I remember in the weeks before I left the States for South Sudan, every now and then I would wake from sleep thinking, “Three years? Are you sure about this, Lindsay?” Now, in the weeks before I leave South Sudan to return to the United States, every now and then I wake from sleep thinking, “Have three years gone by already? Are you sure you’re ready to leave?”
This last three years has been many things for me. It has been wild and challenging and painful and beautiful. Oddly enough, the word that comes to mind to describe it best is, “awakening”. Cliché as it may be, this time has changed my life.
I remember sitting on the floor in my bedroom last November and it suddenly occurring to me that I had become different somehow. What a strange and almost frightening feeling that was, but I’ve come to realize it simply wasn’t possible for me to go unchanged. I haven’t figured out all the ways I’ve changed yet, but there are some things I can see clearly now.
Living in South Sudan has taught me that it’s ok to see things as they are. Learning to be aware of the raw beauty and terror of life and death and everything in between – life in all of its complexity – is a gift I will take away. Right now, I’m letting go of the need to simplify things in life that can’t be simplified.
Living in South Sudan has taught me that it’s ok to listen to people as they are. Learning to be aware of the person in front of me – a person with beauty and flaws and a unique story to tell – is a gift I will take away. Right now, I’m letting go of the need to categorize or judge what another person shares with me.
Living in South Sudan has taught me that it’s ok to be as I am. Learning to be aware of all the pieces of me – my history and my beauty and my flaws and my unique story and all the ways I’ve changed or stayed the same – is a gift I will take away. Right now, I’m letting go of the need to be more or better than what I am.
Living in South Sudan has taught me that it’s ok to think about God as God is. Learning to be aware of the incomprehensibleness of God – a beautiful mystery I struggle to believe in and relate to – is a gift I will take away. Right now, I’m letting go of the need to have God figured out.
South Sudan won’t let me go away unchanged.
It also won’t let me go away without a sense of sadness.
In these last weeks, there have been moments when I ache from not wanting to go. There have been moments when I have feared the emptiness I may feel once I’m gone. In these last weeks, I have only grown more fascinated by and fond of this country and its people.
I have met some wonderful people during my time here. I’ve met people who challenged me and inspired me. I’ve met people who warmly welcomed me and forgave me of my clumsiness. I’ve met people who gently helped me confront conflict in a new and healthier way. I’ve met people who made me laugh to tears and stomach pains. I’ve met people who showed me a deeper strength and resilience and joy than I’ve ever known.
All I have now are echoes of laughter and the residue of tears shed. All I have are the fading vibrations of feet tapping the earth in jubilation. All I have are the imprints of radiant smiles and lion hearts. All I have are moments in time that have created a mosaic of everlasting joy in my spirit. These are some of the sweetest gifts I will take away.
And all I have to give, is thanks.
Thank you, South Sudan, for the awakening.
Shukran ketiir, ya friends in South Sudan, for everything. You will always be a part of me.
And I am yours, always, in spirit. ~ Kiden / Lindsay