Deacon Susan Naylor was part of a mission trip to Lui, South Sudan April 13-28.
By the Rev. Susan Naylor
The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri has been in a companion relationship with the Diocese of Lui, Episcopal Church of Sudan for the past five years, and recently renewed that relationship for five more years. After more than 25 years of civil war, Southern Sudan held a peaceful referendum and became the independent country of South Sudan on July 9, 2011.
While the peace is holding, it is still fragile, and border disputes are still common. Because the Diocese of Lui is several hundred miles from the border with Sudan (“The North”), the situation was deemed safe for us to go. We are committed to this relationship, and have sent teams and individuals before the peace accord was signed, immediately afterward, and now as South Sudan claims its independence. People tell me that I am brave to go, but really I’m not. The first time I went (in 2005) I was quite nervous, but I felt I was called to go. I continue to try to be faithful and obedient to that call.
On this trip (my third visit) I was the only traveler from Missouri and I served as nurse and chaplain for our group. That group included a team of four from England (Diocese of Salisbury, Deanery of Blackmore Vale) and one missioner from Sweden (Diocese of Lund).
My responsibilities for the trip included checking on several projects that our diocese has funded, especially the tenth water well we have drilled there. I was also called to assist with visa applications for four individuals we hoped to host here, assist with a pre-school training project, travel with Bishop Stephen Dokolo to several parishes, and perform other duties as assigned.
But first, I had to get there!
South Sudan is about 7,900 miles from St. Louis as the crow flies, but no crow could fly there directly and neither could I! On April 13, after being up for more than 24 hours wrapping things up at both my secular and church jobs and doing final packing, it was time to head for the airport. Luggage restrictions are tight: 15 kilograms (33 pounds) is the limit for everything I need to be equipped and comfortable in a place with no electricity or running water for a couple of weeks. That includes the first aid, health and safety gear for the team, our satellite phone and my netbook computer just in case communications were up and running in the solar-powered diocesan office!
Missionaries traveling with Deacon Susan at Heathrow Airport in London
St. Louis – London
Debbie Smith, our companion relationship coordinator, Evelyn Smith, chair of the Companion Diocese Committee, and her husband Dan Smith, Canon to the Ordinary and recent traveler (he and Evelyn recently spent a month in Lui) were at the St. Louis airport with my husband Earl to pray me on my way. My 4:50 p.m. flight left on time, and a short one-and-a-half-hour flight got me to Minneapolis, where I had a three-hour layover. That time was necessary for security checks for international travel.
A nine-hour flight got me to London about noon (London time).
London – Kampala
I had another long layover in London, waiting for the team to gather and our flight to Kampala, Uganda which left at 9 p.m. Another nine-and-a-half-hour flight (oh, how I wish I could sleep on a plane!) got us to Kampala, at about 8:00 a.m. local time.
A view from the airplaine window, looking at Lake Victoria, Entebbe, on the way to Lui.
Kampala – Lui
A 45-minute drive got us from Entebbe airport to the Namirembe Guest House in Kampala, where we dropped off our bags, and walked up the hill for Sunday Services (in Lugandan!) at St. Paul’s
The remainder of Sunday and Monday were spent in team meetings and planning, a little shopping (I forgot my hat!), repacking and visa paperwork.
Up at 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday, and on to Kajjanski air field by 7 a.m. to get on the “little plane,” a nine-passenger, single prop Cessna Caravan flown by Missionary Aviation Fellowship, or MAF. Take-off was at 8:15 a.m., then three more hops: Arroua, Uganda for our exit visas; Juba, South Sudan for our entrance and exit visas, and finally to the Lui -Mundri airstrip, by 3 p.m., for a total of another seven hours in transit. A final 45 minutes of road travel, with one or two car breakdowns and we finally arrive in Lui!