Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sudanese refugee, Elijah Ajaang and me

Somewhere around 4pm on the day we visited the Somali Bantu refugee camp, we had to board the bus to head back south. Our plan was to go to Jinja, Uganda to spend a couple of days relaxing after our significant travel experiences.

The headwaters of the Nile river are here, and the idea of exploring them seemed refreshing.

We boarded the bus. The crazy thing was, we really wanted to go to Moroto, Uganda, which ironically, was just over the mountains from where we were. However, we were told there was no safe route to get through. So, we headed due south...back over the roads we nearly died on.

We had intentionally gone to the bus depot first thing in the morning to get the best seats we could. Mission accomplished!

Most of the trip south, my seat partner was Elijah (pictured above). You say his name like the first part of "allegia"-nce, in the word allegiance.

He boarded the bus with an ear to ear grin. He immediately began shaking hands as he moved down the aisle, while saying, "Good afternoon, I am greeting you."

He is 15 years old, and his voice remains untouched by puberty. He speaks with strict African-British diction. Every word very clearly articulated.

When he sat down next to me, my spirit quickened! I was enthused to have such a polite and well spoken young man seated next to me...perhaps I would survive this trip after all!

By the time we pushed out of Lodwar, we were in full conversation mode.

His parents still live in the Sudan. His father had been a teacher, but the schools have disappeared with the youth of Sudan. His father has begun to herd cattle to make a living.

Elijah lives at a refugee camp in Kenya. I believe the name is Lakura, but I am unsure. He lives there with his older sister and brother. His sister(19) also in school, does the cooking.

He has a younger brother who lives with his parents still. He has had two siblings pass away. One brother and one sister.

Elijah is no stranger to the tragedies of life.

I brought up my own family, and he wanted to see pictures. He was very curious. I told him about us in fairly brief fashion.

We talked about Jesus, too. We spent quite awhile discussing what being a "Christian" really meant. His parents had brought him up Christian. He struggled with some of the cultural norms from his country that he was unsure how to deal with.

For example, his father has two wives. I asked what city they lived in. He corrected me.

"Brent, it is not a city, it is a small village. My father has two wives living in different homes in the same village."

He was unsure what to do with that. We discussed it for some time and talked about what the Word of God said, and what it reflected in this area. His thirst for knowledge was apparent.

He spoke at least three different languages. Swahili for Kenya, English and his native tongue. He had a strong command of the English language, and speaks better than I do.

We laughed, we spoke seriously of difficult times, we shared food and got to know each other. This was a very long bus ride.

When I offered him some of my trail mix, he initially accepted. After tasting it, he was hooked! He said, "there is something sweet."

I told him that it was a mix of nuts and raisins, and the raisins were the sweet flavor he had detected. I left the bag open, and he visited frequently.

After our initial flurry of conversation, things got quiet, and the light of day vanished. We were back in the bush, where no electricity powers light, so the darkness was deep. Every once in awhile I would catch a glimpse of his brilliant white teeth.

[side note: in Eastern Africa, their is a bush that the locals use to whiten their teeth. They break off stems of it, when its present, or buy it in the market. They take this stick and begin rubbing it on each tooth. They look like they are flossing with it, as they go deep into each crevice.

In one encounter that I did not completely understand until later, a man approached me and said, "sir, what are we going to do about your teeth?!"

Perhaps I should have been offended. After figuring out what they were doing with those sticks, I found it immensely humorous that he wanted to help whiten my teeth!]

After a long quiet pause, Elijah broke the stillness of the night.

"Brent, you know that I am a Christian, right?" he queried.

"Yes, Elijah, I know that you love Jesus."

(I confess I was not prepared for what he said next, and it nearly undid me)

"Brent, do you think perhaps you could be part of the answer to my prayers? I have been a Christian for a long time, and I want to grow closer to Jesus as you have said, but I do not have a Bible. Could you get me one?"

Those words pressed in on me from every angle. I was overwhelmed in the moment. His question was not an unusual one. His belief (I would find out later) was that I was carrying some small New Testaments in my bag.

My immediate reaction was to lead him in prayer. I had an immediate need for him to see that provision begins with prayer. However, he had already demonstrated that understanding.

As I prayed with him, I was fully aware that the thin line Bible I had along was marked just like I liked it. Years ago, in a similar situation in Canada, I had given my Bible to a new believer.

This was different. I could feel the weight of the world on him. It was as if the Lord was showing me that Elijah Ajaang was to be the Billy Graham of East Africa. I could not wait to give him my Bible while simultaneously, I did not want to give it up. I preached from this Bible. I had all the passages underlined. I had it full of my obsessive notes. It was filled with BJ's writings! I knew just where to find everything after years of studying it!

"Amen!" I said. I had asked the Lord to provide Elijah with the Word of God so that he could fulfill his calling.

I stood in the most difficult part of the trip. The bus pitched back and forth and hugged the mountains edge.

I pulled out my Bible, and unlatched a small flashlight from my pack.

