A week after we arrived in Rumbek we boldly staked our claim and let you all know what was going on here. Now, seven months later (how did that happen so fast?), we’ve found some sort of groove, learned a bunch of things, and moved a couple times. Shall we recap?
Our position with the Diocese of Rumbek as Peace and Justice Coordinators became a role that we found we could share, being a diversely talented couple. We work to support the different parishes in the diocese by visiting, writing project proposals for funding, facilitating workshops, classes and seminars, going to meetings, and writing a Peace and Justice newsletter to keep the far flung parishes connected, somehow. We try to divide projects between the two of us so we can each have some ownership and take initiative without stepping on each other’s toes – but we are still learning the balance of this. We have worked together before, but never this closely.
The job itself has been challenging as we struggle to work within a system where communication (the physical infrastructure of communication) is inconsistent and unreliable, the roads are terribly bumpy, and security is still unpredictable. But these things just make for more adventures – right? We’ve been positively challenged as we work in this culture heavily entrenched in violence and trauma to discover what peace and justice actually are. And who are we to be here teaching these things?! Last weekend Joel went to do a seminar on Non-Violence – I had thought I would be at meetings but then wasn’t so tagged along. This concept was so foreign and new to the group of 50 young men and 1 token woman – only one had heard of Gandhi. I suppose that was one very small part of the answer as to why we are here.
It feels like in the months we have been here Rumbek has also evolved (although I’m sure part of it is that as we get used to this place we start noticing more things that have always been here). There are now power lines down some of the major roads, although no power yet. We have found a place in the market that sells chocolate bars and a restaurant that serves “Western-style” sandwiches. The market continues growing with new permanent buildings (this gives me a lot of hope for the future here. If people are willing to invest in buildings they must think that next year’s referendum will go smoothly, right?).
And our home in Rumbek has changed from a mud-hut tukul to a concrete building with a bathroom. A month ago we moved to the far corner of the Diocese Guesthouse compound where a new building with 6 one-room suites had just been completed. We chose the corner room so we could have a front, side, and back yard. We got to work planting flowers, shrubs, and a small vegetable garden to make it feel like “our” place. There is a palm and mango tree to our right and a banana and papaya tree to our left. Even though we are still in the guesthouse compound with lots of permanent and non-permanent guests we are really starting to feel at home here. The advantages of living in a guesthouse is that people clean your room for you, wash your sheets, make food for you, and there are usually some interesting guests around. The disadvantages are the lack of privacy, the monotonous food, and the only few hours of electricity. But all in all we are happy with where we live and the people we share our day to day lives with.
Seven months in Sudan has gone by unbelievably fast and as we look to the future we are unsure what will happen. Here in Sudan things still aren’t terribly stable – but we pray and continue to work for peace. There will be a referendum in January to determine whether the south will secede from the north. We will see if the referendum is fair, then if the north recognizes the result (most likely for secession), and then we will find out if the south can actually govern itself well. There are a lot of question marks but we have to hope for the best.