Monday, March 28, 2016

My Easter was like your Easter (and why it was NOT also)

My Easter was like your Easter
I woke up excited to worship together with other believers in remembrance of what my God did two thousand years ago.  My Lord, Jesus Christ, rose from the dead, conquered death and paid my debt of sin that I would otherwise have had to pay.  He proved to all that He is the King of Kings and no earthly or spiritual power compares to him.  What better reason is there to get out of bed and declare again that Jesus is my God?  I am sure that many, many others around the world got up with the same excitement and experienced the same joy as we went to our places of worship and sang, prayed, danced, and cried tears of joy that the promised messiah had come and opened the way of salvation for all of us.  I am sure many of us heard wonderful sermons, ate delicious food, laughed and shared time together with close friends and family.  My day was just like yours in so many ways.

This poor sheep probably doesn't have long to live.

My Easter was NOT like your Easter
Within these broad strokes of our common experience of Easter lies a story.  My day was pretty crazy.  We live in an area that has four different refugee camps surrounding it.  These camps hold people who have fled fighting in their home area of Sudan.  They have crossed the border into South Sudan and have been living as refugees for the past few years.  While some of these refugees are Christian, most of them are not.  While they have been here, some of them have come to learn about and accept Jesus Christ as their messiah and king.  Many of them have become followers of Jesus only in the last year.  This was their first Easter; their first time to celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead.  This was special. 

I woke up at 4:20 am so that I could take the motorcycle into town to meet up with a couple men from the Maban church (the local tribe here in Doro).  We got into two large lorries and rumbled down the road to go to the refugee camps about thirty to forty-five minutes away.  We had arranged to pick up the new believers from these camps and bring them into the main town where we would all worship together.  When we arrived at 6:30 am, we found that people were not ready like we had agreed.  This was going to be an interesting day.  The church service was supposed to start in the main town at 6 am (which means 7:30 am) and if no one was ready, we were going to be very late.  
As we alighted from the lorry and went to the church leader’s house, we found that he had just woken up and was beating a drum to call everyone to come.  A full hour and a half later we finally piled into the lorry and headed back to the church in the main town.  We met up half way with the other lorry who went to a different camp to pick up believers and eventually were on our way (a full two hours late now).  There were other adventures along the way like one truck ran out of gas and the guys stopped a fight between two people on the side of the road…but we eventually pulled up to the church.

Pulling up to the church

The entire group of believers were singing as we drove up to the church in a cloud of dust.  It was over a hundred degrees by now and sweat poured down people’s faces.  They formed themselves into a group and marched into the church singing Allela Farhan Allela or “Today we are happy!”  The church literally half emptied out as there was no more room for others to come in.  It is hard to describe the intensity and volume of the singing as the congregation joined in.  These are believers who had never met each other and yet their praises to Jesus on this day instantly bonded them.  Tribe, denomination, culture, weather, history: these all take second place to the fact that at this moment believers have gathered to worship their king, the one who has saved them and now calls them his children. 

The Ingassana and JumJum believers marching into church singing

Believers from the Maban Church come up and "cheer on" the new believers, snapping their fingers in time with the singing

The service eventually ended and many people went home but the youth moved outside under a huge tree and continued singing together.  An hour later, we gathered the visitors into the lorries to take them home.  Suddenly, all the youth from the Maban church began climbing into the lorries too.  They wanted to escort these new believers back home.  To say we were a bit of spectacle going to down the road does not quite capture it.  You’ve got about a hundred mostly youth singing in the back of lorries as we rumble down the road.  There were some serious stares, let me just say that.

Maban youth and visitors singing together under the tree after the service

One young Ingassana girl is playing a drum made from a mortar shell

Musa plays a rababa which is a lot like a guitar

I got home at 3:30, just in time to take a bath and change my clothes and we were off to another sort of celebration.  Samaritan’s Purse had invited SIM and MedAir to come and celebrate an Easter meal and games together.  It was a very different kind of gathering but one full of meaning too.  We were mostly foreigners who had come a long way to share the love of Christ through clean water, health, food distribution, sanitation and the teaching of God’s word.  

Trying to play horseshoes with teammate Khamboi

We all were pink from the hot South Sudan sun and sweating uncontrollably but this is where God has brought us.  We are doing the best we can to glorify our God through the work we do but our main goal is to point people to the one who can truly give them life and health.  The kind that doesn’t ever fade.  The life, abundant life, that was made available to us through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord two thousand years ago.  He is Risen!


Heather and Jeff Ladine said...

an AMAZING day. He is Risen indeed! Thanks for sharing.

Chris said...

Wonderful account! I was there!

The Agnes family said...

This feels like part of 'for the joy set before him', that helped Jesus endure the cross - so wonderful to see what God is doing - thank you for being part of it and sharing it with us xxx

Jared Staples said...

God is so good! Celebrating with you, friends!