I caught my first glimpse of South Sudan through the dirty window of a small passenger plane. Peering through the glass, I saw a vast expanse of dusty monochromatic landscape. As we approached the airstrip, I could see huts (dust-colored) and trees devoid of leaves (dust-colored) dotting the plains. As I got out of the plane into the country where I would live for the next six months I was instantly smothered by the oppressive heat.
After navigating the Juba airport, and spending the weekend in a hotel I made the journey to Aweil by plane and then onto Parot by car, where I finally arrived at the RP mission field and was greeted by my teammates.
Within minutes of settling into the little one-room house I share with my roommate, two local ladies showed up with big smiles. They had come for my naming ceremony! After they had met and hugged me (and commented on how tall I was), the two women, chattering away cheerfully, announced that my name would be Akon Anei, and that I belonged to the clan Pachiermith.
It took me several weeks of practice to master the pronunciation of my own name and clan, but with the countless number of people I was meeting I had many opportunities to practice. Now, whenever either of these two ladies see me, they chant “Akon Anei, Akon Anei, Akon Anei!” I think they are just as pleased with their name choice as I am.
Teaching at CCS
Thankfully, the language barrier is not a problem in my daily work here. I came to teach at Cush Christian School, the school established by the RP team about a decade ago. The school usually enrolls around 150 students each year, which is maximum capacity for the three long-term western teachers, one local adult teacher, and student teachers who teach in the morning and do their own schoolwork in the afternoon. My daily work involves teaching and helping to develop the curriculum for middle school and high school, which the oldest students are now entering.
This past week our team met to celebrate the graduation of one of our students from Fifth Grade. We thanked God for the educational, physical, and spiritual growth of the student and prayed that God would guide his future learning and continue to mould him into a young man of integrity and character. I loved being able to celebrate this one young man’s triumph, even as I continue to get to know the myriad other individuals here with their own unique triumphs, challenges, and personalities. Evidently South Sudan is not as monochromatic as it appears from above.
Anna Lise McGowan is taking a break from studying biomedical engineering at Duke University (North Carolina, USA) to serve with the Cush4Christ team in South Sudan.