Dear God ...
By Tohru Inoue | International
Photos by SIM Stories East Africa
I check through the South Sudan team newsletters before they go out. Most of the time it’s to make sure content and spelling are OK. Most newsletters are structured similarly but this one, a personal prayer, stood out. It was emailed to supporters and family but addressed to God.
Typical newsletter updates try to explain to people back home what’s going on, what challenges are there and what prayer requests they have in bullet points in a highlighted box near the bottom. But there were difficult things taking place in the world of this worker when she wrote that update. War and fighting forced the displacement of thousands of people right on her team’s doorstep. Militias with a multitude of motivations created an atmosphere of fear and confusion.
In her update, she didn’t want people to read a description of the facts, whisper under their breath, “What a shame,” and then quickly file the email. It’s easy to dismiss newsletters. First, because you’ve read them a thousand times before. Updates with dire news come from all corners of our hurting world. Second, sometimes the worlds of the writer and reader are so distant that it’s hard to understand, even if everything about the situation is explained. You can explain the history, the actors in the conflict, the situations that exacerbate the problem but there is always more to explain. It can never be fully understood, nor will understanding it solve it.
She knew the news would go over people’s heads. So, she invited them into the intimate space where she was on her knees praying. All of a sudden, you found yourself sitting in on a holy conversation. Perhaps if you’re like me, if you sit in on a prayer, you close your eyes too and pray. You can’t just watch. It would feel as though you were intruding. Essentially, she was praying, “No one can help me but You, God.”
You’ve been there before, I’m sure. You just can’t make it all “work out” on your own. No amount of training or money or optimism will solve any of it. You need God.
That’s what she was telling her family and supporters back home. She was saying, “You have the best intentions for me, you’ve been there for me, but you can’t help me now. But that’s OK, I know who can.”
It might feel strange, but can I invite you into this holy space?
She’s praying, “I noticed this one man … there was nothing I could do for them when I crossed them on the street. My God, will you give them water to drink, to refresh themselves and to wash their dusty feet … For many things I cannot find the right words, but I can pour my heart out to you, even without words. And I know how you were faithful; you will continue to be faithful. Not that you preserve us from all difficulties, but you carry us through, and we are able to learn more of you, until we are redeemed from all sufferings in heaven.”
From that update, I think you’ve understood everything she wanted you to know.
I can’t … but God.
• For peace where there seems to be no peace.
• For world events that are out of our control.