I asked my friend and Brother in Christ, John McNeely if I could publish his article on our blog. AIM Air, a division of African Inland Missions based out of Nairobi, Kenya, is a ministry partner in eastern Africa. We have trained and fellow-shipped with their aviators in years past and brought to their organization, survival and sustainment skills necessary for them to effectively accomplish their missions. Suffice it to say that we so much admire the dedication of these men and women that are willing to serve in these most difficult places and please remember to pray for them. If you should have interest in knowing how you can support this ministry through Arise or independently of Arise, feel free to contact me via email at email@example.com and I would be more than glad to assist you with that.
Carl for Arise Medical Missions (Germany)
November 24 2008
by John McNeely
1900 Miles in 36 hours… The long days are oh, so worth it!
I recently made a trip to a remote village in southwestern Sudan (just south of Darfur) called Nyamlell, to bring a media team from Focus on the Family. Their purpose was to visit an orphanage started by a Sudanese “lost boy” named James Lual and to hear first-hand stories about the human trafficking that has gone on for years in the region and still exists today.
Flying over I couldn’t help but notice that the swollen river that normally trickles past on the outskirts had flooded half of the village. What difficulties these people seem to suffer! First drought and famine, then flooding and rampant disease! Such are the cycles of life and death throughout Sudan and much of East Africa.
Upon landing on the short, rough, and muddy airstrip, we were greeted by James and several others from the orphanage as well as the director of Make Way Partners, one of the Christian NGOs that supports James’s work in Nyamlell. AIM AIR, over the last couple of weeks, had been delivering hundreds of new water filters and shoes—yes, new shoes—for all the children in the orphanage as well as the workers that help there.
What a site to see as we entered the orphanage compound. Over 450 children of all ages were tooling about…. all with new shoes. Some were carrying them around and I was told that this was because they had never worn shoes before. Some had played so hard in them the first day that they had rubbed blisters on their feet. Nevertheless, the shoes were displayed proudly either on the feet or in the hands of every child there.
Since we traveled 9 hours in the airplane to get there, I would need to stay overnight, which afforded me the opportunity to attend an annual celebration that James puts on for the children at Nyamlell. The children he works with are all orphans of the long war in Sudan— a war that also claimed the lives of most of James’s family members. You see, as a child, James himself had fled, walking over 500 miles to escape the horrors of the war, only to see death at every turn from starvation, violence, or by wild animals.
Upon finding his freedom and education in Kenya, James gave up an opportunity to move to the United States, and instead went back to his home village to help his people know the love of Christ. Today James, along with his new wife, runs the orphanage as well as a primary school. James knows there is no future for the children without education.
So this day was all about the children. There were two slaughtered bulls, over a thousand loaves of bread, and cold sodas for every child (did I mention there were over 450) as well as all the community leaders who would come out for the celebration. Most importantly, against every grain of African culture, James insisted that no adult would have even a bite of food until every child’s stomach was full. I must admit I was moved to see the dedication of not only James, but the community leaders. Without hesitation, they came forward and served the children until they were “filled to the fullest”! I was privileged to be able to stand alongside James and hand out food in the 110° heat.
Before the meal we heard testimonies from many community leaders. They told of how James had come to the area completely destitute, and under the very tree where we sat, how he vowed to every orphan he saw that he would love and care for them. At the time the community elders largely ignored James. But as James, under that tree, began teaching them about Jesus, their interest slowly grew into what has become the largest orphanage in South Sudan. Christ is front-and-center in all that happens here with New Life Ministries—which is the name that James so aptly gave the orphanage.
After a very hot, muggy, and mostly sleepless night, I said my goodbyes and loaded up my little Cessna 210 with the return passengers. I had to look around one more time and ask myself “how can one person really make this big a difference in so many lives?’ I don’t really know the answer, but I do know that only Jesus Christ can move a person’s heart to this depth of love. With one last wave and a rock of the wings as I flew over the orphanage for the 1000 mile trip back to Nairobi, I knew that the hundreds of hands I saw waving back up at me were all blessed with a second chance because of one very good Samaritan. I look forward to my next meeting with them and to any opportunity to assist James in his efforts to change the lives of orphans in Southern Sudan.