Bob and Kristi Rice - April 2018 Update
Juba, South Sudan
Nile Theological Seminary
Mama Sarah stood and spoke before the large group of mostly men, those being trained at Nile Theological College to serve as pastors and community leaders. While women are unheralded and not valued in this culture, Mama Sarah quickly and easily gained the rapt attention of everyone in the room, sharing her own story in the context of our teaching on forgiveness…
One of the great joys in life is the people we meet. Last month Kristi traveled to Rwanda for a training in healing and reconciliation with three South Sudanese colleagues. One of these colleagues is the inimitable, irrepressible, and unforgettable Mama Sarah.
Mama Sarah is a widow in her late forties; her husband died almost twenty-five years ago. Mama Sarah has raised four children on her own. She has also taken in children not her own from other clans and tribes, an unheard-of reality here in South Sudan. Mama Sarah is a grandmother and she relishes her role as “matriarch,” calling others sons and daughters and cherishing her well-deserved title and status as “Mama Sarah” (Mother Sarah).
Like so many here in South Sudan, Mama Sarah’s life story is one of hardship and pain. When she was less than one year old, her mother was taken from her and her father by relatives who found a better husband who could pay a larger dowry. Later, Mama Sarah's father was killed by members of a rival tribe, the Nuer. Such loss and pain could easily derail one’s life, leaving in its wake crushing bitterness and pain. Thankfully, that is not the script of the life of Mama Sarah. Mama Sarah exudes joy, love, humor, grace and humility. To be around her one feels the weight of greatness.
Mama Sarah is from the Dinka tribe. Beyond her mother tongue, she also speaks the languages of other tribes such as Nuer and Shilluk. Mama Sarah has spent some time in the Nuba mountains, and she identifies with the people of that terribly repressed region. Mama Sarah is fluent in Arabic, and her English is an interesting jumble of words and expressions tenderly spoken and expressed which somehow, by God’s grace, can be understood. Not too long after her father was killed, Mama Sarah took in a child of the Nuer tribe, the very people who killed her father. When a sister came calling, this sister refused to receive tea or anything else in Mama Sarah’s home because of Mama Sarah’s willingness to take in this Nuer child. Most of us do not forgive easily or quickly – not so for Mama Sarah. She took this child in because the child lost its parents and needed someone to care for her.
Our lives are shaped by those we encounter; in a very short amount of time I already consider my life unalterably changed, challenged and blessed by Mama Sarah. Her ready smile, her encouraging words, and her wonderful wit bless Kristi and me to no end. Her life and witness to the Risen Lord and our need to forgive one another will chart the course for a new South Sudan.
Mama Sarah, lead us on…
Bob and Kristi Rice
Read more about the Rice's ministry HERE.
The Outreach Foundation is seeking $10,000 for support funds for Bob and Kristi Rice.