The past echoes forward…whispered thank-you’s…resounding why’s…deafening what-ifs. The choices we have made in the past, to do or not to do, shape the future...not just for us, but for every life our choices touch through action or inaction.
Sudan, 2007 - It was a war-torn place filled with bomb craters and skeletons. The tattered remnants of half of a country decimated by evil.
Bands of refugees were scattered across the region, some living in the rubble of villages decimated by air strikes. Some, weary, wandering strings of survivors, patchworks of various tribes sewn together through necessity… for survival, destination unknown.
One such patchwork of starving & broken people found their way to aplace at the foot of the Nuba Mountains in Southern Sudan in 2007. They chose this place because of the perception of safety that it offered due to its proximity to the military base of the army of Southern Sudan.
Southern Sudan was seeking independence from the powerful Northern Sudan & it’s evil and ruthless leader that had caused the slaughter of millions of innocent people in the South. The suffering they endured is unimaginable. Genocide was being perpetrated and the developed nations paid little attention and did less than little to help. They in fact, did nothing.
The past echoes forward…as the tiny voices of murdered babies beg for an answer…a resounding WHY?
We had been working with the government of Southern Sudan for a couple of years in an attempt to implement a unique program to care for their orphan children. Children whose parent were dead, children who were displaced and being cared for by people who had nothing themselves…people on the run & struggling to survive.
We were close to an agreement when sadly, under suspicious circumstances, the leader was killed in a helicopter crash & our proposal died with him.
That’s when Orphan’s Lifeline International learned of the plight of the refugees near the Nuba Mountains. We learned that there were roughly 2000 people from mixed tribes living there, roughly half of them children, most of them orphans. We learned that the children were in grave danger due to cooling evening temperatures and the fact that there were no blankets.
Thus the birth of Project Warm Blankets.
We asked our partners to help and were humbled by the response, raising nearly $30,000 in just 3 days. It took a couple weeks for the logistics to be worked out. Blankets had to be procured. Our man on the ground arranged transport of himself and the blankets on an old Russian plane which landed on a makeshift runway not far from the village of suffering refugees.
More than a thousand blankets were handed out, to children first, adults caring for children second, and the remainder to as many other adults as supplies allowed. Grateful tears fell to the ground that day and babies and children, many bare to the elements, slept warm & safe from hypothermia for the very first time since they had arrived. Sadly, the cold nights had already claimed the lives of many children.
The past echoes forward…as we ask ourselves what-if we had only known sooner.
Next, we delivered mosquito nets to the village, and then malaria medications and a refrigeration system to a nearby clinic that served the same village. A makeshift facility, operated by Doctors Without Borders, it was the sole source of medical care for thousands of refugees in the area. We were informed that there was no doubt but that it would save many children from a dreaded disease that kills millions under the age of 5 every year.
Then we left Sudan…and only months later, war returned to the area. The North began routinely bombing the very area where we had been working and there were rumors of many dead...
…rumors that many had fled to Kenya and parts unknown.
We wondered then if we had done anything at all. Had we just prolonged their lives long enough for them to be murdered by an evil tyrant? Had they starved to death or died of dehydration in their desperate attempt to escape the bombs and bullets.
For nine years we knew nothing. Time and circumstance had silenced the voices of the children we helped. Perhaps they were all dead. Perhaps we would never know.
The echoes from the past had stopped & there was only silence and we simply prayed that our worst fears weren’t true. Perhaps a little part of us simply didn’t want to know. Simply couldn’t fathom the thought that the beautiful children we had helped were gone…just gone.
Then one day, just a few weeks ago, Tim Murphy, a man who has been at Orphan’s Lifeline since the beginning, hands me a phone. I look up at him and see that his eyes are moist; he is blinking back tears. I frown and take the phone from him, worry creeping in.
Then he tells me who it is. It is the man from Sudan. The man from the village that helped us coordinate everything in
both projects. He was there. A witness from the past, a voice in the present. I took the phone and then a deep breath before saying “this is Greg.”
For the next fifteen minutes I am the one fighting back tears as the man on the phone tells me a story. He tells me that he and his entire family have made it out of Sudan via Kenya and then the United States and have made their home in Tennessee. I am happy for him. So happy that he has made it out alive with his entire family. Happy that they are safe and sound.
But they aren’t the only ones.
He went on to tell me that Project Warm Blankets & the medicines we delivered had saved thousands of lives. He went on to tell me that thousands of men, women AND the childrenwe had helped, had escaped to Kenya just ahead of the bombs…and that many of them are now living safely in the United States.
They were just children back then…just innocent victims of unthinkable circumstances with barely a thread of hope. I had prayed that they were safe, but honestly was afraid they had perished.
Now they are teens, young adults & adults, living safe in our country, many of them attending college.
But here’s the thing that brings it all together.
They didn’t forget.
The man I mentioned, has maintained contact with many of them. He says they often tell the story about the blankets… about the medicine. About how they prayed and how their prayers were answered. About how they were cold and sick and then saved.
About “the miracle.”
They asked him to give us a message. A message for us…a message for you , our faithful partners who make all of this possible.
And once again…the past echoes forward with a simple message that you should never forget. A message from little children now grown, now safe, now secure, now living a life filled with hope and filled with possibilities.
The past has echoed forward…and it whispers…”thank you.”