Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve in Lui

(new photos below!)

Christmas Eve in Lui: the first Christmas Eve I have ever spent away from home (hi, Mom!) in twenty-six years. Like many Christians, I have always had angst about American Christmas: whether or not to give gifts, where is 'Christ' in the consumer free-for-all, and what to do about Santa Claus. Now, half a world away from the normal traditions, stripped of excess, I am finding Jesus at Christmas for the first time.

Yesterday, I was invited to preach at the monthly meeting of the Mother's Union. Here in Sudan, nearly all 'women's work' - including economic sustainability projects, prayers for new babies, pastoral care for bereaved women, and literacy education - happens through the Mother's Union. Using Mark 16:1-8 (when Mary, Mary Magdalene and Salome are the first to receive the Gospel message of Christ's resurrection), I preached about how 'women's work' was changed with Jesus: that we, as women, are charged to be Gospel-bearers (theotokos) in the world. In the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus, this meant physically carrying God within herself for nine months. For others, it means bearing hope to sisters who are suffering; for me, it often means spending hours preparing sermons in order to bear the Gospel for others.

The work of Gospel-bearing is often excruciating here in Sudan. Jacqlyn, a thirty-four year old deacon, will be ordained a priest on the 26th. Two weeks after she was ordained a deacon in 2004, she was sitting with her mother and sisters and two other female clergy-people on the grounds of this very Cathedral (where we are staying). Some soldiers arrived, incensed by a previous conflict. While her family was able to run, Jacqlyn did not escape and so she was beaten by twelve soldiers. After her recovery, Jacqlyn traveled to Nairobi and was trained for six months in trauma healing and recovery and now runs workshops for women in the area. I am very, very glad to be here at the time of her ordination.

I also met Helen, the local government coordinator for NGO activities in the area. She is also in her early thirties, and spent the twenty-one years of the civil war (from 1982 to 2003) living in bush, traveling from place to place in order to survive. I cannot fathom living that way for twenty-one years; nonetheless, Helen has not only survived - she has returned in order to rebuild her community.

These two women are Gospel-bearers to the people of Southern Sudan. Like the women in Mark 16, Jacqlyn and Helen are witnesses to suffering, and thus are able to participate in the birth of hope into the world.

Merry Christmas.

Emily Bloemker


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Emily -- and MERRY CHRISTMAS to all missioners!!! May the peace of Christ fill you these blessed days!!!!!

With love from Columbia,

Amy and Day (choke choke *tear* *tear*!!!!!)

/Susan said...

Merry Christmas, dear deacon Emily!
Blessed Christmas to you and all the missioners. Churches around the diocese are praying for all of you. The pictures are wonderful (any way to label them?) and make my heart ache to be with you in body as well as in spirit.

Lisa Fox said...

What powerful stories, Emily! Thank you for telling them.

Sounds like you had a wonderful Gospel message to share in your sermon.

And a hearty "Amen!" to your first paragraph -- about American Christmas. I haven't been able to participate in our national spending spree since coming home from Lui.

Christmas blessings to all of you.

Lisa Fox said...

A blessed Christmastide to you all. It's after 10p on Christmas here, so I suppose the sun is now rising in Lui. I look forward to hearing how you all experienced Christmas in Lui.

BTW, any word about when Stephen may arrive in Lui?

Marc Smith said...

Dear Emily,

What a privilege to hear your passion for ministry! May God continue to bless you, the missioners and the people of Lui with the Light of this Christmas Season.


Jan said...

Dear Emily,
How wonderful to celebrate with you at your ordination and then to think of you serving in Lui as a deacon and gospel-bearer! Peace,/Jan O