Sudan 2007 Journals
David Haley, age 22 as this was written, graduated as an RN one month prior to going to Southern Sudan. He said that this trip was the hardest thing he has ever done. Three people told him that he would die on this trip and a fourth said that he would cause someone else to die. On a lighter note, he was able to successfully propose to his girlfriend Brittany, on his last day in Uganda, from which we departed for the US.
Jim Sutherland, Team leader.
We arrived in Torit today after spending a day adjusting in Uganda. Praise God I got to work in the clinic at the local secondary school with a nurse from Florida named Emma. She was able to teach me a lot that I know will come in handy while we are here. I am feeling very well rested and I am thankful for having adjusted to the time change so quickly. It was an interesting experience walking off of the plane and seeing mud huts, village children, and fully armed UN troops. The Sudanese are very different from Ugandans. Ugandans are very over the top when you interact with them while the Sudanese pierce you with the most painful stare I have ever seen. I guess that comes from living in a country that has spent the last 30 years in violent civil war. The hurt here is very palpable. There is a lot of uneasiness in the Sudanese’s eyes at our presence. My immediate reaction is to become uneasy as well. I need to surrender that to the Lord so that it does not come across as snobbery. There is a lot of freedom in the schedule which is great for flexibility but at the same time rather unsettling. I’m finding out just how much I take comfort in a set schedule and knowing what is going on. I have no idea what is going on here. I don’t know any of the language, I don’t know any of the culture, and I certainly don’t know anyone here. This is a very lonely place. All that I do know is that my God is Lord of all and He alone is mighty to save. Do I really know that, or do I just think that to sound churchy, or worse yet, only as a coping mechanism when I know control is not within my grasp? If I know it, then surely it would pervade my thoughts and actions. Then why am I so afraid? I don’t even really know what I’m scared of, I just know that I am scared. Scared something will happen to me, happen to Brittany, happen to my team. It seems that deep within my heart, past all of the religiosity, I don’t really know God in His sovereignty. I know Him in His comfort and provision to the extent that my parents have provided for me. Have I ever even experienced His provision or have I only tasted the fruit of well-intentioned individuals? I know I have. Those weeks at camp I felt just as alone and just as afraid as I do now. Time and again I saw Him work, saw Him move, saw Him bring about circumstances for His maximum glory. It’s funny how fear can rob you of all remembrance of past provision. That is what is happening here. I’ve stepped out of the boat and for the first time caught sight of the waves. I cannot allow myself to become dissuaded from faith by fear. It’s a tough thing though, because I can’t create faith on my own. I can’t say a phrase or repeat some words mindlessly to console myself. How ridiculous would that be? What if David had the faith to pick up 5 smooth stones but then looked up halfway across the field and said, “Nah, never mind?” On the other hand, why did David pick up 5 stones instead of just 1? Where is the line between faith and diligence? That doesn’t really matter now. There are a thousand and a half questions that I could ask, scenarios that I could run through continually in my mind, but what would that accomplish? Nothing. Pursuit of knowledge for my own pleasure or security holds no eternal value whatsoever. Faith, on the other hand, does most certainly. So again, if Jesus says we have not because we ask not, I must ask for an increased measure of faith because I cannot make it happen on my own. The end of an old chorus goes “Oh for grace to trust Him more.” Grace is exactly what I need. I’ve done nothing to merit the gift of faith. It’s not like there is some kind of faith pyramid scheme. God is not bribed by self-sustained, self-powered “faithfulness.” No. Instead, He is gracious and merciful, bearing with us in patience as we screw up over and over again. All that is good, anything that is pleasing, anything to be enjoyed is a gift from Him alone. In His mercy He allows all to experience happiness, even if it is only fleeting. I think that we have hijacked his grace towards all and re-labeled it as our own rights. The right to be happy, the right to be loved, etc., and in doing so belittled His mercy poured out on us who in our ungratefulness curse His name instead of being humbled at His mercy and grace.
