2006.04.26: April 26, 2006: Headlines: COS - Kenya: Sudan: Missionaries: Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service: Rev. Lauren R. Stanley (RPCV Kenya) is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kenya: The Peace Corps in Kenya: 2006.04.26: April 26, 2006: Headlines: COS - Kenya: Sudan: Missionaries: Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service: Rev. Lauren R. Stanley (RPCV Kenya) is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan

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Rev. Lauren R. Stanley (RPCV Kenya) is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan

Rev. Lauren R. Stanley (RPCV Kenya) is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan

"Eight years ago, I knew that part of my call was to teach. Part was to be a missionary. Part was to return to Africa (where I had served as a Peace Corps volunteer two decades earlier). Part was to serve marginalized people. Part was to work for peace and justice. And part was to tell the story, both God's and that of God's people. "

Rev. Lauren R. Stanley (RPCV Kenya) is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan

Tears of joy and thankfulness

Apr 26, 2006

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service

RENK, Sudan -- The other day, I cried.

It was Friday, April 21, and I was standing in the library at the Renk Bible College, where I serve as a missionary and lecturer, and I cried.

These were not tears of frustration, many of which I have shed in the 10 months I have been here, where language and customs and a whole different approach to time and urgency have challenged me every day.

And they were not tears of loneliness, although I've shed those a number of times, too. I am 7,000 miles from my home of 18 years, and when e-mail fails and the mobile network is on the fritz and I can't be in contact with family and friends, the loneliness sometimes overwhelms me. That feeling is compounded by how most people identify me here, as "khawaja," the "white woman from outside." That's the first word a toddler who lives across the dirt road from me has learned to say, and she greets me with it every day. In some ways, it is cute; but there are days when I regret that she knows me only by my skin color.

And these were not even tears of sorrow -- I've long grown past those, which occurred frequently in my first days here in Sudan, when I was regretting what I had left behind.

No, these were tears of joy, tears of faith and tears of thankfulness. For that day, April 21, was the feast day of Anselm of Bec, the day when Anglicans around the world remember the man who was Archbishop of Canterbury 1,000 years ago, a man proclaimed as one of the great teachers of the church, a man who decried the "fool" who claimed God does not exist.

I wasn't weeping for Anselm, despite the fact that he is my patron saint of sorts and that, from him, I learned more about faith seeking understanding than anyone else.

No, I stood for a moment amid all our dusty books in the library and wept because on that day eight years previously, I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church. I wept because I have come so far and my life has changed so much, and yet, right now, I realize how much my life has come full circle in those eight years.

Memories of my ordination day flooded me as I stood there: memories of being unable to sleep the night before, and of my sister- in-law coming to my room at 4:30 in the morning to comfort me; of friends and family coming from all over the country to be with me that day and uphold me in my vows; of the incredible weight of the bishop's hands on my head as he ordained me; of slapping high-fives with my brother as I walked back down the aisle at the end of the service; and most of all, of the sense of holiness that pervaded the entire day, the sense that God was with me and that I was doing exactly what God wanted in that moment, in that place.

And now, eight years later, I have that same sense, that same feeling -- that I am doing exactly what God wants, in this moment, in this place.

Eight years ago, I knew that part of my call was to teach. Part was to be a missionary. Part was to return to Africa (where I had served as a Peace Corps volunteer two decades earlier). Part was to serve marginalized people. Part was to work for peace and justice. And part was to tell the story, both God's and that of God's people.

All of which I am doing now, in this place that often feels like the middle of nowhere, where electricity is iffy and water must be filtered and news is slow to trickle in. I am doing all of the things I thought God wanted me to do when God called me to the priesthood.

Oh, there have been days of doubt about my call, and not just here in Sudan. I've had a less-than-stellar career in the church. I've left two churches where the calls did not work out. I've spent time as a peripatetic supply priest, going from parish to parish Sunday after Sunday, wherever the people needed a priest to preach and celebrate. I have had what I am convinced is one of the shortest tenures as a rector, or senior priest, in a parish in the history of the church. I've had people question my call, sometimes because I am a woman, and sometimes because those people and I did not get along.

But somehow, God has redeemed all of those difficulties and brought me to this place, at this time, to help build up a church that has been through tremendous difficulties because of a 21-year civil war. I am teaching students who are starving to get more information so that their faith can be nourished, and so that they, in turn, can nourish others. I live among a people who consider me "other" but who still make me feel welcome. I am supported by family and friends and by complete strangers who believe that what I am doing is good and deserves their support.

All of those thoughts flooded me the other day.

Which is why I stood among the books and cried.

And said, "Thank you, Lord, for what you have done and are doing in my life."

That's how I celebrated the anniversary of my ordination.

With tears of joy and faith and thankfulness.

------

(The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an appointed missionary serving in the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan.)

------(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune News ServiceDistributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.





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Story Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service

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