When I am working in the field,  children have one of two reactions when they see me. Either they react like this:

Shouting excited words of “Khawaja” or “Gileatad” (both meaning white person/foreigner) they will come up and touch my skin and my hair and want to hold my hand and are just generally fascinated and excited to see me.

Or they react like this:

One night in Yei, I was discussing this phenomeom with some of my colleagues over dinner. I was upset that kids were scared of me and was asking their advice about what I should do to prove  that I am not a big, scary ogre.

My colleague’s brother, who had joined us that day, told me that he knew a man who had a very similar experience once. He was Israeli and was coming to South Sudan to visit one of the projects. He also  had a very long beard. When this man was walking through the villages,  it was not only the children who were reacting, but the adults too, running, shouting, crying. Now the poor Israeli man, who’s first time it was in South Sudan, could not understand why they were reacting in this way. So he turned and asked his colleagues what the people were saying.

“Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming” “Its the second coming of Jesus”

God vs. Big Scary Ogre? Yes, a very comparable experience.

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