WHY SUDAN? Alcoholism is epidemic in southern Sudan after 22 years of war and a shattered economy. WHY ME? In the Fall of 2005, I was hopelessly numbing out my pain with alcohol.
On Dec. 27, 2005, in absolute desperation, I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
In January of 2006 I got to Step 3, "Give your life and will to God." Life hasn't been the same since.
This June-August, I will share the Gospel of Jesus and alcoholism recovery to the men of Sudan.
Dear Friends and Family (sorry - these are getting longer and longer, but I feel like it's important to give you all the full picture since you're praying for these brothers and sisters)-
Thank you all for your prayers - I promise you that they are so necessary and evident in these peoples' lives. We have just completed our first week of our recovery group. We have 14 members and about 12 attend regularly each day (some get labor for the day, have chores or attend funerals - which are frequent - there have been 4 in the county since I arrived two weeks ago). We have gotten great feedback from our time on the radio when five of our group members vulnerably and confidently shared their victory from the past week. We had two new people join the group today - Michael and Jackson.
Today, Kenny (our translator) led the group and I assisted where needed. At our last meeting, Emmanuel spoke up and said that the group needs to start coming together as a family, meeting for dinner fellowships at homes and also must become self-leading. This was a great thing for them to realize - he told the old fish/fisherman story in first person about him feeding a friend by giving him a fish each day, but one day he died and the friend starved. He continued by saying that I could leave anyday and that they would need to know the skills to continue without me. In light of Emmanuel's story, it was a great time for Kenny to lead a meeting and also opened the opportunity for other's to lead as they feel comfortable (this is a similar model to Alcoholics Anonymous). Speaking of, here's our typical format - the meetings last between 1.5 and 3 hours.
Welcoming - Meet and Greet (handshakes, hugs and I try to read from the Bari-translated Bible sometimes during down time as we wait for the others to arrive). Holly Lungren comes to every meeting to work with the women and loves them so well.
Opening - Statement of Purpose "We are gathered here because we share a common struggle. We are all addicted to alcohol and seek daily healing from the Lord. This is not a place of condemnation or judgment, but a place of hope, healing and encouragement. Anything that is said and all persons who are present are confidential and private and not to be used for gossip. Anyone is welcome here; the only thing that is required is an honest desire to quit drinking.And lastly, the reason why we sit in a circle is because we are all the same and we all share the same struggle and seek the same healing."
Prayer and Worship - someone volunteers to open us in prayer and dedicate the time to the Lord and we sing three songs in KuKu - this is one of my favorite times in the day. One of the songs we regularly sing is roughly translated to, "Satan, we are not following you anymore. I don't want anything to do with you. We are putting you behind us; we have decided to follow Jesus."
Communion and Share time - this is a time that we have a meal of bread and hot sugar-sweetened tea together. Each person eats two or three little rolls/loaves of sweet wheat bread (about $.13/each which you all have paid for with your support) and then we share challenges and victories from the week. Each person typically speaks up, although it's not required, and the others politely wait and say, "Tenate' Moses (or Rose, Joseph, etc)" after they finish. This part of the meeting is beautiful. These people are very open with their lives. They freely share their pain, mistakes and humble circumstances. And also celebrate little things - like two of the women who were invited to have tea with a woman who previously would not greet them because she didn't approve of their lifestyle...the woman gave them 1,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $.50) and they were confident that it was God's provision that they had received favor from this woman and a financial blessing. Moses also shared. He said that the brewers had asked him to gather/carry firewood to their moonshine still. He did so and when finished was offered a large amount of "white stuff" (horribly strong and poisonous moonshine...one of our members suffers from mild blindness b/c of it). He declined and said that he was done drinking and would like to be paid. She laughed at him and said that she would give him credit so that he could come drink in the morning. He said he wouldn't be there in the morning, he had quit for good and would like to be paid immediately. She questioned him and said, "What's going on here? Where have all the drinkers gone? All of my best customers never come anymore." He said that they are all leaving alcohol together. She said, "Then who is it that is giving you the medicine to quit?" Even she knew the power of the addiction and how people traditionally can't quit without having to be taken to the hospital for IVs, vitamins and treatment. He said that there was no medicine. That they had given their lives to Jesus and He was healing them. Thank you, Lord, for this miracle of healing, and thank you all for your prayers - they have been answered in miraculous ways. Not a single person in our group has had ANY withdrawal symptoms.
Lesson - This is a time that we teach through one of the 12 steps and give an accompanying scripture and Bible lesson. They LOVE learning about God's word and quickly write down the reference of where to find the Scripture verses. If applicable, we go through one of the steps as a group.
Commitment - We state that we will commit to remaining sober for the next 24 hours by God's help and strength (this is something that my AA sponsor in Austin, Charlie P., taught me).
Closing - someone volunteers to close us in prayer, beginning with the Lord's Prayer.
Please pray for Moses M. - he got a letter that his separated wife had been raped and they were trying to get back together. Alex J. - two deaths in his family this week and he doesn't have money for his children's school fee (especially his 12 year old son John). Rose K. - she had a relapse last week during one day, but continues to come to the meetings and will always be accepted. Also, our little group needs a name - send any ideas you have. Big Kenny has $10 in outstanding alcohol credit to a brewer that he has to pay back in one week - that's a huge amount of money here - he wants to be honest and pay it back and never spend another penny on alcohol. Moses K.'s wife tried to commit suicide last week - we are going to visit with her and the local pastor tomorrow.
Also, I feel like I should write something. I don't want anyone to feel like I am condemning having a drink. This program, blog and mission is about alcoholics. Many people can drink without any problems and keep it in moderation. But for us, once we have a little, we always had a lot. Some people can have one or two drinks and then quit for the time. An alcoholic has one or two just to get started and almost always get drunk each time we drink. It's like a car with no brakes. This is all clear in the AA literature and website if you want more information and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers.
From Sudan with love-
john a. elmore