07.11.2019 26 °C
I’m back in my other life.
I know that because my body is bouncing and jostling while I drive our almost-vintage 4WD Toyota Prado on one of the countless pastel-yellow ribbon dirt roads criss-crossing this crazy continent of Africa.
It is rainy season here and I am highly cognisant that there is a risk the car will slip and slide into a big dirty tea-coloured puddle and get caught in the slimy mud that affords limited grip.
Curious and excited children run barefoot towards the road chanting ‘Mundu, How are you’ over and over again. A baby peers round from behind her older sister’s back and starts howling.
I pass compounds surrounding homesteads planted with the long, skinny stems and serrated leaves of the paw-paw tree pregnant with her large fruits. There are the enormous verdant leaves of the ubiquitous banana plant and beneath these canopies the small weedy plants used for green vegetables growing irregularly.
A stubborn bedraggled goat is roughly tied to a stubby bush and a rooster ruffles it feathers, cranes its neck and proudly gives its best call.
After being in the UK for an unexpectedly long time, returning to Arua has been a rich mix of re-connections with old, familiar friends and also an instant reminder of the brokenness that gives us the vision to have set up home deep in the African countryside.
The incredible sight of the milky way arches overhead as I lean against the wall and catch up with my security guard who tells me the horrendous story of his 3 year-old niece being attacked with a machete knife, slicing her head open and killing her. It happened a week previously and John tells me he thinks there was a sacrificial witchcraft element involved.
‘Things are not easy’ people tell me as they explain about their lives and the struggles they are facing. Funerals, sickness and exhausting poverty are an everyday reality for people and survival is the aim of life, just simply getting by if possible. As my friend told me, the innumerable challenges people face make people give up and turn to addictions or even to go mad, but for him, he has to focus on being strong and getting on.
One of the card makers in the project that Emma oversees grasps my hand and tells me he has missed me and says he is off to a funeral in the village as his cousin was killed when a mob set upon him. Another man’s older relative has been knocked and killed by a speeding car on the road to the South Sudan border.
The easy smiles and laughter often belie the incredible hardship of life here and the resilience of people who ‘get on with it’. The lives of countless South Sudanese refugees all around us are a strong testament to this. People often reference God after they tell you about their difficulties reminding themselves of their continued hope in the inexplicable darkness.
Visiting our 13 sponsored Cheka children was one highlight of my time in Arua. where this hope is being brought through supporting kids to access school who would otherwise not be able to. Our small local team have a big heart and vision to care for the most vulnerable children in their communities who are orphaned by AIDS like Joseph or exist in heart-rending poverty like little Pasca. We followed up with Princess Lenia who is one of 10 children, whose dad died last year and whose brother was electrocuted when playing with exposed cables on the road and has since had his arms amputated. I felt it a huge privilege to be able to play a small part in supporting these kids. It is definitely what helps give me purpose in life and for what I believe the message of Jesus Christ is all about. This is a project I hope to focus on while in the UK by starting a UK charity with friends (and my dad!) as board members and starting a website (chekachild.com - not much on there yet, though!).
Squalid conditions some of the children live in Joseph Pasca Princess Lenia
As we approach Christmastime, we want to share the hopeful Christmas message to our sponsored children and other desperately needy children and their families whom we profiled. This will be through providing gifts in the form of basic necessities that people greatly appreciate: a long bar of blue soap used for everything from washing clothes to washing the floor, rice and sugar. If anyone feels a burden to help out in this regard through giving something financially, please be in touch and we can encourage these kids with a little bit of light.