The last full day in Lui, this past Wednesday, I wrote and thought I had posted a long thing called "Last Things." I guess I logged off before it actually posted. I wrote about the peculiar rhythm of last days in Lui, when we strike a precarious balance between rushing around to get things done that we'd been meaning to do or that had to wait till the end and waiting for other people to show up or do things and for tomorrow to come. 

While Rick, Erik, and Ev were frantically trying to complete the chapel roof, Ewa was working hard to get the repaired sewing machines set up on smooth table tops. Dan was having the usual end-of-trip administrative meetings with our hosts and then went to the chapel, and I was kind of hanging out. Bishop Stephen had asked me to help him get his installed Skype configured correctly and to put a couple of things on his desktop. So I spent some time waiting for him -- it was a busy day for him as for Dan -- and then did those things. While I was with him, I got him to draw a map of the seven archdeaconries for Ewa. 

As I was hanging around holding down the fort, several Moru people came to talk to me, so I was glad to have stayed in the compound. Among them, Rina Hamza, the new diocesan coordinator for the Mothers' Union, and another woman came to tell me about the meeting Rina had been to in Juba, where they reelected the provincial-level MU president but admonished her to reach out into the dioceses and do some training of women. I was very happy to sit and visit with Rina, whom the Diocese of Missouri helped with her university education in Nairobi at Bishop Bullen's request. For a while she wasn't able to move to Lui and give the diocese the benefit of her training in community development, but she has now been in her post there for two months. It's a trend far broader than Lui Diocese that people educated outside their native villages tend to find work in Juba, if not outside South Sudan altogether, so Rina's return represents a sacrifice on her part and an act of faith. 

When my ESL class had to end early, I told my students -- the 15- to 45-year-old "youth" of the Diocese of Lui -- to feel free to visit me in our compound if they wanted to talk to me about anything or just practice their English. That last day two of them came by. The first wanted a review of when we use simple verbs and when we use progressive ones. That was easy. What was harder was the follow-up question: What are human rights? Being a teacher and no fool, I answered the question with a question: What do YOU understand by human rights? It turned out that he'd participated in a training and come back home to share what he'd learned -- thanks to some INGOs for democracy, or something -- but he encountered skepticism from the local people, who said that human rights are just something America invented and wanted to impose on the world, that human rights differ from culture to culture. So we talked about the difference between universal human rights and more culturally bound civil rights, as well as the United Nations' efforts to address these issues. We also talked about starting with the most fundamental rights and addressing 'rights' people could agree on, like liberty, health, and education. Both he and the second guy talked to me about the problems of corruption, unemployment, and the lack of educational opportunity as well as the need for more computers. ("When you come back, could you please bring....?")

For me, the poignant thing about it all is that they are having these philosophical workshops on human rights and democracy and stuff (see the list of questions they asked me in class that I put in an earlier post!), when what they need is decent K-8 public education, lots of nice vaccinations, universally available clean water, a more varied diet, and some jobs that provide a salary.... 

This morning (Sunday the 8th) at St. Timothy's, the many people asking about the trip and telling me how they'd prayed for us and how happy they were that we're back safe meant more to me than I can say. Thank you once again, everyone, for reading our many posts, checking out the photos, and keeping us in your prayers. It was a good and successful trip in just as many ways as it was a difficult and exhausting trip. It's good to be home.

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Comment by Marie Körner on October 30, 2013 at 10:49am

The sad thing Debbie is that probably the strange priority that you describe is a result af the priorities of the funders. It is more popular to fund Human Rights workshops than the basic things that you mention and for the South Sudanese if you have no money of your own you have to go along and adjust to the priorities of the funders.

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