So let me catch up on the last 12 hours. I went into town yesterday afternoon on the back of a motorcycle flying on dirt roads with a 30 year history of grenade and mortar explosions. It was awesome. Patrick (our Sudanese contact who is from Torit) trucked me into the town square where I got a chance to inventory the medicines that we will use for the clinic. He did a great job getting a good variety of broad-spectrum antibiotics and other things that can treat a variety of ailments. On the way back we pulled down this little side alley and there were two men sitting in chairs surrounded by some guards with AK-47s. Patrick parks the truck and says “come on” to me and in my mind I was like “you’re kidding.” He wasn’t so I got out and followed him to the two men sitting in the chairs. After being introduced it turns out the man on the right was the country commissioner. Southern Sudan is split into 8 “equatorial states,” each with its own commissioner. Torit is the largest and most influential (the government of Southern Sudan is here) so that’s probably why they call this guy the “Big Boss.” He was apparently in the middle of some business (hence the chairs and AK-47s) but he asked us to go meet him at his office so off we went. When we got to the government offices we were greeted by Solomon, who turned out to be the “Minister of Finance” for Southern Sudan. We sat and talked for a good 30-45 minutes and he told me how greatful he was to have us here as well as the history of the area. It turns out that the Sudanese Civil War actually started here in Torit. They’ve gone the last 30 years with no outside influence or resources because of the conflict. A whole generation is unskilled and illiterate because they were forced to join the army at the age of 12. Their “hospital” has no drugs and no bandages. There is no running water. There is no electricity. Yet Solomon’s face and eyes come alive as he talks about it. All of the Sudanese are so proud of their country and what they have been through to experience what they call “freedom.” I hesitate to point out that there are 3000 UN troops in Torit. They are not out of the water yet, but they are so much better off. Everyone here is tired of conflict and desperately seeking peace. I pray God is gracious enough to let us be a part of that. They are looking for wisdom and looking for guidance and I plead with the Lord that they find it in Him. Basically I spent yesterday afternoon with the two most powerful men in the area, building relationships with them and so on. It was ridiculous. Oh, and whoever is praying for my ability to sleep is tearing it up because I am sleeping better here than I do back home. I’m writing this sitting in a chair outside my tent looking at the mountains. Who knew it was so beautiful here? The lack of schedule is really stretching, but the absence of routine is keeping me from taking what goes on as my own. Breakfast is ready now, more to come later.
So I never got a chance to write more yesterday. We are slam packed all day long here. It’s exhausting. I saw probably 75 people in the clinic yesterday. The hospital here has no medicine, not even aspirin, so you can imagine how long the lines are. The only reason I stopped is because it got dark and I couldn’t see anymore. At the rally last night about 20 Sudanese got saved which was awesome. It was old-school crusade “you’re a sinner and you need Jesus” style, but the Holy Spirit worked. I don’t think the gospel is as complicated as we make it out to be. After the preaching they showed the Jesus film in Arabic. Tyronesha, one of the women on my team, got a kick out of me making fun of good-looking, upper-middle class white Jesus. We didn’t eat dinner until about 10:30 and we were all exhausted so we went straight to bed. I slept great until about 3am when I got tagged by a scorpion. It hurt so bad I didn’t get back to sleep until 6am. Satan sucks. The clinic was slammed today. We started at 10:00 and went until 1:30, took a break for lunch and then went form 3-5:30 and still had to turn about 20 people away. I bet 135 people came through today. Some South African and Australian missionaries from Lohutouk (Patrick’s village that is about 100km away) came which was really cool. They knew everyone there and spoke the language. Katherine, one of the women, told me something that blew me away. One of the ladies that came through the clinic yesterday was from their village. Her urine was brown (end stage renal failure) and she was in so much pain that she had not been able to move for 6 months. They had taken her to Juba and Khartoum and even had mission doctors that came through the village look at her and no treatment had worked. I knew I could do nothing for her, but I gave her a simple antibiotic, amoxicillin, and prayed with her that the Lord would turn it into whatever medicine she needed. So today Katherine comes running up to me with a frantic look on her face and shouts “what did you do?” I thought I had done something wrong, but she proceeded to tell me that the woman that I saw yesterday, the woman everyone had given up on, woke up this morning with no pain. She got up and walked on her own for the first time in 6 months. When she went to the bathroom, her urine was clear. God healed her. I had nothing to do with it. There’s no other explanation. Here’s where it gets even cooler. My translator in the clinic, Amin, is her son. So I just witnessed a miracle. I’d prayed God would heal miraculously since before I left. He is so faithful. I’m blown away by the spiritual maturity of several of the believers here, Patrick in particular. I’m watching the sun set over the mountains and I cannot help but think what an amazing love my God has for me to allow me to be a part of something like this. I don’t feel called to be here long term, but I would love to come back and help rebuild this country in some way. I ran into Solomon, the Minister of Finance, again today. His son was bitten by a dog and I was able to give him some antibiotics and antibacterial cream. I hope we cross paths again and have a chance to talk about spiritual matters. Dinner is almost ready, huzzah for beef knuckles and beans.
