The Long Road Home
Reaching the unreached often takes our missionaries to isolated parts of Africa, which makes getting from A to B a real challenge! The team working to reach the Lopit people in South Sudan had a first-hand experience of the headaches of travel on their return from their Christmas holiday in Kenya. Ashley recounts their journey.
With few options of ways to travel into South Sudan on a good day, now we had no other choice but to work with what we could get. A short hop to Lodwar (in Kenya), and then a five hour drive from there to Lokkichogio (Kenya), to catch another flight into South Sudan. So in the beginning of January, half of my team and I loaded the plane to head back to South Sudan.
“This place is so unique and secluded that it feels as if AIM is the only opening that could have brought me to be in such a place.”
We knew it would be a longer journey than normal, but we did not expect the details of what took place. Exiting the plane in Lodwar, we were first blasted with an intense heat wave. Looking around, the area was a desert land; dirt, wind and heat consumed us. Our luggage was unloaded onto the middle of the dirt runway and the plane took off again. As we peeled off our extra layers of clothes, used the restrooms and tried to collect ourselves from the intense motion sickness, we began to realise that one-by-one all the other passengers and people around were leaving us, yet, we still remained. Sure that the taxi must have been organized, my team leader went to find out where it would be. Only to find nothing had been arranged and the airline would not help us get to our destination; this was the final stop. With lots of back and forth phone calls, the end result was… well, we were stranded.One thing I have really loved about my life here in the Lopit Mountains is that I often feel like there would be no other opportunity in my life that would have taken me to this place. Most days, I feel in the middle of nowhere, with no awareness or linkage to the world outside of here. This place is so unique and secluded that it feels as if AIM is the only opening that could have brought me to be in such a place. But I especially feel the uniqueness of being here any time I move from outside the village, even more so when leaving the country or trying to return to the country. In this country, there are few airline options, terrible road infrastructures, expensive and invitation only visas, not to mention continuously changing government policies. This makes traveling require an abundant amount of patience.
Yep, we’re fine in the back…. Honestly.
“When I finally reached my neighbour’s house, she told me that when she heard the plane coming and knew it was me, her heart was very happy. And I can say, so was mine.”
Our lift from Lodwar to Lokki was in the littlest, tiniest car one could imagine for the six of us to ride in. With half of our bodies on top of one another, the trunk and roof piled with our suitcases, and clenching our remaining luggage items in our laps, we set off for our five hour, bumpy journey. Thankfully in Lokkichogio, we were spoiled by AIM missionaries living there with delicious coffee and chocolate chip banana bread for breakfast the next morning.
We were now on the home stretch. As the plane turned the corner into the Lopit Mountains, I could see the palm thatched rooftops peeking out. And as the plane came down for a landing, I could see many dark hands flailing in the air and bodies jumping up and down in excitement to see us once again. After days of tiring travel, we had made it. One by one, all the children helped us unload and carry our things off the plane and to my team leader’s house (the closest house to the airstrip). From there, we walked back to our village, unsure of what we would find there. When I finally reached my neighbour’s house, she told me that when she heard the plane coming and knew it was me, her heart was very happy. And I can say, so was mine.