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 don't get impatient when listening to a conversation in a language I don't know. There are all kinds of things to learn. The rhythm of the speaker, the intonation used, and even the odd non-speech sounds are important. In this story, my Sudanese friend Layla kept making the "Giddyup" sound as she listened to her friend tell a story. I couldn't work out what that signalled, so I asked. Sure enough, it had an important meaning, so even if I couldn't verbalize a response, I could signal the speaker to keep going.
Launching Into the Unknown
Layla had many friends to catch up with at this wedding. At one point, she was listening intently to a friend telling a long and involved story. Periodically, Layla made a clicking sound, rather like we would use to get a horse to move. After listening to this sound several times, I interrupted the story and asked her what the click meant. She looked puzzled and then laughed. No one had asked her that question before. “It means, ‘go ahead, I’m listening,’” she replied. The story continued, as did the clicking.