I sat down and pulled out all the unnecessary markers. I had quite a pile in my lap. Elijah looked on with interest. I tucked them under my leg on the bus seat and leaned into him.

I began walking him through the Word. His attention was unwavering.

When what must have seemed like forever to him, was over, I gave him the Bible and the flashlight. I told him that I believed the Lord wanted to use him to reach Eastern Africa, and that his study over the coming months and years was critical. I handed him a piece of me.

He handled it like it was the most precious thing he had ever touched. He turned from page to page, he read, he asked questions, he flipped to the maps, he looked over the concordance, and then...he turned to an open page in the back, asked how to spell my name, and began to inscribe it.

I said, "Elijah, let me show you something." I took it from him and showed him my name in gold lettering on the front. I showed him my family tree inside. I asked for permission to inscribe it myself. He seemed pleased.

For much of the rest of our long journey, Elijah studied the Word of God.

He leaned over to me at one point and said, "Brent, don't you want to take your sons writings from here?"

"No, Elijah" I said, "I believe the Lord wants you to have those, to remember that he was your age when he passed, and that great things can happen through your obedient, young life!"

"Oh Brent," he said, "thank you very much."

I went so far as to tell Elijah that my journey had been long, and that I had wondered why the Lord had brought me to Kenya. I shared that I had a burning desire for the past couple of years to get here, without a clue why or what I was to do upon arrival.

"Now I believe I understand, at least part of the reason," I said.

"God sent me to Kenya to arm you with the Word of God, to prepare you for the future, Elijah!"

He returned to studying!

I did not want to leave this young man. I wanted to adopt him. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to parent him. I wanted to disciple him. I wanted to meet the needs in his life.

He was not mine. He belongs to the Lord and who has him on a journey, and is clearly looking out for him.

When we parted, it was difficult but fulfilling! I saw him move to a seat closer to the front, and settle back in.

My journey with Elijah was over. My prayer life on his behalf had only just begun.

Larry, Michael, Lopeyok and I gathered in Kitale to find our next ride, at 3 in the morning.

Once again, the Lord provided a seamless transition and off we went.

I believe it was Michael who first said, "You know, I sure wish we were headed to Moroto."

We began a discussion that pretty much was filled with, "we've been up the road to Kakuma and back, what else can happen? Why not head on to Moroto? It's farther, and we head due north again after crossing back into Uganda, but what the heck? I'd rather spend time with the Karamajong than boat the headwaters of the Nile, anyway."

It was decided! We were going to spend all day this day, traveling to Moroto after spending the last 14 hours getting to where we were. No big deal, right?

Our bodies would surely pay for this later, but for now, it was the right thing to do! We were off to Moroto...and we were just in Kitale, Kenya.

More amazing adventure and Divine opportunities lie ahead. God would continue to meet our travel needs in amazing ways. We were on His time, doing His will and He was taking care of details in ways I have never before experienced!

The road to Moroto, coming up...



At 11:21 AM, Blogger Marti Pieper said...

It will not surprise you that this entry has touched me more than any of the others so far.

Brent, I'm so proud of the way that, throughout this journey, you allowed your Father to direct you step by step. And I'm so blessed that you gave your precious Bible to Elijah.

The story reminds me of someone else who gave his Spanish Bible to a new believer in Peru (p.133, I Would Die for You in case someone wants to check it out).

I will pray for Elijah Ajaang and for another called-out one whose life God is using to touch the world.

in pink
with tender love,


At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brent, I am so interested in all of your writings. The pictures and writings give us such a special insight into your trip. Knowing you I can just picture it all as I read. The Lord is certainly using you in a very special way.
I am a very proud Aunt.
Love you,
Aunt Maralyn

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brent, this is a beautiful encounter and I am so glad that you were able to experience an event that gives you an idea of at least part of the call to Kenya was for. How powerful and beautiful. I've really enjoyed looking at your photos on facebook too - what power and beauty an image can convey.


At 11:49 AM, Blogger Terry Singletary said...

thank you brent for going with larry! i know his life will never be the same...

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing! What a beautiful part of the story and a wonderful example of following God's will. I've really been enjoying your story on the trip, Brent. Thank you so much for sharing. I know myself and others are blessed by reading about it, and will be strengthen to follow His will in our own lives more.

Lisa Potter
Santa Cruz, CA

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, and God Bless
Greenfield, Indiana

At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for spending the time to give us these details and stories from your trip, along with your thoughts. It is so awesome to see accounts about fellow Christians allowing God to use them, and to hear about what He is doing in your life. I am so interested in hearing about it all. More people are being blessed through your writings than I think you know.
I too will be praying for Elijah Ajaang. Thank you for allowing God to use you, and for sharing the precious Word of God with Him.

At 8:02 AM, Blogger christy said...

I absolutely love this. I am in awe of what God did, and Is doing. I am so thankful that God took you there- trusting your heart and knowing your obedience.


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