It looks rainy this morning. You can see the rain shafts intermixed with beams of light over the mountains. A cool breeze is blowing. God is so merciful. The SPLA (Sudanese People’s Liberation Army) woke me up this morning marching and singing down the road. They were carrying tree branches instead of rifles, I don’t know why, and I was struck by the juxtaposition of war and peace, fear and hope. They looked like olive branches. I got a chance to share with the team what the Lord has been teaching me about His sovereignty through my fear. I was completely honest and transparent. I even read from the first entry of this journal. It was raw, gritty, real, and wonderful. There, sitting in a circle around a lantern, the Lord opened my eyes fully to what He is teaching me on this trip as His Spirit spoke through me. I am to learn His sovereignty. It’s as simple as that. I can choose one of two ways. I can surrender my hope and my trust to His whisper or in fear and selfishness demand some grand set of circumstances to merit my belief. His way is the first, however, He will teach me His sovereignty. I can choose to trust or choose to hold out for proof. He will still work in the latter, however I am overcome with the feeling that should I choose that course of action it will set in motion a course of events that I would find less than desirable. Looking back on the last two years of my life it is painfully apparent that my nature is to choose the latter. I’ve felt and heard the call, but held out, convincing myself that if it was truly God’s will then He would provide confirmation after confirmation, and all the while Jesus has been looking at me saying “my child, why won’t you trust me?” Oh it is a joyfully painful experience to have your eyes opened to the errors of your ways. In that moment of brilliant clarity you’re overcome by God’s gracious mercy and overwhelmed with sorrow at the same time. How gracious is our God to take us by the hand and whisper truth to us and how wretched are we to demand proof of His presence. His mercy and compassion toward us are beyond my understanding. Moments of insight like this are fleeting, but what a blessing they are. I ask that the Lord write this truth in stone with an iron pen on my heart and sear it irremovably in my mind so that next time the lion roars my feet will be firmly planted in the truth of my God. It’s funny how in moments like this verses like “do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world but instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind” make sense and actually become the desire of your heart instead of a mantra you know you are supposed to say but never really mean. To be transformed, that is my aim, not by my work, but by His hand, entrusting myself to Him who was always the only one ever worthy of honor and praise. The truck is here and it’s time to go to the clinic. Guide my hands Lord. Use me to heal.
