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.