I have a Sudanese brother whom I’ve wanted to tell you about for a long time, but I never found the words. Tonight, I have decided to just begin typing.
I met him a few days after arriving in Sudan in August. That evening, I wandered out of my tent and hurried through the chilly, drizzling rain to huddle near the fire in the kitchen. A group of the older kids were sitting there, sipping hot cups of coffee and joking with one another. I scooted in close to Beida and observed the interactions from my perch between the oldest girl at the center and the pot of coffee, boiling over the coals. As their conversation came to a lull, I began asking names. A lanky, bright-eyed boy of seventeen told me, “My name is Malik. Before, Mama Michele called me ‘Milk,’ but my name is Malik. M-A-L-I-K.”
I assured him that I would take care not to call him “Milk.” One side of his mouth turned up in a reserved smile.
Of all of the older boys, I had an instant connection with Malik- perhaps initially because he was the same age as my little brother in the States. As the weeks passed, I began to learn more about this young man. He had come to live at Yei Children’s Village (YCV) in December 2007 because there was no way to further his education in his war-decimated homeland of Nuba Mountains. He was obviously very homesick for his family and homeland. Feeling pangs of homesickness myself, I could identify with him. Often, our conversations turned to our families.
One afternoon, I found Malik sitting on a plastic chair in the courtyard- long legs stretched far in front of him, eyes staring blankly into the sky. When I realized his malaise was due to homesickness, I said simply, “I would be happy to be your sister, Malik. You could be my brother in Sudan.”
A few days later, having nearly forgotten that conversation, I was eating dinner with Malik and some of the smaller kids. They were teasing me about how little food I ate. Malik said something ridiculous like, “I want to reduce my eating to be like the whites.”
I rolled my eyes at him, and his eyes smiled back. The little children began telling me about their families, especially the siblings they had that lived with them at YCV. Each of the children had told me the names of their siblings, but I did not bother to ask Malik, knowing that he was the only one of his family living at YCV. The conversation had lapsed into silence as we turned back to our rice, when Malik said suddenly, “You know, I have a sister here.”
“No you don’t Malik!” I said, incredulously.
“Yes, I do,” he grinned, “Jennie-Joy.”
That comment made me so happy. And that’s how Malik became my brother.
It is so fun to have a brother here. I have enjoyed setting aside quality time to talk with him, encouraging him in his studies, reading through his school papers, and asking him about his spiritual life. He’s also a big help to me. If I ever need somebody to walk with when I go out to run errands, Malik is willing to join me. He’s a great Arabic tutor, and he’s teaching me how to get my hand-washed laundry really clean. Since Malik loves politics (he dreams of becoming a politician someday), I brought him a book on world politics for Christmas. I broke down and gave it to him early so he could begin reading it, and I can’t wait for the good discussions it will provoke!
Malik loves soccer – everything about it. He’s a brilliant striker, nearly always scoring at least once in the games he plays. He studies very hard, even though he’s naturally very intelligent. The results for the school year just came in, and Malik was ranked 2nd in his class of 143 students!!! He speaks Arabic, English, French, and various Nubian tribal dialects. He loves to talk about politics. He is such a typical teenage boy. He does his chores, although often grudgingly. He puts way too much sugar in his coffee. He is moody. He loves music, often sitting up in the evenings with his radio in his lap. He’s still hurting deeply inside because of the things he’s seen and experienced growing up in a war zone. He likes to dress well. He grows frustrated with the little kids sometimes, but on most days, he is very nurturing. He worries a lot. He sometimes says very hateful things about his enemies. God has begun speaking to him in dreams, and he is listening! His walk with Jesus is growing deeper all the time. God has wonderful hopes and dreams for Malik, and I am so glad to call him family.