We’re on our lunch break now. I had a really interesting dream last night. It was about running. In the dream I was talking strategy with someone. They suggested I start slowly and then kick really hard at the finish. I made the point that while that sounds good in theory, what really happens is that everyone starts out as hard as they can and it is he who fades the least at the end who wins. I’m pretty sure God was speaking to me. How many times have I started so well only to crash and burn at the end? I’m a little past the midway point now. I’m tired. I smell bad. The newness has worn off and all that I can hear are the cries of the babies that I have no more medicine to give. I do know that God has called me here. I do know that He is sovereign. I do know that the people who were supposed to get specific medicines got them. I pray that the Lord increases my trust and gives me the faith to cause me to release the others to Him who is able to do more that we could ask or imagine. I got to watch Myah’s women’s class perform the prodigal son story as a skit today. It was beautiful. I hope they understood the story that they were acting out. About 75 Sudanese came to the Lord last night. It’s great because we’ve gotten the leaders from the AIC (African Inland Church which are planted by the African Inland Mission missionaries) here involved in what we are doing so we can plug them straight into a growing evangelical church body. I finished Acts and started Romans today. The second half of the first chapter is really troubling to me. Not troubling as in I have doubts about it, but the more convicting kind of troubling. How many times have I loved the gifts more than the Giver, or stopped short of the throne of grace to bow down to what was given to me in order to draw me closer to the one who loved me enough to give His life for me? I am surrendering to His will and releasing everything to Him, but it feels forced and awkward. I want it to be natural, a subconscious yielding to His will and power instead of my own. Maybe this is part of the “toiling and striving” Paul talks about in the “not that I have already achieved these things” passage. Maybe sanctification is more of a partnership than I thought. I have to follow where I am led. I am guided, yet I have to pick up my feet. Here, unlike in the US, when the going gets hard I don’t have others coming alongside of me to keep me moving forward. The team is great, but they’re not Cole, Andrew, Lee, or Danny. Here, the only thing that can keep me moving is my love for Him who is calling me. It’s embarrassing that I am already at this point of brokenness, not wanting to move anymore. It seems I don’t love God as much as I say I do. By my vocabulary and gifts I should love God with a true, selfless love way more than I do. Time to go back to the clinic.
It’s now Sunday afternoon. We had a really nice but really long worship service this morning. We sang for over an hour, prayed, sang some more, and then Jim asked each of us if we would say something. I didn’t have any prep time, I think it was a spur of the moment deal, but what in Africa isn’t? All that I said was that there is always hope in Jesus Christ. Regardless of war, illness, famine, drought, poverty, whatever, there is always hope to be found in Him. That’s what was on my heart and what came out of my mouth when the mic was thrust in front of me. That is really the burden I think for the Sudanese that I have right now. During this time of uneasy peace and rebuilding they are desperately reaching out for aid that can be supplied by the world. Whether it is medicine, education, resources, technology, or whatever they are waiting with open arms to receive whatever it is that we give them. Even the believers here are so quick really to almost forsake faith in the God that has sustained them through the war and brought them into peace for a perishable commodity. During the service today some children got sick. Some of the church workers asked if I could take a look at them. I told them that there was no more medicine, but they begged me to come anyway. I looked at the kids and I’m positive that they had malaria. Fever + vomiting + mosquito bites + body ache is pretty damning evidence. I told them that we had some malaria medicine that we could give them but it would be awhile before we could get it. At their immediate protest because of the condition of the children, I suggested that we lay hands on them and pray that God would heal them. What I heard shocked me. They said “prayer is good, but we need medicine.” I was speechless. I was furious. I was horrified at how something that had been intended as a blessing, something designed to draw them into closer fellowship with the Father had instead become a curse causing them to seek tangible goods instead of supernatural intervention. I was overwhelmed with rage at how quickly they could turn their backs, especially when they had experienced God’s providential provision to such an full extent. What really kills me is that as soon as they came to me I heard God whisper “Have faith, you will heal these children.” Had we prayed and sought the Lord I know they would have been healed on the spot. I was so excited. Their eyes were going to be opened to how big God is, but as soon as they voiced their desire for medicine God said, “See, they have chosen that which is created rather than the creator. Had they but reached out to me I would have stretched out my hand to heal them, but instead they have placed faith in medicine above faith in me so I will not heal them. Their hearts will be hardened and their ears and eyes closed and they will no longer see the might and mercy of my hand, but instead they will mistake my works for the works of men.” Oh how my soul sank within me. With the second half of Romans 1 ringing all too familiar in my ears I half-heartedly gave them the medicine that they wanted. As they thanked me profusely it was all that