This morning (and afternoon) we drove for ages to a poor settlement north of Khartoum, populated by people displaced from the Nuba Mountains. Not all have been displaced by war, however; some came to the city in order to get their kids better educated. Urbanisation claims more victims who thought they were moving towards opportunity and instead met vast indifference and poverty.
Several churches had come together and we were led into the newly-built but unfinished church by choirs of women. The service went on for ever – even though I kept the sermon relatively brief. It was brilliant, loud, funny, and moving. We even danced… And then we ate.
Having left our base at 10.15am, we eventually got back around 6pm.
So, what have I learned this week? Well, we head for the airport in a couple of hours – fairly certain we'll get to Istanbul, but unsure whether we will eventually reach Manchester (because of the snow). Here are the ten things that spring to mind before we leave:
1. Never ever ever drive in Khartoum. That is NEVER. It is unbelievable – only comparable to Jakarta in my experience.
2. These are uncertain times for ex-pats in Sudan. People are being told to leave almost every day. Others are being visited by the security services. I can't see this changing in the short term, and I would not be too hopeful unless I was employed in a business linked to the government.
3. The Episcopal Church of Sudan is resilient, but is suffering from the forced departure of southerners – many of whom exercised leadership and responsibility in and through the church.
4. People with little are incredibly generous.
5. Any simple analysis of why things are happening here is probably wrong and simplistic. Politics, culture, race, religion and language form a complex in a country where the drive is to homogenise into a single race, a single culture, a single religion (Islam), with a single language (Arabic).
6. Racism isn't the sole preserve of white people.
7. Watching the look of misery on Alex Ferguson's face (when Spurs scored the equaliser in the last minute of today's game) is as sweet in Africa as it is in England.
8. You can do less here than at home because the heat is draining. A Sudanese idea of 'a long day' sounds feeble until you try to do it.
9. Sudanese Christians want to know they are not forgotten, that their story is being understood and told, and that their plight is being recognised by advocates in the right places.
10. Never ever drive in Khartoum. Never. Ever. Be driven, but even that is hairy.
So, now to try to get home.