One of the secrets of living well is to see all our problems as opportunities. I have often quoted Friedrich Nietzsche, to myself as well as to others: ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” There are many events in life that can test us. It is how we turn problems into opportunities that make us stronger.
Life for many is not easy. Another less well-known quote of Nietzche’s is: ‘To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.’ Christ provides that meaning. Nietzsche’s words, ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how’ are something of a theme in Viktor Frankyl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. So what is Christmas to you or me? Does it bring problems, or opportunities or can a problem become an opportunity? The first Christmas was one of the most meaningful events in history, God becoming man in most humble circumstances and later ending his life as the God-man in an horrific death. The birth of Christ invites us to re-examine what is important in our lives and to grasp the opportunity to show what is meaningful to us. Again to quote Nietzsche,We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving. In essence, Christmas invites us to be together in family love. All the disputes and differences can be put aside and we can re-establish the relationships the way we want them.
At the celebration of Mass in the Comboni chapel this week, the congregation was down to about half its normal size. Many of the expatriates have already left Juba for their home destinations. I know that every flight out of Juba has been full for the past few days and one can also see a welcome reduction in the amount of traffic on the roads. More importantly, it is noteworthy that the wet seasons, that always brought lulls in the fighting during the long years of war in South Sudan is over, and yet the country has remained generally peaceful. There is not yet a negotiated lasting peace in South Sudan but there is no sign of the panic or fear that led many to flee the country last December. The airport is very busy but it is not overwhelmed as it was last year. Juba airport is always overcrowded and inadequate, a continuing problem. Once again, returning last week from meetings in Rome, my Egypt Air flight was diverting from landing in Juba to Entebbe where we sat on Ugandan soil for a couple of hours. Twice I have been to Uganda but have never touched Ugandan soil – other than when I peel our imported potatoes!
After our annual Solidarity get-together at the beginning of December, almost half of our members left South Sudan, some on home leave and some for a few days to nearer destinations, most commonly Nairobi in Kenya. About half of those have already returned as early in the New Year, we take advantage of the long school vacation to begin in-service teacher training. In South Sudan, the Southern hemisphere academic timetable is followed where the school year corresponds to the calendar year rather than from July to July. Our registered nurse and midwifery training begins in early January. We have been busy reporting to donors, balancing the books and completing submissions for new funding but with most of that now done, we look forward to a couple of weeks of respite and peaceful relaxation with good friends in South Sudan.
Yes, it is a sacrifice being away from family at Christmas but it is also an opportunity to unite in friendship and solidarity with others who share the mission of assisting the people of South Sudan. South Sudan is not always the most pleasant place to be but it is a most meaningful place to be. Living and working here is not a problem; it is an opportunity. A blessed Christmas to all.
‐ Br Bill