up was that the vehicle registration was out of date. So this past
Thursday, Luke and I came into Juba to get the registration renewed.
We didn't expect it to be a long process, since all we needed was a
stamp and a signature on our logbook, and we didn't want to chance
getting fined again, so we decided to take the bus into town Thursday
morning, do our work that afternoon, spend the night at the ADRA
compound in Juba, then finish up any loose ends and head back to
Mundri Friday morning. It would just a brief trip in and out; no
tarrying in Vanity Fair for us!
So, Thursday morning, we got to the bus station about 8:30, only to
find that the last motatus (minibuses) had just left. That meant we
would have to take the slower bus, which was expected to arrive in
Juba around 3:00. This meant that we would be cutting things close,
but we still had Friday morning to finish up paperwork. So, we
purchased two tickets and boarded The Mundri Express. The vehicle
itself is an interested contraption: a collection of old bus seats,
wrapped in rectangular metal body that reminds one of a large tin can,
bolted to a truck chassis behind a separate driver's cab. Because the
passenger compartment was just tacked on the back of a truck, there is
a distinct lack of the kind of conveniences you would normally expect
to find on a bus, including, apparently, shocks. This makes for a
rough ride, as demonstrated by the poor shape of the seats. The poor
guy in front of Luke had no seatback to lean against, our own seat
kept threatening to split into separate parts, and the three seats
across from us collapsed completely during the trip!
We were scheduled to depart at 9:00 and were pleasantly surprised to
find the bus pulling away at 9:05. But our hopes were dashed when it
turned away from Juba and headed in the opposite direction. Had we
somehow completely misunderstood the destination of this bus? Now,
Sudan has little in the way of formal traffic rules, but the few they
do have are rigidly enforced. One of these, we've learned from
experience, is the importance of traffic circles. Perhaps, we
surmised, it was necessary for the bus to go back to the center of
town and circle the roundabout before heading on its way! As it
turns out, the driver simply needed to fuel up. After that it was
back to the bus station to pick up more passengers, a few more stops
on the way out of town, and then we were off.
The appellation Mundri Express is rather misguiding. It was most
certainly not an express trip to town. But at least we had plenty of
opportunities to stretch our legs and see the sights on the way :) We
finally arrived in Juba about 4:30, and thanks to the help of our kind
fellow passengers, managed to find the ADRA compound without too much
trouble. We spent the evening with Pastor Okayo, the district pastor
at Juba, and made plans to head out first thing in the morning.
Pastor Okayo already had guests, a mission group from Perth, so we set
up our mosquito nets under a tree on the compound.
The next morning, Luke headed out into a pouring rainstorm at 7:30 to
do battle with the traffic police bureaucracy with Sylvester, a friend
of Jared's, while I waited at the compound in the hopes that someone
from ADRA would help me change money. My day turned out to be quite
successful. I was able to get our money changed, charge my computer,
write a few of these blogs, and, thanks to the help of my sister,
figure out the settings to get internet access on our phone again!
Luke's day, on the other hand, was a bit more frustrating. Apparently
the traffic police are in the middle of changing the process of
vehicle registration, and that fact, combined with the complications
and general pace of life that accompany African bureaucracy meant that
what should have been a simple visit became quite a labyrinthine
procedure. First of all, the office didn't open until 10:00. And then
because of the rain, many employees were delayed. Then several needed
to take tea. Finally, once people started arriving, he and Sylvester
were shuttled back and forth between numerous offices, collecting
signatures and receipts and paying fees. They were just about
finished, having paid all the fees and collected all the necessary
paperwork, and were lacking only the final laminated card, when the
office closed for lunch. So they waited until after lunch. But then,
upon returning, they discovered that the power was off, and the
generators could not be started. "Come back on Monday," they told
him... So, that's what we'll have to do.
In the meantime we've had a lovely time, going hear Pastor John
Horvath, the pastor from Australia, share about the group's
experiences in Wau for vespers on Friday night, camping out under the
stars, and sharing in Pastor Okayo's hospitality. Sabbath morning I
wasn't feeling too great, but I decided to go with Luke and few others
to visit the Juba Prison. I'm glad I did; it was an insightful
experience. Before entering the prison, each person had to surrender
their cell phones (no pictures allowed) and take a visitor card.
"Don't lose it or you can't come back out," the guards told us. I
think they were joking.
Inside the tall walls was a large compound with a few hundred men
standing around. We went behind one of the buildings and found about
50 young guys, excited to have church with us. After a few energetic
songs ("Don't be lazy about praising the Lord!" the prison pastor
admonished everybody), the visitors were introduced to much applause.
I, however, was not included. "I am not going to introduce this
brother, because he will introduce himself before he gives the
sermon," said our host. Having been recently informed of this, I was
frantically looking through my Bible for ideas. I think the Holy
Spirit helped me find something, and I ended up speaking about how
immediately after his greatest triumph, the prophet Elijah fled into
the desert, scared and dejected, and how even at his lowest point, God
strengthened him and patiently waited until he was ready to listen.
As James says, Elijah truly was a man just like us, with shortcomings
and frailties, yet God used him to do powerful things in Israel.
Luke and I certainly have our share of frailties, but I hope and pray
we can be used by God here in Sudan, in 2010.