Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Meaning of Mission

   Throughout my short time here, I am starting to slowly learn the meaning of mission.  Before starting this journey I thought I had a pretty good handle on what it meant to be a missionary, but my understanding of the word "mission" is definitely growing and developing into something very different.  From the beginning I simply thought mission was synonymous with doing.  My expectations were that I would be physically doing and performing different tasks:  bandaging a wound, giving out medications, playing soccer with the kids.  Although this is true, my duties go far beyond these surface tasks.  Mission is not only doing, but more importantly, it is being present with the kids and loving them unconditionally.  

This morning in Church reaffirmed this new meaning of mission.  I was sitting behind a little girl about 3 or 4 years old.  For some reason, that is the age group that is most terrified of white people.  Mass started off with her taking one glance at me and bursting into tears while burying her face in her mother's lap.  For the first 20 minutes she gradually started to look back at me to sneak a peak.  Each time I flashed a quick smile and she immediately turned back around.  Then slowly, instead of turning back around she gave me a little smirk.  Before I knew it, she turned around and swung her legs onto the other side of the bench and stuck out her small hand.  I went to shake her hand and she pulled her hand right back towards herself.  She continued to push the limits and see how far she could go.  Eventually by the end of Mass she was sitting on my lap, rubbing her hands up and down my arms, pulling my arm hair, and trying to flick off my freckles.  I'd say we made it a long way from the initial cry of terror.  Throughout this entire encounter, I realized that this is my mission--to be present to each of the kids here, to smile at them and love them, to slowly build relationships with them, to nurture those relationships so that they grow and get deeper with each passing day, and to let them attempt to flick off my freckles if that is what puts a smile on their precious little faces.

Last week was a pretty slow and uneventful week here.  The kids had a week long break after taking their second term exams the previous week.  Last Saturday night one of the kids informed us that there was a public holiday on Monday and Tuesday, so the school would remain closed for those days.  (The majority of the information we get comes from the kids!)  And I am still not really sure what public holiday was celebrated, but school was closed.  On Wednesday it was the best feeling to see all of the kids again.  I can't believe only a week and a half had gone by, but I missed them so much.  Most of the boys spent their holiday harvesting crops in the fields and the girls worked at home cleaning and cooking.  They all seemed very happy to be back at school, and I sure was thrilled to be surrounded by my loving and amazing kiddos once again.  It is incredible the huge impression they have left on my life and my heart in not even two months.  I can only hope and pray that I can also make a small impact on their lives throughout my time in South Sudan.  

So on this Mission Sunday, I am trying to take to heart, even more, this new found meaning of mission.  Don Bosco stressed that "Children must not only be loved, but they must know that they are loved."  He said also that we must work to be a friend- a friend to kids who are poor, kids abandoned, and kids at risk- and in doing so, to be a friend to Christ.  The other stuff, the bandages and medicine and soccer balls, are not the main component of mission.  My mission is to be present and to love.  That alone is my mission.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Day in South Sudan

After being here for about six weeks, I finally feel like I've found my daily routine.  It is slowly becoming my new "normal."  So I am going to share with you a day in the life of Theresa. 

6:30am: Wake up call.  The church bells go off at this time to alert people that Mass is about to start.  Since I live right next to the church, this has quickly become my handy, dandy alarm clock.

6:45am: Mass begins.  I am always amazed by the number of kids that are at daily Mass.  Most of the kids that come to Mass have anywhere from a 5-45 minute walk to the Church from their house.  It is inspiring to see their dedication and devotion to the Eucharist.  

Morning Assembly
7:30am: Breakfast time.  Breakfast consists of bread, eggs, and usually spaghetti paired with a cup of hot tea or hot chocolate.  After a satisfying breakfast, I am ready to get the day going!

8:00am: School assembly.  The school bell rings sometime around 8-8:15.  The kids gather to pray, sing, dance, and listen to announcements.  I usually attend the assembly and see all the sweet kids before I head to the clinic.   

