Monday, April 29, 2013


For those of you privileged enough to have engaged in my pre-mission ranting, surely eating mangoes was close to the top of the list of things I was most excited for in Africa!  After arriving in September only to receive the news that mango season wouldn’t occur until April, I was entirely disappointed and impatient.  Though the homegrown passion fruit, bananas, papayas, pineapple, guava, and oranges surely satisfied, my eagerness never faded.  For the past months, from the moment the little baby mangoes started growing bountifully on the trees, I’d find the darling little things on the ground and run around telling the kids how excited I was that mangoes were coming!  I’d pull the stems off the fallen fruit and be enamored that they smelled so fragrantly, while still being so small and immature.  I started eating mangoes on a daily basis at least four weeks before they became ripe, and, though green and sour, I loved them nonetheless.

Ladies and gentlemen, be assured that mango season has come, and it has not disappointed.

Seriously though, I’m enjoying the mangoes a little bit too much.  What’s filling me up even more than the juicy, fibrous fruits is, for the first time in the seven months that I’ve been in South Sudan, seeing my kids constantly full-bellied.

Every mango is like a piece of artwork
A few months ago, it started wearing on me.  “How are you?” I’d ask cheerfully.  “Gamoro,” they’d reply.  I’m hungry.  I was worn from hearing this typical response as I gazed down at distended bellies and frail little bodies.  After so many weeks and months, my heart not only continued to ache, but it started to burn.  I became emotionally exhausted of hearing children tell me they were hungry.  What could I do about it?   Nothing.  I was left simply to pray that God in His goodness would satisfy their needs.  

No one loves mangoes like Sister Auxilia!
Not only has God met their need, but He’s filled them up with the sweet gift of mangoes!  The poorest, orphaned little ones can be seen with a half-devoured mango in hand, its juice dripping from the corner of their mouth, at nearly any point in the day.    Massive mango trees are located every couple of feet in our village, each bearing several hundred fruits.  There’s more than enough to go around.  The mangoes fall down when they are heavy and ripe, unless the treasures are snatched by little hands scaling the boughs of the trees or when they are struck by a stone thrown at exactly the right point in the fifty-foot tall tree to cause the perfect fruit to fall into the hands of its seeker.  It’s amazing what these kids are capable of doing in their quest for mangoes.

Behind the sister’s house where I live, there are two enormous mango trees.  I am continually amazed when I am sitting in the backyard and a plump, handsome mango seems to fall from the sky basically into my lap.  It’s like living in the storybook, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”  Like a gift falling down from heaven, it continues to be a strange and wonderful phenomenon.  So I’ll sit in my backyard for some time doing this or that, and I collect mangoes as they fall, one by one.  After I’ve acquired a bunch, I take them outside and pass them around to the first kids I can find.  Our mangoes are so plentiful the sisters could never even begin to eat them all, so not only is God providing the most delicious food for His dear children, but He’s giving me the gift and the consolation of being able to give away the little something that I have with the children that I love so much.

I won't mention God's other special gift from heaven to fill the bellies of my kiddos: plump, juicy, and protein-rich
That's a story for another day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Least of These

I am more convinced than ever that angels are really present on earth, touching us through souls placed in the paths of our life.  

Yesterday afternoon, I sat on my front porch with my best pal, Cait, eating a freshly ripe mango from the tree in our backyard and greeting villagers as they walked down the mud road past our house.  One of my favorite pastimes.  As I waved and acknowledged one young woman from afar, I watched her change her course and head in the direction of our compound.  Intrigued, I met her at the gait and got a good look at the lady I'd seen at a distance.  She was covered in mud, it was caked on her face, arms, and clothes.  She looked to have around eighteen years, emaciated, was crippled at the right arm, walked with a limp and carried a large stick to assist her in walking.  She wore a ripped and tattered piece of cloth tied into a dress and was drooling out of the right side of her mouth.  Amidst the distressing facade, she was beautiful, overwhelmingly and undeniably beautiful.  I was captivated by her; sensing immediately that I was encountering an angel on earth, one of God's most beloved ones.

We exchanged simple pleasantries; she didn't respond to anything I said in English, so our communication was limited.  She talked in a soft, calming voice, with a pitch of intrinsic sweetness.  Her name was Nazenty, and she reported to be doing fine and headed home.  It was evident that the handicaps that plagued her externally were not at all mental.  As the brief conversation came to a close and I anticipated her departure, she then stopped, looked into my eyes and shared, "Mi na kaza."  I am sick, she said.  And with that, she lifted the hem of her skirt to reveal the largest, most distressing wound I've yet to see here in Africa.  One was there on the back of the right leg, from calf to ankle, and the other on the outside of the left thigh. The looked surely to be burns, though I didn't know how to ask in Zande language.  She told me they'd been pestering there for seven days without care, covered in dirt and swarming with flies.  My heart wanted to cry for her.  

The next couple of minutes were some of the most tender moments I've experienced in my life, that encounter that leaves you with goosebumps and a replaying memory that wont shake.  Words were no longer necessary.  I gathered supplies from my room, then washed, medicated, dressed, and prayed over her frail, wounded, paining extremities.  Meanwhile, Cait went to her room and collected a fresh cloth, dampened with cool water, and helped her to remove the dirt from her face and hands.  I was marveling at Mother Teresa's call to serve the poorest of the poor, and the Scripture verse was replaying in the my mind:
"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Mt 25:40

God is profoundly present in those lowly ones he has called to himself, the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the abandoned, the lonely, the unwanted.  Of those whom the world rejects, Jesus assures his constant presence. Their reward will not be in this life, but it will be assured in the life to come.  It is through them that we glimpse heaven and are drawn nearer to it ourselves.