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Sudan: The mission fields

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By Ken Begley

I have a sister, Mary, who married a man named Bernard. Bernard was born and raised in Marion County. Yet, despite that, we have taught him to eat with a knife and fork, use indoor plumbing, and take more than one bath a week. We’re still working on the spoon.

Just kidding.

I had to get in one Marion County dig as the WCHS Commanders football team is going over to give the MCHS Knights a whooping this Friday that they ain’t never going to forget. I told Bernard that if you’re a Knight you better get off the tracks because the Blue and Gold Special is heading into town to knock you all the way back to the Middle Ages.

Go Commanders!

I feel better now. Back to this week’s story.

Mary and Bernard have two daughters, and the youngest one is named Susan.

Susan is 25 now. She was adopted from Korea. She is, as her proud grandmother Isabelle Begley tells people, even nicer than she is beautiful.

Susan is an adventurous young lady and has already done quite a bit of traveling around this old world at a young age. She graduated from Berea College with a four-year degree and spent a year in Washington, D.C., helping foreign students arriving in the U.S to adjust to our society. In addition, she’s a member of the Southeast Christian Church of Louisville, and spent this past year on an internship working with their overseas mission programs. She recently went to spend some time in Sudan.

Her team first flew from Louisville to Detroit to Amsterdam, and then to Kenya before moving on to Sudan. They stayed in Kenya for a day and a half. The poverty is probably more than you can imagine. She visited one small church of 20 people in Kibera.

Susan said, “It was just a room (sided/roofed by metal) with no fans, no electricity, but a few windows and the kids sitting on a dirt floor . . . very different from American churches. They were on fire for God. Pretty awesome to see people with so little still praising our Lord and giving him thanks for the small things they have.”

She said, “Sudan was hot! On average it was about 110 degrees during the day and around 97 during the night in our rooms. You would wake up in a pool of sweat. The place we stayed at was out in the bush, and when I say bush I mean bush. We didn’t have electricity or running water. No cold water or fans. Our bathrooms consisted of a squatty potty, and our showers were just buckets. When taking a shower, you can look over the ‘wall’ and see palm trees, bushes and a cow, if it walks by. We had to put all of our belongings on our bed during the day and tuck in our mosquito nets to keep the spiders out. We also did our fair share of killing scorpions.”

Susan worked in the pharmacy and would give out medicines to the people. She said, “It was hard to see such sick people, and all they needed was an antibiotic, which is hard to get around there. One little boy was losing his eyesight to what we know as pink eye. In America he would have gotten some eye drops and healed up fast. In Sudan, he was already three fourths blind.”

“We saw many malaria cases. There was one young girl that had muscle spasms and became paralyzed. There were many starving children with bloated stomachs. One guy had cut his finger down to the bone and had been waiting for medical attention for two months. We would pray over each patient and just love them.”

They would show something Susan called the “Jesus film” and the children loved it. She said as it got dark, “We would hear these small voices coming, carrying their own benches and waiting for the Jesus film, which was in their own language of Dinka. By the end of the week, they had memorized the lines and would laugh at the funny parts and cry at the sad parts.”

Susan said “A dentist came with us and taught three “lost boys” how to pull teeth. The lost boys were the young kids that were orphaned during a long civil war between Sudan’s north and south. They were left to fend for themselves in that desolate and violent land.”

Susan met two of the lost boys named Zacharia and John. These two had been part of a group of 11 boys that walked from Sudan to Ethiopia, then back to Sudan, and then to Kenya looking for food and shelter. Zacharia was 16 at the time, and frequently had to carry his “brothers” as they gave up on the trail in their travels. He buried four along the way. Yet this young man told her he “has forgiven the north and loves God with his whole heart.”

There were also comical moments.

“One elderly lady (a grandma) told a translator that she had visions of me. She said she saw I would stay behind in Sudan and marry her son, and that she would give my team 250 cows for me. I also got a marriage proposal from the “chief,” and he would give my team 200 cows. The Sudanese people don’t see many Asian people, and once four older men saw me, shook my hand but would not let it go. Then, in about 10 seconds surrounded me and cut me off. Boy, was I nervous. My team finally got me back.”

Despite all the poverty, Susan said, “The people of Southern Sudan were amazing. They had smiles on their faces, laughter in their voices, and a craving to learn anything you were willing to teach them.”

I guess that’s it.

Oh yeah, you might be thinking that Susan would be a wonderful catch for some lucky guy. Well, it would take a really strong and adventurous young man to match her strength, and she found him. His name is Josh and he’s an enlisted soldier with the Army’s elite 10th Mountain Division. He has one deployment to Afghanistan under his belt already.

He doesn’t own any cows though.

Still, I don’t think Bernard is disappointed. Even if he is from Marion County.

Go Commanders!