Life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?
I’ve longed to put miles between me and “normal” ever since I can remember; chafed at the realities of dishes and lessons needing to be taught, laundry needing to be folded, plane tickets priced way out of reach. Only the blessing of my own precious babes keeps feet to native soil now, and dreams still dance like sugarplums when pictures of Africa, India, Brasil taunt me from screens large and small. Someday, I tell myself. Someday …
Last year the Lord surprised me with a new friend. We kept bumping into one another despite living nations apart, her mothering a hundred twenty-odd beauties on the back corner of South Sudan while I taught and mama-ed my eight here. Now we are neighbors, sisters in local ministry, and expectant travel companions. She’s going to share some of her story—their story—with you today. Join us--we could see a Christmas miracle, together!
Mama-hood. I did not come to it naturally. Rather, I stared through tears at a TV screen filled with wide dark eyes and gaunt ebony faces. I watched small fingers sketch Crayola landscapes of the very adult atrocities of genocide. These were the smallest witnesses. And so the stirring of God in the womb of my dreams began.
Nine months later I was bouncing over dirt paths a world away searching out entrance into a place most were intent on escaping. Three days shy of 29, this simple pale-faced, one-legged city-girl who still thinks mascara belongs in a survival kit rode ten hours down rebel-frequented roads in what is now South Sudan to a dusty outback border town called Yei.
I flung wide our barely hinged bamboo gates on Christmas day, 2006 and welcomed 12 new sons and daughters into my family. Not one of them an orphan or abandoned any longer. Every single one adopted, cherished, sought out. We lived those early months out in a premium-priced, bullet-hole ridden shell of a building. No electricity. No running water. Scarcely a latrine. We bathed from buckets and my skin darkened with a tan I knew would eventually wash off. Trusting God to provide meal to meal some days.
Within months our family grew to over 50 little lives. And while I have never known physical labor pains, I have known labor and pain, loss and victory. Each child birthed into our family through incredible adversity and even more amazing grace.
Six years later we care for 120 children in family-style atmosphere, school about 500 more from our community and are blessed with over 40 amazing Southern Sudanese staff and Western volunteers on 40 acres of our own land. We have so much to be thankful for.
This year we are trusting for another miracle. An enormous, gigantic, audacious, impossible-without-God miracle. One of those. A Christmas miracle.
We are praying that every one of our 120 children will be fully sponsored by Christmas.
The best part is… are you ready? YOU. Reading this line. You can be a part of making this miracle happen. You can join us and touch South Sudan, right where you are. When all our children are fully sponsored, the children’s village they live in will have a stable stream of what it needs every month to provide for their needs.
I may be based back in the USA serving here, but these children, these sons and daughters of mine, hold my heart a world away.
With love and deep gratitude from the unpaved road,
Word Weaver, Picture Painter, Creative Coach: A life lived from the unpaved road.
For more on Iris Ministries South Sudan: irissouthsudan.org