Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sioux Center Sudan

Sioux Center Sudan
My wife and children have gone to visit some old friends we left behind in Milwaukee. I have never been especially good by myself and my church happens to hold midweek services. I decided it would be good for me to go to church rather than go home for the night from work.
Our church was host tonight to a drama group from Northwestern College (not the better known private university from Evanston, IL) who performed a production called "Sioux Center Sudan".
This play is the story of Arlene Schuiteman who grew up to be a teacher in Northwestern Iowa. She heard a calling in church from her minister, told him about it, and then went to Sudan in Africa to be a nurse. She was immediately overwhelmed by the culture, the language and the elements but faith and a patient who became her patient (TB), her Christian student and her Language teacher carried her through the adjustment period. The student's uncle also had Tuberculosis and visited the mission camp for treatment. The uncle, who was a very old man, became a Christian and returned to his village against doctor's orders to preach to his people. There, he reverted to some of his native beliefs and regressed in his illness. Soon after, word reached the mission camp that the Uncle was near death and so Arlene and "Vandy" (her missionary friend and colleague) set out to find him. They brought him back to the mission camp, but to die, not for treatment. Before he died, he confessed his sins of turning from God and asked not to be buried like his people and their traditions but to be covered by a single white sheet.
Soon after, the British occupiers pulled out of Sudan and a Muslim-based government moved in, expelling the Christian missionaries. Apparently, a government official tried to make a pass at one of the native women and she refused him on Christian grounds. When word of this got back to the government officials, all of the missionaries were expelled. I believe that history does a good enough job of recording the atrocities that occurred in Sudan in the 1950's and 60's and I will not repeat them here. Suffice to say, many of the people that she had known and treated were killed or died from disease.
Arlene returned to Iowa where she resumed her life in her parents' house but she never forgot her African friends. One day, and I forget exactly how this happened, she received word that someone was looking for her or that she found that Sudanese refugees were living in the US. Some of them had even formed a Christian Church all to themselves. When she went to one of their services, she was stunned to find out that her language teacher (who had died in the occupation) had a son who was a member of that church. When the son found out that Arlene knew his father and great uncle, he rejoiced and brought Arlene to meet his family. They had a baby boy named after his father (the patient and language teacher) and his wife was pregnant with another child. When the child was born, they named the baby girl using Arlene's given African name which loosely translated said something like "Will Be Good".
It was a wonderful story and I have done a miserable job of re-telling it here but if it interests you at all, I encourage you to look up the theatre group :
It's an extremely powerful story for believers and non-believers alike.

No comments: