There are certain opportunities in life you think you will get only once.
Traveling to South Sudan was one of them.
In the summer of 2015, as a graduation gift from my father, I was able to go with ATC and provide medical attention to the people of Akauk Rak and the surrounding villages. As an 18-year-old introduced to such a foreign atmosphere and bush-like conditions, my life was changed, as well as my worldview.
Two years later, in September of 2017, I was talking to Jake Fuller, Field Coordinator at ATC, while at the family farm in Roanoke, Virginia. It was almost as if Jake knew that from the second I left South Sudan two years before, I was ready to go back. When he asked me if I was interested in a two-week trip in May of 2018 I didn’t hesitate, the word “absolutely” seemed to jump from my mouth. As the trip approached and the team was discussing details, I became more and more excited, knowing this trip was going to be different since it consisted of seven young souls. I was excited to see how the Lord was going to work in our lives.
The beauty of being in a country like South Sudan is that you have to completely trust in the Lord and your teammates that it’s all going to work out. Although, that’s also what makes it so nerve-wracking. Receiving guidance from local leaders really made the trip what it was. The Lord placed some wonderful people right were they needed to be for the vision to succeed.
Our vision in May 2018 was to reach out and evangelize to nomadic tribes of Darfurians by showing the Jesus Film and distributing medicine. I had heard stories and seen pictures of these people for many years but had never gotten the chance to visit them. The Lord allowed us within traveling distance of these peoples and so we went.
We spent two nights with the Darfurians, handing out medicine during the day and showing the Jesus Film in the evenings. On the hike in, I asked the Lord to use me in any way to show these people who He is.
The language barrier was as tough as the cultural differences. But one thing I’ve always enjoyed is conversation no matter whom it’s with. On the second day, when we were gathered around on the cots they had set out for us, through translators, hand motions, and laughter, we were able to make conversation. It was something else—from making trades with the men, to them trying on my boots, I could feel the Lord present in this time of fellowship.
To travel halfway across the world, hike into the middle of nowhere, and sit on a hand-woven cot with people of different beliefs and language, and yet be able to laugh and carryon is a type of joy you can't even explain.
The greatest experience I had on the trip was seeing seven young people step out of their comfort zones and share the word of the Lord with people from thousands of miles away and doing it with the greatest hearts. Being a part of that team is something I will cherish forever, and I thank the Lord every day for that opportunity.
Thomas Strange - Veteran Trip Member
Thomas Strange took his first mission trip with ATC at the age of 13. Since that time, he has traveled to Haiti, South Sudan, and Costa Rica several times and interned in Costa Rica during the summer of 2016 at Refugio Solté. In 2017, when Field Coordinator Jake called about this trip, Thomas didn’t hesitate to say yes, knowing that on his first visit to South Sudan in 2015, he would one day go back. When Thomas isn’t traveling, he is learning about the business of tree farming with his Dad at the family farm and fishing along the Gulf Coast of Florida.