In Costa Rica we have a saying we often use. We like to say, “es no easy!” It’s a mixture of English and Spanish meaning “it’s not easy”. It is a statement on the inconvenience, if not difficulty of life in the jungle. This phrase is fitting particularly when trying to accomplish the smallest of things. Those who come for a week or two can be enraptured in the beauty of the place and enjoy that the logistics are taken care of by someone else. This is good and right, but those who are there for longer periods of time soon realize the truth that, “es no easy” in the jungle.
I awoke one morning recently in the town of Juba in Southern Sudan. It seems the jet lag would only allow for a certain amount of sleep. I began to think about this place. Many years ago I tried to come to this area. It was different then. At that time this region appeared to be a daily theatre a bombings from Islamic troops out of Northern Sudan in an attempt to take this strategic location. The land mines planted on the road between here and Nimule made it impossible for us to access.
Finally the Islamic government of the north did seize this town. I was once there during the height of the war. It was a day I will never forget as we were invited by the people of the south to preach to a garrison of soldiers, true freedom fighters who would march that day in an attempt to retake this portion of their homeland. We went. They marched. And many died in that campaign.
I remember three or four years later going through the same town after the south had retaken it. How odd it was that day as the small plane landed in what had once been such a central part of the war. The grass landing strip was still surrounded by soldiers but the clear smell of victory was in the air. I was thankful for it.
As our team arrived several weeks ago I noticed many changes since my last visit. There is an airport now. I don’t mean to say it’s like the airports of our major cities but it is complete and functional. It includes a terminal and well paved runways. Flights now arrive on a daily basis from Ethiopia, Kenya and Egypt. Not only is there an airport but there are also other buildings as well.
There are people from many of the tribes in South Sudan in this region. It has become a bustling place of commerce. As we pulled up into the guest house where we would stay, church bells were ringing as people gathered for public worship. This may be the biggest change. There was once a day when a large gathering for public worship would have been more than enough reason for the fundamentalists troops from the north to open fire on the crowd.
We ate our dinner in peace. A dinner which included beef much to my delight. After dinner we retired to comfortable beds to sleep the night away. I woke extremely early. I prayed for our journey. Names and faces came to mind and I prayed for each one. I prayed mainly for God to move in the course of our time here. I prayed especially for the victimized women and children we would be spending time with. I also prayed for the nomadic tribes we would interact with and show the Jesus film to.
As I prayed, or maybe as I finished praying, I began to hear the early call to prayer from a nearby mosque. I thought about this city and all that transpired here over the last fifteen years or so and I realized again that, “es no easy.”
It wasn’t easy as the enemy bombarded this place. It was even worse when they finally took control of it. It wasn’t easy, and in fact it was very costly to retake this ground. The rebuilding wasn’t easy either. To be honest I realize it also won’t be easy to hold this ground now that it has been reclaimed.
There are some I know who glibly talk of the blessing and ease of a walk with Jesus. I’ll admit to sometimes feeling a little less than when I am around them. In the end though I generally come to the conclusion that they are either suffering from western delusions, unexposed, afraid, in denial or perhaps even dishonest.
“Es no easy.” It’s better, it has purpose and meaning, but it is not easy. When Joshua led the Israelites into the land that God had promised, they were guaranteed victory. They also understood that victory would not come with out a battle. Es no easy when the enemy launches a multi-front assault. Es no easy when he occupies some territory that isn’t his or when we attempt to retake ground that is promised to us but he is currently holding. Es no easy when we fortify our defenses and hold the ground we have captured that he once inhabited. Perhaps only western Christians are lulled into thinking that it is supposed to be easy.
In this same manner, I am aware this morning of the promise of victory that is mine in Christ. I am also aware of a stream of theology that places all of that victory in the by and by. I believe that to be less than full gospel. So, I embrace the notion that a good portion of the promise is for the here and now. However, I do not think it will be realized apart from battle. The battleground may be mostly in our minds. The battle may be over a loved one. The battle may be dying to self and living to Christ.
However, what is the alternative? To lay defeated and crushed beneath the enemies brutal assault on our lives? To give into the self-indulgent, self obsessed culture that leads only to depression and despondency? To hibernate, isolate and close yourself off from loving, living, giving and receiving? Or will you stand up and fight and reclaim what is yours in the Lord Jesus? There are no victims or orphans in the household of God. If you have been victimized, like the Sudanese were, then Jesus came to reclaim, redeem and restore you to be more than a conqueror, but you’ve got to at least engage the battle. Es no easy, but it sure is better!