the last ones to board our flight with a few minutes to spare. After a little shut eye on the plane, the anticipation of FINALLY being back in South Sudan started building. We landed in Juba and were promptly directly to the Ebola screening tent where it moved much quicker than expected. In immigration I was sent back to the Ebola tent for my form–I didn’t know I needed to ask for it back after I was ushered through after having an appropriate temperature.
We then entered the chaos of “baggage claim.” It consists of masses of people picking up their bags that have been thrown into a pile and taking them to the next available customs agent (usually in a ‘whoever pushes the hardest gets there first’ type fashion). But this time my bag wasn’t in the chaos. For the second time in a month I stood there with no bag. The agents working the area assured me it would come later, but I did the only thing I could at that moment to cope. I cried. When you live halfway around the world from your home country and you are moving back to your country of choice 11 months after you had to unexpectedly and prematurely say goodbye (which also happens to be a country wrought with civil war), you just want some of the comforts of your “stuff” in your bag. You want your imitation ritz crackers, your chacos, your flash cards from months of Arabic study, your deodorant, and the contents of the care package you only had a couple days to enjoy. But that was not the case last Monday morning. I filled out the necessary paperwork that seemed all too familiar from a few weeks prior, and told the guy I would return in the afternoon.
We went to our hotel to drop our things off before
running (why would we be running anywhere in 100+ degree heat? Let me rephrase…going, as in riding in an air-conditioned van), to the immigration office to try to renew our visas. We were unsuccessful (they don’t expire for 3 weeks), so we could not renew them early, but we were able to register as aliens in the country. About 4 offices and an hour and a half later, we were officially registered. We then ate a yummy lunch of grilled chicken and bread on the street, and had a few minutes to rest in the mid-day heat before returning to the airport in search of the missing bag and sim cards for teammates. In those moments of rest, I made a list of what I had lost. I became frustrated with myself for being frustrated about stuff. None of that stuff, if in my hands, would impact my purpose in South Sudan. Why in the world was I wasting so much energy over fleeting things of no eternal value?
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in a steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~Matthew 6:19-21
By the time I headed back to the airport, I was doing better with the idea of another “lost” bag. But to my surprise and much grace, the bag did arrive. Evidently a conveyor belt broke and a few bags didn’t make it on the plane. I left the airport full of joy and thankful. It may seem stupid to be so worked up over a bag, but it was a great reminder to remember where my heart should be. While I sit here on my porch writing this blog, I’m reminded of this truth again. Things in South Sudan are far from stable. The probability that we could be evacuated in the next couple of months is high. I want to spend my time here in Doro storing up things of eternal value, and for my treasure to be in people and His name being glorified, not earthly possessions.
More photos of my new home coming soon!