Bouncing about in a prop plane bobbing around the clouds like Bumble Bees buzzing from flower to flower with eight teenage-students whose excitement level metered near that of the Mad Hatter, I watched them with the awe of a mother hen as her babies broke free from their shell.
Knowing these children’s feet had never been higher above the ground than they could jump during their native dances, I wondered, “Which one will get air sick?” “Which one will not be able to keep from chattering the whole way?” “Which one will be the first to realize that these planes don’t come equipped with latrines, or toilets of any kind?!” “Which one will be still as a stone but open as a blooming rose as she ponders deep in her heart every new experience as a wonder from God?”
Having worked with all their might to complete 8th grade at Our Father’s Cleft (OFC: Nuba, Sudan) and Hope for South Sudan (HFSS: South Sudan), Make Way Partners flew each of these students to attend high school in Uganda, as we do not yet have a high school at OFC or HFSS.
We arrived in high spirits, and they’re first time in an airplane proved to be only a gateway to many “firsts” of which they’d never even heard—such as pizza for dinner last night and ice cream for dessert. “What is dessert?”, they wondered. A definite united force confirmed dessert to be a thing of most excellence! While life in a Ugandan boarding school will not offer them such treats, a one-time spoiling was fun for all. Please pray for Christopher, Lazarus, Lokolong, Mary, Rosa, Raus, Hannan (who finished high school with us in South Sudan and is now going to Nursing school!) and Martha, as they join Ikibal and Roma who are already here. The Make Way Partners Safe House will be their “home away from home” during school breaks and holidays.
While there are many such wonders of God to celebrate, I am also deeply grieved to tell you that Petr Jasek’s trial has ended in Sudan. Petr is our dear friend and partner of whom I’ve been writing you about as he was arrested in Sudan last year when he went to help a student upon whom the government had unleashed chemical warfare upon during a student demonstration. Petr was charged with illegal entry into Sudan as well as espionage since they discovered money he had carried in to help the student with medical care from his burns, along with eye witness testimony of much government-inflicted persecution.
Petr has been sentenced to Life in Prison, to be served in Khartoum, Sudan. Two Sudanese who were working with Petr also received stiff penalties of 12 years in prison each.
Petr is the man who pressed me to go to Sudan my first time many years ago. Without his influence, passion, and witness, I would never have gone. The 2,000 orphans and staff now under our care would not know the love of God as they do now, and many of your own children would not have the beautiful faces of these children join them at their dinner table for prayers each night as their pictures tell it all when you include them in your family prayers through our Child Sponsorship ministry.
Some say Petr is a fool, and took unnecessary risks. Some say the price his wife and own children are now paying is not worth it. Some say even if he gets out in the 24 years of potential parole, what does it matter at 80 years of age? Is it possible to even survive that long with the torture and sort of life he will experience in the cell of terrorists?
I have no answers for such questions, nor for the many dark images my mind conjures. All I know is that God invites us to complete the suffering of Christ by participating in one another’s. Who can know the mind—much less reasoning—of an Almighty God who turns the hearts of kings and demagogues? Who can imagine what beauty He might bring from horror?
As I spun in a torrent of near-madness grief over Petr’s sentence, a dear friend reminded me of Joseph being used to save millions all because he had been imprisoned on false charges. Then, of course, there’s God turning the heart of a king when He closed the mouth of hungry lions as the four humble souls were pitched into their den.
I will not lie. It is difficult for we mere mortals to carry both the abundant joy of Mad Hatter teenagers and at the same time hold the insane suffering of a selfless soul like Petr. Yet, the older we grow, the more mature we become, the closer to Christ we grow—moving from simple worship to frictional following—the stronger and larger our capacity to contain these mysteries of God. Grant us the mercy, oh Lord, to follow You all the way, wherever the path may lead—holding both the joy and the sorrow.