A word from Curt
I’m camp missionary at Living Waters Kid’s Camp this week. Africa and missions are on my mind. That’s where this story comes from.
It’s a card game called Uno.
You know it as a card game.
I call it a friendmaker.
A deck of cards always draws people.
It’ll help a standoffish child, teen, or adult come closer.
Come closer so we can connect.
A group of Murle children huddled around me as I dealt the cards.
I mean no disrespect saying the Murle may be South Sudan’s most despised tribe.
That’s why this gathering is so special.
Thousands of Murle fleeing the fighting in Jonglei State
have arrived at the border for shelter and solace.
Several hundred have found comfort at Faith Baptist Church.
That’s neat because this church is comprised primarily of the Madi Tribe.
That’s how I’ve come to be in a circle of laughing children as we play Uno.
Uno is neat because you can play it without a common language.
Colors are colors regardless of whether you name them in English or Arabic.
Likewise numbers are recognized whether it’s uno, one, maji, ___________
I remove the wild card, skip, add, and draw cards until they’ve got the game down.
Then with a flourish i add a new aspect to the next hand.
It was about the fourth hand when I noticed her.
A quiet ten year old, hair braided, hands in her lap.
Sitting outside the circle watching us.
Watching us with the saddest eyes I’d ever seen.
She was beautiful but so sad.
What could make such an innocent child seem so adulty-sad?
The anger over war and injustice bubbled in my brain.
But I didn’t have time to entertain that emotion.
We had more cards to play.
It took several hands before i could coax sad eyes into our Uno Circle.
She was my partner for several rounds
Before I set her on her own.
She won the next hand and I detected a small trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome her sad eyes.
Once again I wondered what put them there.
I wonder what it’ll take to remove those sad eyes.
Chances are I won’t see her again.
I wonder if she’ll remember our brief encounter/
The bald Mzee Kawanja (Old White Man) with the colors and the numbers.
I won’t forget her.
I want to carry her face as a photo in my soul.
I want to use that image as a spur to help the helpless
and comfort the bereaved
As well as protect those with no justice.
I have that image.
The image of a small African girl with sad eyes.