There’s a powerful line in the classic movie “The Man in the Iron Mask”: “I wear the mask; the mask does not wear me”. On my recent trip to South Sudan—where storms of bloodshed broke out all around us—I lived both sides of this message as it unfolded through a life-altering experience with two men who each wore the exact same uniform. The difference was not found in the uniform they wore; but rather thundering deep inside the hearts of two Warriors. One wore the uniform; the other, the uniform wore him.
The uniform definitely wore SPLA Top General, stationed in Juba, the capitol of South Sudan: Thomas Cirillo. He is of the ilk I have written much about, who rapes, pillages, and steals humanitarian aid meant to help his people to simply survive a horrendous genocide. Finally, he has stepped down as it has become clear that this Top General, Thomas Cirillo, assigned to lead the world’s newest nation into peace has stolen more than $9,000,000. Nine million dollars which the USA had designated mainly for food and medical supplies.
In the words of our own precious James Lual Atak, “It’s unbelievable and heartbreaking to us all that our some of our own leaders are the very ones who are killing us. It truly messes with our minds.”
In stark contrast to such evil, while James Lual Atak and I visited Hope for South Sudan, he received a call from General Wein Akoon Akoon, the Top General leading the entire region where Hope for South Sudan is positioned. He said, “We have had much concern since July 2016 when the rebels invaded Torit that HFSS leader Romano was helping the opposition, maybe even a spy and that he was sneaking supplies to them. Now, I hear that you and the kawaidja woman whose group has been funding you for the last 12 years is on the ground with Romano, I’d like to come and see for myself.”
Top General Wein Akoon Akoon did indeed come, and he was moved to fighting back tears. After Romano led a tour of our compound where we have hundreds of orphans in school receiving healthy food along with sound medical care, we sat down to have a Proper Chat. General Akoon was near to tears as he said, “I had to leave the front lines to visit you today, but something guided me here. Now, that I am here, I simply can’t believe it. Such a thing has never been done in South Sudan. Please thank all your donors and all those who are caring for our orphans. Because of what I have seen today, I now understand why Romano is so willing to be such a crazy man, living in the bush alone with hundreds of children and invalids. I vow to protect them and as of today, I will station troops all around the outside of this orphanage to protect it.”
It is nothing short of a God-sized miracle that this humble man even came to us. General Akoon leads the front military force of an unprecedented genocide, and yet still had a heart soft enough to recognize love, compassion, and kindness provided though all of YOU to our children, elderly, impaired, and invalids—which we’ve taken in since the blood bath hit close to home. His commitment does not, of course, make us “bullet or bomb proof”; if the rebels attack, his men will have to fight and that could be on our soil. Yet, his devotion was clear to do his best.
What is the making of a great man? Clearly it is not the uniform he wears nor even the rank that he dons. What will make a nation great again? Clearly it is much more than the title, position, or even a leader alone. It’s more to do with the heart of a man, woman, child, even the smallest of orphans—a movement from the bottom up—nothing short of a tidal wave of love. It’s more to do with what thunders in our hearts, pounds in our veins, flows from our mouths, and onto which plow we lay our hands.
Let each of us seek the voice of God as war and rumors of War rattle through our heads and tempt us to take sides based on color, creed, flags, rank, title, position, and power. Let us join the flow of the Spirit and dare to ponder upon—and participate in—whatsoever is good, lovely, and true. Remember, love always wins.