Friday, January 19, 2007

Stringfellow: Kajo-Keji Journal

The Archdeacon of the Diocese of Bethlehem sent this brief description of his recent journey to our partner Diocese of Kajo-Keji, Southern Sudan, in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. He was accompanied by members of the Mission Committee of the Diocese. Pray for Trinity's adopted school in Kajo-Keji, Loopo Primary School and for all the people and ministries of that Diocese. Learn more about our companion relationship here.

Four missioners from the Diocese of Bethlehem returned late Sunday from a ten-day and fifteen thousand mile journey to our sisters and brothers in the Diocese of Kajo-Keji. Randall Fegley, Jo Trepagnier, Charles Barebo, and I made the trip without Randall's wife, Connie, who learned, while traveling to Kennedy Airport to fly to Africa, that her father was dying. She was able to change course and to be with him and to be recognized by him during his last hours.

While I have known people in my native Tennessee and in rural South Carolina who had not either running water or electricity, I have never lived in those circumstances before this trip. The people of Kajo-Keji do not have those benefits or any that accompany them in first- and second-world countries, such as means of communication and transport. Telephone connection was available in only one location, and we saw a total of nine automobiles, one an abandoned tractor- trailer, in several days. The dirt roads have ravines, remainders and reminders of the rainy season and fifty years of civil war. Few are privileged to have motorcycles and bicycles whose speed often surpasses the three or eight miles an hour we were able to achieve in the "sport" utility vehicle provided by the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem for their Bishop to visit his people.

Though I noticed it first, the economic and infrastructural situation, however, fails to be the chief characteristic of the people. That honor belongs to their deep and yet (in every positive
way) superficial faith in Jesus Christ. Every meeting begins with earnest spontaneous prayer, and every small speech and word of welcome begins with "Praise the Lord!" They mean it: they have been saved by Jesus Christ from so many things other than merely existential ones. They have been saved from war and the remnants of war, brief incursions and hostilities from their enemies, and land mines which are still being decommissioned by the United Nations. Every day's activities conclude with a Scriptural reflection which invariably sews a credible connection between God's revelation and the dusty duties each person cannot but undertake to survive.

The people of Kajo-Keji proudly identify themselves as your and my brothers and sisters, united as one family, as Canon Henry Leju said in greeting us, "by the sacred blood of Jesus Christ." He and others could find, if they wished, so many things to distinguish us.
Instead, he chose the Thing that unites us for time and for eternity.

Howard Stringfellow

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