Yesterday I set up my hammock and mosquito net out in the yard. On our next trip we’ll be staying out in the bush, and I wanted to make sure the rain fly I’d bought would fit over the mosquito net and keep me dry should it rain. You might be thinking, “You stay in a hammock? Are you nuts?” Well there’s a couple of practical reasons for this, and I would much rather stay in a hammock than any other way when in South Sudan. Even when I stay in a “hotel”, I string up my hammock between the door and the bars on the window. Cleanliness is one reason. A lot of the beds, when there is one, I’d rather not touch much less sleep in. The other reason is the heat. Last time I went it was February, the hottest month of the year, and the temperatures would climb to 42 centigrade during the day. The building bake in the heat all day and continue to release that heat throughout most of the night. Sleeping in a hammock is so much more bearable than sleeping on a mattress. Even a tent seems hot.
I don’t really like staying in hotels anyway, because if I’m going to interact with people, I’d really rather be staying with the locals than locked away in a hotel. Yes, there are nicer hotels sometimes, but if I am going half way around the world bringing a message of good news, the last thing I want to do is live better than the people I’m going to bring that message to. Too many people have gotten the wrong message that following Christ is about gaining prosperity, when if you’re doing it right, it often means exactly the opposite message. It’s about self-sacrifice and putting your needs second to others and your wants last. There is nothing uglier than a Christian who thinks they’re entitled to anything the world has to offer simply because they’re a Christian.
Which brings me to fish. When we go to South Sudan, the people we stay with are generous even within their poverty and give us their best. This includes fish as they prepare it.
They have really great fish, as they come straight out of the Nile just a mile away. The problem is in the preparation. In the worst case scenario, the fish is left in a pile in the sun for a day or two before it’s eaten, and in the best case scenario it’s simply boiled. The conversation has come up on a few occasions that we need to show them how to take a little flour and some oil and fry up some of those great fish.
My pastor talked yesterday about when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Even though Jesus was in authority over them, he showed that being a leader means being a servant. That people don’t follow you because you lord your authority over them, but because you will not ask them to do something you yourself are not willing to do.
A problem in South Sudan is in many men’s attitude toward their wives. Regular beatings are a common thing. While I am not by any stretch of the imagination of the though that there are no gender roles as western society is trying to tell us, beatings are not one of these roles. What I would like to do is have our team cook fish the way we want to do it. This will cause at least some laughter, as men DO NOT cook in South Sudanese society. But then I’d like to go one step further and serve the women first, to show by example that just as we are serving those seen as second class in society, so God sent his son to die for those not worthy to receive that life. Along the way I’m sure I will learn things about myself and my own society that I overlook, but that God doesn’t want me to overlook anymore.