Grace and I in the dispensary.
8:30am: Clinic opens.  Patient registration opens at this time.  The clinic staff (doctor, 3 nurses, lab technician, receptionist, and cleaning lady) gather right before 9am for prayer.  We just started this practice last week, and it has been a great way to keep the Lord at the center of my work.  The doctor starts to see patients at 9am, so that is also when my duties begin.  For the first part of the morning I mainly take vital signs before the patients see the doctor.  As soon as I finish taking vitals on the patients in line, I float and do whatever needs to be done--giving injections, cleaning and bandaging wounds, dispensing medication, or doing administrative paperwork/filing.  The clinic stays open until all the patients are finished which is usually around 1 or 1:30.  Lately, the daily census has been around 25-30 (not including people coming for injections or wound bandaging).  There is always a steady stream of patients which makes it nice…never swamped, but I always have something to do.  Things will definitely pick up in January when the Maternal and Child health unit opens, so I am embracing the pace of the clinic while it lasts!

Attempting to help plant beans with the kids.
1pm (or after I finish at the clinic):  Lunch!  By this time in the day, I have worked up a large appetite, and I am always ready for lunch.  Lunch consists of a variation of the same main foods:  rice, beans, potatoes, pasta, chapati (flatbread), eggplant, and fruit (oranges, pineapple, passion fruit, and many, many bananas).  I have gotten in the habit of throwing a scoop of everything into a bowl and mixing it all together.  This has been my lunch every day so far, and I still look forward to it every single day!    

2pm: Teaching begins.  The kids have a lunch break from 1-2pm.  They eat a soup that is made of maize which the kids plant and harvest themselves.  They recently planted beans which are starting to grow and will be harvested soon.  After they finish, classes resume at 2pm.  Each week I have seven 40-minute class periods.  Like mentioned in a previous blog I teach science to 3rd grade and arts and crafts to 4th grade.  Both classes are extremely rambunctious, but I love each one of my little nuggets.  I am slowly getting the hang of the whole "teacher" thing.  This past week I completed my lesson plans for the rest of the year which is a huge relief!  

4pm:  School Ends.  The kids usually hang out after school, so I stay with them.  If there is football (soccer) practice, sometimes I join the girls and practice with them.  If not, sometimes I take this time to grade papers or Grace, Cait, Ariel, and I will hang out or I take a much needed nap.  Basically from 4-5pm is free time.

Playing cards with some kids during Oratory.
5pm: Oratory begins.  One of the main components of Salesian spirituality is the concept of Oratory.  Don Bosco stressed the importance of playtime for the kids.  So that is exactly what oratory is--A huge recess for the kids in the community.  We get out the balls and cards and simply play with the kids.  It has definitely been a great way to get to know the children and their personalities outside of the classroom.

Brother Jules giving a goodnight talk to the kids after Rosary.
6:30pm: Rosary.  Oratory ends with the kids coming together to say the rosary.  The little kiddos are in charge of leading the decades, and it is so cute!  We say the rosary in a mixture of Zande (the local tribal language) and English.  I actually don't think I could imagine a better way to end the day than surrounded by my  precious little kiddos praying together.  After rosary, one of the community members here gives an ending story or thought for the kids.  Then we say our goodnights, and the kids start their journeys home.

7:30pm:  Evening prayer with the Salesian community.  The priests, brothers, occasionally sisters, and volunteers gather in the chapel to say evening prayer.

8pm: Dinner.  This has been an adjustment.  All throughout my life I have been a 5 or 5:30pm dinner kind of gal.  So the late dinner is a change, but I am slowly adapting.  We eat the same thing for dinner that we had at lunch.  The cooks make enough food at lunch to last for dinner as well.  Dinner is the time that we all catch up with each other and also catch up on the news (we have a television in the dinning room).  

9pm:  Free time.  After dinner I am exhausted.  But I usually take some time to get on the internet to catch up on life at home., send emails, and chat with friends.  Ariel and I have recently started watching a new television series that I brought with me.  We are already hooked and so we have been watching an episode before bedtime.  It is a nice, relaxing way to end the day.  

10:30-11pm:  Bedtime!  I jot a few notes down in my journal, perfectly tuck in my mosquito net, and then it is lights out for me!  

Each day is filled with work, play, kids, laughter, and so much fun.  Although most days are long, exhausting, and jam packed, I wouldn't want to have it any other way!