It can be daunting when you're engaging with a very different culture to your own. But connecting across differences can start with a simple cup of coffee. Mel's reflections below, written in her own words, demonstrates how there's so much we can learn when we sit and share. In her case, with copious amounts of the thick, black brew.
Coffee. It’s a drink that crosses barriers, whether it’s a cappuccino at your favourite cafe down the street or the bitter, gingery goodness that is South Sudanese boon. A cup of coffee is so much more than a person's preferences – milk or sugar? Inviting a friend to share a cup of coffee is inviting someone to share life; the highs and the lows and everything in between.
I think fondly of my time in South Sudan and the many cups of sugary, thick, black coffee. I think of the amazing women that I met and was able to do life with; the young mothers with babies in their arms and the old habobas (grandmothers) with grandchildren all around. I think of the expat women whom I served alongside; some home-schooled children and others worked at the clinic or school. Each and every one of these women are amazing and strong.
South Sudanese women work hard physically every day; cooking cleaning and making sure that there is enough water. They would often slave over hot charcoal in 40 degree heat to put food on the table. Mentally these women are resilient. Many have seen the horrors of war; they have had to flee their homes or listen to planes fly over as bombs were dropped. They have lost loved ones and had to start over in another new place.
Amidst the hardships there is joy; a new addition to the family or someone getting married. The joy of seeing a loved one who has come back after being away. Regardless of the joys and challenges women face around the world, they come together over a simple cup of coffee to share life.
In some ways, a woman is like coffee. She is rich, fragrant and able to withstand heat. When heat is applied it brings out the strength of flavour and fragrance; sweetened with sugar, spiced with ginger or cardamom. The combination of all these ingredients creates incredible flavour.
As I drank cups of coffee with women in South Sudan, I appreciated the sharing of memories and stories. Stories of life, love and loss. Stories of freedom and hope. Stories of God and his love for us. Each person has a different story. One works at the clinic as a cleaner, another is a refugee from the north who sells peanuts while her husband works at the market and another proudly proclaims to people walking past that I am her Sudanese sister when they called me a foreigner.
It was a privilege to be able to call these women friends. I may not live in South Sudan any longer but part of my heart will always be there. I think of the copious amounts of cups of coffee that I enjoyed; the sweetness of fellowship and the strength, resilience and determination of women in South Sudan to persist despite the harshness of life.
Mel (pictured above) served short-term with SIM Australia in South Sudan and is preparing to return to Africa to serve long-term in the future. Article republished with permission from SIM Serving In Mission Australia. Original article here: https://bit.ly/2MZR5f3