We received this story from one of our partners on the ground in Sudan, Kimberly Smith with Make Way Partners, in the village of Nyamlel.
Please meet John. John first captured our camera one day as we sped by him en route to the Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp. He was alone on the side of the road, but the Commissioner of the area was with us and he said he was on tight time constraints. So, we did not even stop to talk to John on that day.
Some days later, however, I had the blessing of stumbling upon him once again. John told me that he thinks he is five years old. That is what his mother told him before she and his little sister died. John’s little sister, Abuk, died first and then his mother stopped eating so that she could give all of the food she found to John. John’s mama died soon after Abuk. John did not cry as he told me about his mama. He just said that he missed her because she was his only friend because his father died before John was old enough to know what killed him.
I asked John if he wanted us to take him down the road to the IDP camps so that there would be other people who might help him. He said that his mama told him that he would be safer in the bush than in the camps where the militia came into get new slaves; John did not want to become a slave. John’s mama told him it was better to die a Christian in the bush than live a Muslim in slavery.
I pulled James aside to ask him if we could take one more orphan into our orphanage. He reminded me that just the day before I had told him that I was concerned that he had taken in 50 new orphans since I had last visited him (raising our total to nearly 450) and that we still didn’t have enough sponsors to take care of the ones we already have.
I had told James that I knew it was very hard for him to watch the orphans around him starve to death or be vulnerable to slave raiders and hyenas, but we simply could not take more in until we had provision for our current 450. Through tears, James agreed to not take more orphans.
Now, here I was facing what James faced every single day of his life.
I thought of “Schindler’s List” final scene where Schindler counted the cost of his watch, his car and every single possession he had held onto and how many lives he could have saved if he had let go of those ‘precious’ possessions. I thought of what James felt every day. I thought of what it meant to leave little John on the roadside, where he felt safer than in the IDP camps. Now being beyond tears, I knew I had no right to violate what I had just asked James to commit to – to alleviate my conscience.
James and I prayed together over little John. I promised John that I would tell others about him. He wanted to know “who” I would tell and what they would do. I told him that there were too many people for me to tell all of their names but some would be black like him, some would be white like me, some would be brown like the Arabs that he was afraid of, but that all would pray for him.
I gave him a blanket and all the food that was in my bag.
John smiled. We left. James and I both cried.
Your written responses to the story about Little John have been overwhelming in the very best sense of the word.
Somehow, though, it seems I failed to communicate both the depth of despair which the masses of orphans are suffering in Sudan and the height of power that we have to change their reality. Let me try again.
We have had many commitments to sponsor orphans this week (more than at any other time in our history). Our problem is that almost all of them have been in this form, “If you’ll go back and find John, I’ll commit to sponsor him.”
That is great, for Jesus certainly teaches us to go save the “one lost sheep”. However, in Jesus’ story, he said that there were ninety and nine safe and one was lost. In Sudan today, it is more like we have one safe and the ninety and nine are all lost!
Please understand that I am not calloused toward Little John. My heart still breaks for him. I spoke with James just today. He is more heart broken than any of us for he looks at hundreds of “Little Johns” outside our safe orphanage walls who cry to get inside where there is a protective fence with loving teachers and good food. James is the one carrying the weight of walking by them and saying, “No little one. I am sorry, but I don’t have enough money to feed all of the ones we have inside. We have no room for you, yet. I will call for you when we have met our current commitments.”
Make Way Partners is the ONLY orphanage receiving these precious Darfur refugee orphans. Currently, we have 450 orphans. Just four short years ago, EVERYONE told us we were crazy; there was no way to build and operate an orphanage in a lawless land of rape, slavery and genocide.
God has shown us there is a way. We are His way for the impossible when we simply open ourselves to Him. There are thousands more orphans – we are not only committed but also experienced and well-positioned to build an entire orphan-care network in Sudan, but we need your help!
The situation is complicated. In this photo !>http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3092/3085473280_55556167f1_o.jpg!:http://www.flickr.com/photos/mochaclub/3085473280/ you will see me standing and offloading a bag of USAID/World Food Program food bags that the UN drops in Sudan. However, the UN does not stay on the ground (like we do) to oversee and ensure fair distribution. Thus the food falls into the hands of the corrupt. On the bags, it is clearly written, “WFP NOT FOR SALE.” Yet, the corrupt businessmen seize the food, and it does not make it into the hands of the starving orphans and widows who desperately need it. It makes me sick to do it, but SOMETIMES WE BUY THAT WFP FOOD TO DISTRIBUTE TO THE MOST DESPERATE simply because they are dying and no other food is available.
So many are begging to come into our safe orphanage. I cannot ask James to go get Little John, bypassing all of the little ones that he would “step over” to find Little John. However, I do commit to you that as God provides through those of you who give, we will take every other one that we can find and provide for.
John is not “just” some poster child. He is real and hurting. Yet, he does represent masses of children in his exact same situation. Please help us where we are, and through your provision, we will save them one child at a time.