I still remember that video.
Sitting in the basement media office of SIM’s U.S. headquarters in early 2011, I was contemplating a possibility I’d never considered before: working in South Sudan.
As the video unfolded, I was struck by the incongruity of the relaxed setting and the sunny, leafy green background as the SIM missionary described the living conditions.
“Life in southern Sudan is unbelievably difficult, mostly because of the physical environment, mostly because of the heat … It gets very difficult to stay because you can’t sleep, it’s hard to sleep at night. You just can’t escape it. And then of course, there’s the bugs, there’s the snakes and the scorpions …”
Call me crazy, but I was intrigued.
I have no idea why I’m the person who hates roller coasters but welcomes the idea of a 25K trail run with more than 4,000 feet in elevation gain. Or why I would rather cinch up my pack and disappear into the mountains than dress up and go out on the town. Or why I find mucking around a sheep farm much more satisfying than sitting in an office all day.
I guess that means I’m a glutton for punishment – or just really enlightened. Take your pick.
Sure, it probably explains why I was intrigued. But that’s not the reason why the idea of going to South Sudan stuck.
As 2011 unfolded, with support for an independent nation swelling throughout the South, I knew the world was witnessing the first rough draft of a new chapter of history. The vote confirmed it.
The journalist in me was hooked.
As 2011 rolled into 2012 though, jubilation gave way to tragedy as tensions between the North and the South boiled over. The result? Tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of refugees were forced to flee the border areas to escape bombings. Doro, the base I will be traveling to, suddenly the staging area for a humanitarian crisis.
In the midst of this, I followed the social media and news updates of SIM Sudan team members. I was awed at the passion they had for the fledgling country and inspired by the determination they had to continue to meet human need, walk alongside the church and spread the gospel.
Even as the door opened for me to come to Kenya, I still felt drawn to South Sudan. I wanted to see the missionaries’ work firsthand – to help share their story and that of the South Sudanese – and at the same time, provide more depth to the story of South Sudan’s growth as a nation.
To actually have that opportunity is a humbling and daunting thing.