I believe that the grace of God reflected through a human soul is the essence of beauty. While in Nairobi we helped to lead a trauma healing conference for approximately fifty men and women who were refugees from South Sudan. All had fled violence and experienced loss that is difficult to imagine. I was amazed as each person expressed a deep faith in God, and a hope for the future--even though the present was full of tremendous challenges. Although they acknowledged much pain and hardship, they did not demonstrate defeat. Many expressed a desire to grow and gain new skills which would help them to rebuild their country in the future. To build a future of peace in South Sudan will require much on a structural and governmental level. Structures can support an environment for peace, but peace can only be established through hearts which are open to work towards healing--and to receive and extend grace. The foundation for peace begins in the heart, and I experienced gracious hearts in the men and women that I encountered. It was beautiful.
In December we traveled to Kenya to participate in a commemoration of the violence in Juba in 2013. What an incredible way to prepare for Christmas—celebrating the Prince of Peace with those who are seeking to build a future of peace for their country. Rather than stirring up anger or cries for vengeance, the commemoration was focused on prayers for peace and healing. It honored all victims of the massacres that took place, no matter what tribe they were from. Those attending acknowledged together that the best way to honor the tens of thousands who lost their lives was to break the cycle of violence and destruction, and to work together to establish a new future for South Sudan. How I admire the courageous young men and women who are truly peacemakers in the most difficult of circumstances.
This was my Christmas gift---meeting men and women of hope and grace. Though they have suffered so much loss, they are not seeking vengeance, but rather healing. Those I met truly reflected the spirit of Christ and the hope of the incarnation. God is with us, even in the most painful of circumstances in this world.