I came to Sudan almost three years ago now. I originally only came for a four month project. I sometimes don't know what has happened to the time. But four months has stretched into three years, and now I have a new job and don't know when I will return to live stateside.
I was a missionary working for the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. I came just to help study the Church's finances and help to create some systems. Not really your typical missionary posting. Actually, keeping the line between overworked employee and missionary was very difficult. I often found myself more caught up in the work than on building relationships or some of the other soft, fuzzy things people thought I was supposed to be doing. It was hard to remember that when you are responsible for managing the finances of a three million member organization and there are huge pressures. Vendors looking for their money or bishops howling for their stipends never asked whether or not I was a missionary, they just wanted their money. It was a tough job, the conditions were hard. Except for people who saw me in action here, it would be hard I think for people at home to ever really understand. But I also always felt that I was where God wanted me, where I was supposed to be. I never felt discouraged or that I made a mistake being at the ECS, not for one day no matter how bad it got.
I left the ECS in March. It seemed to me the right thing to do. I felt like I could have stayed there for thirty more years and have still been doing the same thing. I felt that so long as I remained with the Church they would not really grow, nor would I. We would both be dependent upon each other - the ECS to avoid having to do on their own the things I had so often taught them, me hiding from challenging myself to learn new things, push myself. I was getting stale and lazy. It was time to go. I miss the ECS, I miss the community, the emphasis upon living a life of faith. And though I knew I was done working for the ECS, I did not feel that I was done with Sudan.
The thing about South Sudan is that as a new country, it's future, it's direction has not been fully decided. This country has all the assets to be one of the wealthiest, most wonderful countries. It's that possibility that makes living here so enticing. South Sudan has the history of 192 other countries to learn from to avoid making similar mistakes. The future here could either be great or terrible - it hasn't been decided. I think that like teenagers to whom no amount of advice really penetrates - they just have to experience things for themselves in order to learn, maybe the same is true for countries and they just have to go through bad times in order to learn and grow and emerge hopefully better. But it is that uncertainty that makes it so exciting to live here.
So I have traded a seven days a week, seventy hours of work position for a seven days a week, seventy hours of work position! which is great because I left behind when I came Africa a seven days a week, seventy hours of work position. At least now I am able to get a paycheck every two weeks, and my house and office has reasonable electricity - even air conditioning and hot water! That's not just crazy talk!
I don't want to go into too many details, but I am now Director of Finance & Administration for a non-governmental organization (NGO) called IMA Worldhealth. We support the development of primary health care by supporting health clinics and hospitals by giving them training, equipment, medicines, whatever we can do to help them to develop. My job is to make sure we have all the resources we need to do the job and to account for how those resources were used. I spend my days and nights worrying about wire transfers and receipts and audits and exchange rates, etc. etc. I worry about everything, which suits my nature - I like to be involved with everything, I like to be in charge. My ex-wife always said I was bossy. I just like to think that if I'm not in charge, nothing gets done.
I don't know what this is doing to my sense of identification. People bring over magazines and newspapers from the US and I hardly recognize the country I left behind. I feel alien from there. But I will also always be an outsider here, though I am making a commitment to Africa which is the most astounding thing I could never have imagined. This experience has exposed me to people I would never have met otherwise. I have friends on four continents now. I went to England for Christmas last year to be with friends. This Christmas I am thinking of going to India and Sri Lanka to see friends. I'll be going home in June to see family in America. It's a whirlwind, and it's hard sometimes to know where it's heading.