While preparing to move to Africa for several years, I asked, “What should I bring?” The answer came, “Whatever makes you feel at home.” Having always lived in the southern United States, I had no idea how to make that decision, short of taking everything I owned. Once I arrived in Africa, I adjusted more quickly than expected to the various places I lived. “Home” became more of a state of mind than a physical location or set of things.
“How is life in Sudan different from the USA?” • Waking in the middle of the night to find the house invaded by army ants • Realizing you are the only white person on a very full bus, and feeling comfortable with that. • Meeting someone at a shop and ending up in their home having breakfast • Spending an afternoon at the Sudanese ambassador’s house • Enjoying sheep intestines while thinking it is macaroni. • Entering the home of a stranger and being welcomed like a long-lost friend.
Life in Africa was not what I expected. It is fuller, richer, changeable, unpredictable, fascinating. The people are gracious, forgiving and hospitable. The tastes, sights, and sounds reflect a vibrant, determined, joyful richness that overcomes poverty and significant difficulties. I’ve been challenged and encouraged while learning great patience and the value of perseverance. I am deeply indebted, especially to the Sudanese, who have taught me so much.
Leoma worked in the Sudan for 20 years and came to know and love many Sudanese. When she returned to the US, she wrote about her experiences as well as the lives of her Sudanese friends and colleagues. While dealing with culture shock to the US, she wrote a devotional book and several books of prayers based on Scripture.
Leoma has a unique view of life, and that is reflected in her passion for connecting faith and the reality of life in the US and abroad.
I started reading when I was about three-years-old. When in doubt, look for a sign. But when I landed in Khartoum and walked into the airport, that strategy failed me. Everything was written in Arabic script and I knew NOTHING. At first I felt bemused, then a bit afraid. Someone was supposed to meet me, and they were not there. I stood rooted to the spot. Should I risk going outside? Should I stay put? My eyes must have been the size of saucers. At last my colleagues came inside and found me. What a relief! Together, we headed into the city and into my new and unexpected life.
Launching Into the Unknown
Shortly, we landed at the airport, and I stepped out into 100°Fwith the wind blowing like a hot blow dryer. I hurried to the terminal looking for shade. The heat had infiltrated there as well, and it felt like I’d walked into an oven. Since it was an internal flight, there were few formalities, and my suitcases came out quickly. I searched for a familiar face, but only saw men wearing white dresses with leopard skin shoes and white turbans on their heads. I tried to read the signs giving instructions but discovered that was impossible, as they were written in Arabic. For the first time in my adult life, I understood what being illiterate meant.