Void: An empty space.
No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. "And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' I made you flourish like a plant of the field." - Ezekiel 16:5-7a
Sudan is a hard place.
Since its independence in 1956, the country has been at war about 90 percent of the time. War does things to people. It warps their perspective on reality. It distorts the definition of "normal." Perpetual war leads to calloused emotions and hard hearts. Experiencing an unending string of violence makes you think that life has nothing else to offer. Depression here would be worse if people knew there was something better - but most don't.
It's in this environment that PPF has chosen to work. It's the people living in these conditions whom we have chosen to serve. Depending on where they live, they may need food, or medicine, or clean water, or a tarp to cover a roof, or a net to keep away the malaria-carrying mosquitoes. But no matter the unique conditions in the communities PPF serves in Southern Sudan, there is one thing they all need: encouragement.
Encouraging one another is a command in Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:11). All of us can think of the people in our lives who have been a source of encouragement. Most often, God sends these people to help us when we are at an especially low point in our lives. When we feel we can go no further, God sends encouragement.
This is why I can say that the greatest contribution you have made through your support of PPF has been to be a source of encouragement to the persecuted brethren in Sudan.
When we look into the heavens on a clear night and see a tiny portion of the gigantic universe God has created, we are struck by our own insignificance. Imagine how this is compounded if you are living in a barren wilderness, dressed in rags, and all of your worldly possessions could fit into one suitcase, leaving room left over. Then add to this the sorrow and fear of being hunted down like animals by a vicious enemy, whose sole purpose is to annihilate you because you worship a different God, or come from a different tribe or political faction. Pretty depressing, isn't it?
Now imagine looking up into the same sky the following morning and seeing an airplane circling overhead, then landing. Then imagine seeing strange-looking people wearing funny clothes getting off the plane and walking up to you and embracing you. Imagine seeing a huge truck drive up at the same time and begin unloading food and medicine and clothes and blankets. It's not much, but the fact that it's happening breathes new life into your lungs.
You realize you are not alone. You are known. Someone cares. Then the strange-looking people in the funny clothes tell you Who sent them... and it's the same God you worship - only you never knew how big He is and the lengths to which He will go to show you His love for you.
You are encouraged.
This scene I am painting for you is not fiction. It just happened. Last month, I wrote to you about the horrendous conditions I witnessed in the Darfur refugee community of Jaac. The thousands of new refugees. The death and disease and malnutrition.
But there, in the midst of the suffering and violence, was something else. You. Your compassion. Your solidarity. Your encouragement.
You may not have been in Jaac personally, but your heart was. Your hands were. While the rest of the world either ignored the problem, denied it existed, or just wrung its hands in indecision, you responded. We sent out the call, and you responded.
What we brought from a material perspective was small. But what we brought, which could not be seen, was exactly what the refugees in Jaac needed more than food and shelter. Encouragement.
At press time, the Referendum for Self-Determination in Southern Sudan has just ended. Southern Sudan is set to officially become an independent nation. The future is both exciting and uncertain. But the people of Jaac know one thing for sure. No matter what the future holds, they know that God loves them and sends them regular reminders of this fact through your ministry with PPF.
Thank you for your gift of encouragement - to us and to the people you serve through us.