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Love Has A Face

Michele Perry

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"Stepping Downward"

by Michelle Perry

I woke to the sound of frustrated voices outside my window speaking in muted tones of Kawkwa and Juba Arabic. It was not yet 7 a.m.

What now? We had been open only a few weeks. Every day seemed to bring more challenges than answers to solve them. What had God gotten me into?

I threw on a long skirt and stepped outside into the early morning light to find out what the problem was. Several of our older children were looking at a hole in the back wall of our rented building. Though not large, the hole served as clear evidence that our bricks had been chipped away by AK-47 rounds during the night. And one quarter of the back of our bamboo fence had grown legs and walked off with the neighboring community. One of our younger boys brought rocks to me that had been thrown at our windows. We were getting quite the reception.

I looked back at our small courtyard to the 30 or so people who were already waiting to see me. The gunfire had kept me up most of the night, and our three youngest had managed to take up the remaining hours before dawn. I had not even had time to wash my face. And I am not a morning person.

What was I going to do? Jumping on the next flight back to the States to pursue a career as a coffee-shop barista definitely crossed my mind. But my thoughts were quickly distracted by a small tug on my skirt.

"Mama, garhol." ("Mama, my throat hurts.") I looked down into two intent, dark eyes asking me to make it all better. Baristahood would have to wait. Another day of motherhood in Sudan had begun.

Life in a Fishbowl

I love my life. I really do. I love it so much I want to share it with you. Let me begin by greeting you, for greetings are important in Sudanese culture.

You are most welcome! Welcome to a glimpse of life here: its joys, its challenges, its heartaches, and its triumphs. Welcome to where I live -- a place called Yei in the far recesses of the bush of
Southern Sudan, along the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. It is the last place I ever expected to find myself.

I am a city girl at heart. I have always loathed camping and have never been too fond of dirt. I like perfume, mascara, and Starbucks coffee. I love the ocean. I grew up in Florida, so swimming is part of my DNA. I really enjoy running water and electricity. I do. So how is it that a little beach-loving Floridian city gal wound up in the landlocked African bush with none of the above? And how is it she has never been happier? (Okay, I bring the perfume, mascara, and coffee with me; that helps.)

How could I be happy in a place so far removed from all I have ever known? I invite you to venture further into one of my days to find out. The particular day I have begun to describe to you dawned with scenarios that were often repeated during my first months in Sudan.

After waking to the aforementioned morning reception, I spent the next three hours finding out if we had enough beans for lunch, sorting out household chores, and meeting with each little group waiting to see me. It was 11 a.m. before I had the chance to drink my cup of coffee or wash my face.

I soon noticed a slight man sitting off to the side snoozing in the shade of our building. I went over and introduced myself. He looked up at me with a big, toothless grin. He had heard about our problems last night. We had had a break-in the night before, right? (Yes, we had discovered a few things missing beyond the bamboo fencing, but we had not told anyone. Hmmm. And it was amazing; he knew just what they were.) Would we like to hire his services as a guard, he asked.

I was not sure whether to laugh, cry, or tell him off. It did not even occur to me to call the police, as there were not any. Our mystery was solved. The clairvoyant culprit was sitting in front of me asking for employment. We did not know what else might happen that would require his protective services, he informed me. I had flashbacks to mafia movies from the 1980s.

Taking his résumé, I thanked the man for his time and told him I would pray about his offer. If I was not learning anything else here in Sudan, I was learning to talk to God before doing anything -- to find out His take on it, because He is always right and knows way more than I do!

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