I could do to force a smile on my face and say “You’re welcome.” I am heartbroken at how something intended to do so much good turned out so bad. I’m frustrated and feeling really defeated. My hope in all of this is that I feel like God has given me this experience to show me a little bit about humanity so that I might be used by Him to keep this from happening again. I have never known such brokenness over the sin of others. If that wasn’t enough it is as I write these words that the Holy Spirit is pulling a Nathan, sticking His fingers in my chest and saying, “David, you are that man.” Oh my God how could I have done such a thing. How could I have taken something so beautiful, something You desired to bless me with, something You had given me in order to bring me into further deepening my walk with you and fallen so in love with it, whether it is my gifts, talents, or relationships, that I have placed them above You. I have placed my hope in the things You have given me instead of You who have given them and in doing so belittled You name, for which I deserve to die. Oh how I curse those days that I have lived in selfishness with my eyes on my stuff and my back turned to Him who gave so freely and so mercifully. There is no pain so great as realizing you have had your eyes fixed on the gifts instead of the giver and in doing so rejected Him who loved me so much that He was tortured and died so that I could spend eternity with Him in favor of stuff that is perishable. And there is no grace large enough to cover me except that found at the foot of the cross. As I fall into the arms of mercy I am overwhelmed at His patience, at His kindness, at His mercy shown to me. He should have killed me and yet He has chosen to take me by the hand and lead me back into fellowship with Him, increasing the blessings that He continues to pour out on my undeserving, wretched head. There is no way to justify His gifts to me. All that I can do is follow in submission through humble obedience Him who for some reason unbeknownst to me continues to pour out His love regardless of if I choose Him or not. May my heart be irreversibly bound to this truth. May it be written on my heart with an iron pen and seared into my mind with a brand of steel never to be forgotten. It seems scales have fallen from my eyes and I can see clearly for the first time how big He is and what an undeserving little wretch I am. How merciful is our God.
I’ve had the whole morning to sit and rest and I cannot express how needed and wonderful it has been. In getting a chance to rest my mind and refocus on Him, I’ve been given some insights into the past few days. This sounds weird to write or say, but in a sense I feel like God has given me an opportunity to see what things are like from His perspective. At the risk of sounding somewhat blasphemous I’ve gotten a chance to walk in Jesus’s shoes while I’ve been here. Everywhere I go I get mobbed by people who are sick and in need of healing. I’ve gotten to feel the frustration when they see the healing from the medicine and not from the Lord. I’ve felt the horror and the sorrow that Paul felt as people have turned to worship the medicine or me for their healing instead of turning and worshiping the Lord. In His mercy God has opened my eyes to the heartache that He experiences when I loose sight of Him and focus on my stuff. Coming to a place like this changes you. That’s wrong. Coming to a place like this puts you in a position for God to more easily grab your attention. There are no distractions. No TV, no radio, no internet, no computer. There are only people, their needs, God, and His power to meet every one of them. To experience life at the subsistence level is mind-blowing and very humbling. We gather only what we need for the day. We purify our water one bottle at a time. We give thanks for the food because of the toil and sweat that was gone through so that we could have it. It is a hard life that the Sudanese lead, yet it’s hard to go somewhere where you do not see smiles and hear the sound of laughter. Not that stuff is bad by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe we’ve missed the point in western culture. Maybe there’s something holy about a life that’s free of clutter, free of stuff, free of obligations to that stuff where you can just sit and meditate on Him and the word. Where there is time for rest, time to refocus, time for deep conversations and deepening relationships. I can’t explain it, well maybe I can. I am able to get closer with the Lord, allow Him to focus me for the day, renew my mind, and as a result I’m finding that I enjoy life more. There is way more joy in sitting around a lantern on a dirt floor with no air conditioning engaging people you care about in meaningful conversation than there is sitting around a big screen television. Again, I’m not dogging TV, I love TV, but maybe we have our priorities mixed up. Maybe a homeless guy who loves the Lord follows more closely in the footsteps of Jesus than the pastor of a megachurch who spends so much time in meetings that he doesn’t have time for his kids and his relationship with his wife has grown cold and stale. How merciful of God to teach me these things now at the age of 22 just as I am about to ask the girl who is so far beyond the girl of my dreams that it’s not even funny to be my wife. What a privilege it would be to get to spend the rest of my life with her should the Lord not kill me here in Sudan first. It has been a constant battle that I have had to continually release to the Lord to not be consumed and immobilized by thoughts about her. I catch myself daydreaming all the time. God is so faithful. There is nothing that I could have ever done to merit such a blessing as her. What a man of God she drives me to be! I feel now because of what God has shown me, specifically on this trip, that I can be the husband she deserves. Oh Lord for Your grace to be able to live what I know!
