Sitting in the flight station, I anxiously tap my watch as I wait for my passengers who are delayed in immigration. I try to keep busy calculating fuel requirements, filling out manifests, or whatever else will keep my mind off the clock. My passengers disembarked the plane two hours ago and they still have not returned. Looking out to the ramp, I see a frenzy of activity at the Juba Airport. UN cargo planes painted in solid white with BOLD BLACK LETTERS painted “UN” taxi by with expediency, attempting to accomplish multiple loads to war torn areas of South Sudan within the day. The airport will close at 6pm and there is much work to be done. Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) trucks run up and down the flight line dropping off passengers while simultaneously loading cargo. A massive UN Helicopter taxis by, shaking my little plane but providing a refreshing wind, which momentarily repels the stifling heat. I look again at my watch, trying to remain content with the situation, even though the schedule for the day is falling apart.
After the third hour, I am glad to see that my passengers have returned. The five of them are precious cargo indeed, God’s treasured servants who are serving as the hands and feet of Jesus to the South Sudanese people. The six of us depart for our two hour flight at maximum gross weight, stuffed full with supplies for the mission station located just 15 kilometers from the Sudan/South Sudan Border. The flight is relaxing as the tranquil cool air at 11,500 feet is a strong contrast to the heat and hectic pace of Juba. Our schedule has changed though, as I won’t be able to bring the missionaries waiting at the mission station who were due to return to Nairobi, on the long flight today.
Landing in Doro, we off-load the 620 Kilograms of supplies and bring on fuel, but this time there is a relaxed feel to the work, as the race against the clock has ceased. My usual cadence of off-loading passengers and cargo quickly, so I can get the next load on, has changed to small talk while snapping pictures. The three hour delay at Immigration has thrown off our schedule, but provided a new opportunity to see the SIM mission station located near the UN refugee Camps.
I laugh with my friend Jon once again, as I put the airplane to bed for the night. Jon and I first met at Mission Training International in Colorado, where both of our families were living, as we studied language and culture together for 5 weeks. It was an exciting time for our families 4 years ago, as we lived in a dorm setting, taking classes together, while trying to envision life on the mission field. For our families, the mission field seemed so far away and so unknown. Now, here we are, thousands of miles away from that classroom, living and working in what seems to be such a distant world from our time together in Colorado.
In the late afternoon, Jon takes me on a thorough tour of the mission station. The medical clinic is modest, but clean and tidy, supporting separate buildings for a maternity ward and leprosy center. Little children come up and shake our hands eagerly as we pass by the education building and church. They curiously ask Jon, in Arabic, my name, as we continue our stroll by the nutrition center and water project area. Jon tells me what it is like disciplining the young South Sudanese men he works with each morning and the questions they ask. The Lord is using him to make disciples and I listen eagerly to his observations and stories.
My thoughts reflect back on an AIM AIR meeting that occurred the week prior. At that meeting, one of my colleagues told how his grandfather was a missionary to this very region back in the 1960s. For 35 years he ministered to the people around here, yet very few became converts. His grandfather, who poured 35 years of his life into serving the Sudanese people, would see so little fruit. In later years, he would subsequently pass on to Heaven without the knowledge of the expansion of the Gospel that would come to this region years later. He had scattered the seed, but it appeared to him to take no root. Now refugees are pouring into this region, fleeing the persecution in Sudan and because of this, have open ears to hear the Gospel. There is so much work to be done in declaring the Good News about Jesus Christ and in disciplining those that desire to follow Him, as the environment has begun to change. The door that had at once seemed closed is now open, as many refugees and South Sudanese are receptive to the Word of God. Pray that more workers would be sent to the harvest as the fields are ripe. People here are receptive to the Word of God, but they need to be able hear and understand the message. May the Lord bring more messengers with the wonderful news of how they can have peace with God.
My head hits the pillow as the clock nears 8:30pm. It has been a long day. Tomorrow, we begin our journey back to Juba, Lokichogio in Northern Kenya, and then finally Nairobi. The three days of flying have been long, yet I feel rejuvenated. I have been with God’s precious servants. He has used them to strengthen my soul. I see the Kingdom of God expanding, as our Lord uses His children in a variety of ways to bring salvation and joy amongst darkness. I am encouraged, thankful, and refreshed by what the Lord has shown me. We serve an amazing God!!!