|Typical Nuer village|
I can't even begin to imagine the changes Lul and Nagayla have
experineced in their lives. I can't even begin to imagine coming
from a home like this to a place that is a simple apartment to us.
I should begin to imagine, I will be doing the reverse in a very
short time as my journey takes me to Akobo and the adjustments
will be reversed.
"By Grandpa” shouted the little voices as I went to my car and shouted after me waving as I drove down the street; three beautiful tiny voices shouting and waving and one in diapers waving but not really knowing why. As I looked in my rearview mirror as they faded from site I saw their mother, Nyalanga, standing there with a smile on her face. I knew this day was the beginning of a new friendship between me and another, a friendship that God has brought half way around the world to join two people together in a common bond.
I should stop here to explain “Grandpa”. Grandpa. Grandma. Mother. Father. They are terms of respect from young children to their elders. I often heard people shout to me, “Mother, can you help me”? Not related by blood but related by our common bond in our faith and our God. Simple words that hold so much meaning….
Nyalanga and her young family will be my new friends and Nyalanga will be my new Nuer language teacher. Nyalanga is from South Sudan and another friend from Bible study has brought us together.
Maali? Are you at peace? Maala – Yes I am at peace. My first Nuer language lesson! The traditional Nuer greeting. I am very excited! I had lunch with a friend today who took time from his very busy schedule to introduce me to two of his friends – Lul and Nyalanga – both from South Sudan, both speak Nuer!
Two people with very different stories; I only heard bits, but I have read enough about the history of South Sudan that I think I can fill in the pieces. Lul left his country and arrived in the US in 1992 with a wife and small children. He was the first Nuer to arrive in Ft. Worth. He quietly stated “I had to bring 100 more”. And he did. Looking at the time frame for his arrival and knowing approximately the location of his village, I think it is safe to assume he is one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. Many thousands fled their villages, traversed harsh country on foot, watched many others die along the way from starvation, injuries, or attacks by lions and hyenas in the dark of night, or because they were just too young and too tired to take one more step, so they just laid down and died along the way. If you’ve never read their stories, you should. They are stories of strength and courage greater than we will ever know.
Nyalanga didn’t tell her beginnings, she has been in the US for five years. I judged her to be in her early twenties. She came through a refugee camp in Gambela. After we talked for a while, and discussed where it was located, I realized I had visited her camp when I was in Gambela. I went with Amanuel to visit his sister in law and to meet her new baby.
I will try to describe the camp for you. You stop on the main road at a double string barbed wire fence. We sent a young boy to his sister in law’s home, then, we were invited in through a small rickety gate. As we passed through the gate I began to realize the rickety, metal buildings were not storage buildings we have here, but homes; homes for families and children. There were four wooden posts pounded into the ground with three sheets of “concoro” – corrugated tin, one with a door cut in it, the back open to a dirt road, and a piece of tin on top for a roof. These were their homes. Row after row of these simple houses where refugees live.
This was where Nyalanga lived, and many more Nyalanga's. This is where I learned my heart leaped for joy at the thought of being able to work with the refugees. In this simple refugee camp in Gambella, my heart began its journey to South Sudan. I never dreamed that journey would lead me to a simple apartment in Ft. Worth, Texas, less than an hour from my home, to a new friend from South Sudan.
Nyalanga impressed me with her beautiful smile and her eyes that are sparking. She impressed me with her beauty and grace. What impressed me the most was her kindness and generosity and the simplicity of her offer to help me learn her language and culture. I told her I was looking for someone who could help me before I go. She said, “I will do it. I want to do it. I didn’t have any one to help me when I came here and I was very afraid and alone. I don’t want you to be afraid and alone when you go to help my country”.
Maali? Maala – peace from ones who have traveled so far from their villages in Africa, who have experienced war and starvation, horrors we will never know or can even begin to comprehend, and the first thing either taught me was Maala – I am at peace.
That and my new Nuer name that Lul christened me with today – Nyekuoth (knee a quoth) – daughter of God. What an honor he has bestowed upon me!
I can’t wait to share more stories as our friendship grows.
09/02/11 - OOPS! I learned today that Nyalanga was in a refugee camp about an hour from Gambela. But, you got a good description of the one I visited. (red face)