If you spoke with me before I left for South Sudan, you may know this already. My biggest concern with moving here was not being so far from home (wherever that is). It was not the work. Nor was it being the only mzungu/kawadja/white person in the area. I didn’t fear being in a team with people I didn’t know. And I didn’t fear the insecurity. What I was most concerned about was the living environment. I was not looking forward to such basic conditions. I felt I’d had my fair share, and hot running water, my own kitchen, a flush toilet and electricity 24/7 would do me nicely, thank you very much.
I never really thought I was particularly materialistic. It’s something I maybe even prided myself in. But when I first came to Yuai I realised I still have things to learn. You see, nothing is your own here. And everything is too much. My work involves living between two places: Yuai and Motot. This means two things:
- I never have my own room. My own space. A place that belongs to me. Every time I move, I carry everything so that someone else can stay in that room when I leave. Even when I’m in a place, the room is not mine. Not really. Someone may enter and take my chair. Or my blanket. Or use it as a storage space for something. It’s not my room. I’ll be honest, I really struggled with this at first. Living in a team environment, in a compound that has curfews for security reasons and even without the curfew, where would I go to ‘escape’ anyway? I thought I’d long for something of my own, a place of my own. But I’m learning. Nothing is really my own anyway. No place is mine and mine alone. Everything in this world is temporary. And whether you have the title deeds to a place or not, whether you’re paying monthly rent or not, whether you live in a palace or a slum, that place is not really yours anyway. If we place all our pride and hope and safety in a place, within 4 walls…something so temporary…well, then we’re in trouble. I’m learning this, and I’m grateful for the lesson.
- And secondly, moving constantly between Yuai and Motot with no personal room to leave stuff means I need to carry my things with me each time. And it’s not practical to be hauling around a big suitcase every time. My possessions have been cut down further to just one rucksack. The rest of my…stuff… will return to Nairobi with me on Saturday. And will be thrown or given away. It’s tough, but then I look at the people I’m working for, with. In times when they are under attack from cattle raids and inter-tribal violence, their whole worldly goods are packed into a basket and carried with them as they flee the violence. That’s if they’ve time to pack. So really…I don’t have it so bad.
These lessons I’m learning have surprised me. The challenge hasn’t been as hard as I was expecting. I’m ready to say that, at the moment, I’m even appreciating living this way. I am appreciating the bucket showers, the long-drop toilet, the peace after the generator’s switched off. God throws me into a new place with fresh challenges and it’s Him who gives me the grace to face them, learn from them and even appreciate them.
You see, when you learn to let go of the material things of this world, your worries decrease. I’ve heard it said before, but I’m discovering it to be true for myself. There’s joy and pleasure in the small things.
Yesterday I made popcorn over an open fire. I can’t say I would normally find joy in making popcorn. But then it was a normal thing. Here it’s a treat. And it’s appreciated.
When the generator gets turned off for the night, all you can see is the night sky. And it’s beautiful.
When you get up at 6:30am and cross the compound to the bathing room and you stop and you watch the splashes of colour that fill the sky as the sun brings in a new morning. And there’s hope in the day ahead.
You see, it’s not actually been difficult to give up the creature comforts, the small luxuries. Because in their place comes a freedom. Freedom from cares that bind us to the physical things of this world and freedom to see things that were otherwise unseen.
Freedom to live simply by God’s grace only.