Sorry for the two day lapse in writing. I think my brain needed time to digest and just sit in His presence, to take a breather. We barely made it out of Sudan. You should ask me that story, it’s a good one. Again, God came through. Everyone on my team was really moved, some to the point of tears, but what’s really cool is that I wasn’t surprised. I was humbled and extremely grateful, but my attitude was more of a “Duh, what did you expect” kind of thing. What a huge transformation in just two weeks. I spent all day yesterday at a clinic in Kajjansi, Uganda and that is where I will be again today. I feel like I’m getting more and more clarity each day. I’m in the fun part of the trip where everything starts to make sense. It’s like going to the eye doctor when they put that huge apparatus in front of your face to determine which prescription you need. Every click seems to bring things into perfect focus and yet every click that follows makes things a little sharper, a little clearer. My treat to myself every night on this trip has been to listen to a Matt Chandler sermon. IPOD + podcast + free = awesome. As you may be able to tell from earlier pages the Lord used him greatly to stir up a good deal of angst and uneasiness within my soul, to challenge me with do I just say this stuff or do I really believe it. Matt’s sermons are as deep as they are long, and I finished every one feeling like I just got beat up, but liked it. All this stuff came up, this ARGH feeling inside of me that was one of those weird things where in your head you knew what it was, but there was no way I could put it into words. Then I ran out of Chandler’s podcasts. Not to worry, I had also acquired plenty of Lifechurch.tv podcasts as well. Craig is a great speaker, but has a totally different audience and a totally different set of gifts than Matt does, and as I listened I almost turned it off because each word didn’t carry the weightiness that I was used to. I’m so glad that I didn’t. Craig’s last two points dominated me, absolutely dominated me. The first was “Don’t just know the facts, know the truth.” Fact: There were a lot of people with guns in Sudan. Fact: A good number of them didn’t really like the fact we were there. Fact: We were sleeping in tents in a field with no guard. Fact: We took the same roads at the same time every day. Truth: God is sovereign, all powerful, and I am invincible until He kills me. Truth overrides the facts. I’m such an analytical person that I have often become bogged down by looking at the facts that seems tacked against me so much so that I forget the truth. That leads to the last point, the point that really sums up what I found out on this trip. I believed in God, but I didn’t believe Him. I had all the head knowledge and faith sufficient for salvation, but I didn’t BELIEVE Him. He said “I am your rock and your refuge.” I said “I am alone and afraid.” He said “Be still and know that I am God.” I said “Let me plan and control my own life.” He said “my strength is perfect and all of my children are taken care of.” I said “I am tired and in need.” I believed in Him, but I didn’t believe Him. That was the source of all the inner turmoil I experienced, all of the undeniable thoughts and emotions wrought with guilt and doubt because I knew that I was saying one thing on the outside and feeling very differently on the inside. I learned God in His sovereignty on this trip, or more simply, I don’t just believe in Him, but now I believe Him. I take Him at His word. I am no longer surprised by miraculous provision. Isn’t that His nature? I am no longer taken aback by unbelievable blessings. Isn’t that His character? I am no longer shaken by trail and hardship. Has He not said that my bones will be broken so that I can be truly healed? Isn’t anything that draws me closer to Him worth any cost? Hasn’t He said that He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, adoration, forever and ever? Isn’t this the source of inconsistency in my life? Isn’t sin for a believer like me saying “I know You say it’s wrong and it leads to death and sorrow, but, you know, I don’t believe You”? I believe Him now. I boast no more in all the duties I have done and instead boast in the amazing grace of my loving Father who chose to save a wretch like me. My eyes are open now. I can see clearly. Christ is all and is in all. I trust Him. I believe God. I’m so thankful that it wasn’t until the end of the trip that I heard these truths. If all of the angst hadn’t been building within me for a good two weeks, then it wouldn’t have had nearly the same impact. Isn’t God cool that way? All of my walls had to be systematically broken down and only then, when all idols were remove and every shred of pride was gone did my liberating, freeing truth come. I am free, not just of mind, but of soul. I am fully His and, what a blessing, He is fully mine.