Nina Coffey is a CMSI Star and volunteer who has had an active engagement with our partners in Maridi Diocese, South Sudan in recent years. Having previously visited Maridi, Nina recently helped to host our visitors from the diocese - Bishop Moses Zungo and Mama Rejoice. Here, Nina shares some reflections on this return visit.
It's over three years since I last visited Maridi. This time I wasn’t going to Maridi, but Maridi was coming to me! As I counted down the weeks to Bishop Moses and Mama Rejoice’s visit, the excitement was building: excitement of seeing my friends, introducing them to my husband and children and the opportunity to return the love and hospitality that was demonstrated to me when I visited them.
Hosting our partners involves the privilege of sharing our home and our things. It is the rich blessing of spending time together: valuable time sharing in prayer and teaching; talking and learning from and about each other; catching up on news of people, the economic and security situation in our partner diocese; learning about their current challenges, needs and plans; being sensitive to our visitors’ personal needs and helping them to adjust to situations they find themselves in. Key to all of this is listening and being open to what The Holy Spirit is revealing.
We also enjoyed laughter, but one morning, our shared chuckling got me thinking...
After some deliberation, I had decided porridge might be the right breakfast – although I hadn’t eaten it in Maridi, it seemed to me to be of similar texture to some other foods I had tried there. We had just sat down one morning when I realised I had forgotten to put the sugar bowl on the table. I swiftly hopped up to retrieve the missing item and returned to the table to find Bishop and Mama laughing. “Everything is fast here” they shared.
It got me thinking about how our pace of life is driven by speed. How fast can we get things done? Speed is facilitated by machines. Machines to wash clothes and dishes, to cook, heat and boil, to transport us. Machines allow multitasking and the faster we get things done the more we can fit in. This pace of life is a world away from that of Maridi; there are certainly no machines there. It made me consider just how much of a challenge our pace of life might be for people visiting and for me, am I setting time to get out of the fast lane and pull into the lay-by and recharge? As Jesus puts it (Mark 6:31):
“Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.”
On our last morning together, I drove Bishop Moses and Mama Rejoice to their next engagement. After 11 years living here, I am still finding my way to new places in Northern Ireland and thankfully this location was not in the city!
It was a beautiful dry and sunny morning to enjoy lush green landscapes and quaint and pretty villages. On arrival we were received with a really warm welcome and a tour of the church and its buildings. All too soon it was time for me to leave to collect the children from school. As I drove along, my heart was full but my brain was racing.
The overriding thought was of the way in which that church is using their ‘place’ to serve the community and their faithfulness to their link with Maridi. Their Sudan Action Group have an entire noticeboard with a timeline in words and pictures of their commitment and support to their brothers and sisters in Maridi. 15 years of unwavering faithfulness in their support through prayer, going and giving spoke volumes to my heart. That is truly ‘doing’ church.
Thank you, Bishop Moses, and Mama Rejoice for your sacrifice and willingness to come and share in our lives in Northern Ireland. A first visit from a new bishop and his wife was full of new experiences. It was very much a time not to look back but to move forward. With many events, invites and visits all across Down and Dromore Diocese, links have been renewed, strengthened and started. In many cases the link of partnership has moved beyond that to friendship. This is a deeper stage of relationship – one of raw openness, honesty, trust, a sharing of the heart and spirit rooted in love through Christ.
Praise God for the new things he has begun!