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Beauty and brokenness; brutality and kindness

After some senseless bullying in the South Sudan refugee camp, chaplain Cole Maynard witnesses something wonderful. Perhaps we as Christians are to be that beautiful creature in a broken world


A land of contrasts: 6 May


Today I saw a beautiful red dragonfly over a stagnant green pool of water. Its deep red colour was unlike any dragonfly I have ever seen and it was truly magnificent, perched on a blunt twig above that murky green surface.

Then while chatting to the soldier on the gate some of the little children who often hang around the front of the camp, watching what is going on, tried to attract my attention by making a stance as if they were going to fight me. So in turn I began to make various kung-foo type poses that they then copied, laughing and giggling. It would have been a beautiful scene if they hadn’t been clothed in rags that any decent charity shop would quickly consign to the bin! Yet these little ones seem oblivious to their austere setting, their faces shining in the dusty bleakness.

They soon began a African dance ritual, stamping their little feet on the impacted earth and causing large clouds of dust to erupt from the surface like smoke. What a scene, little dark bodies laughing and dancing in the dust, the sun reflecting off the fine particles of dirt rising into the air. This dance-off continued for some time as we copied them stamping in the dust until a tall teenager took offence for some reason and chased them off throwing stones in their direction! This often seems to happen as if the older lads don’t like the attention the younger ones are getting. The soldier next to me was very upset by this, especially when the interfering youth picked up a large rock to throw, and he was about to intervene, but fortunately the unsuspecting teenager dropped the boulder and then ran off.

I saw something very similar a couple of days ago as I watched some very young children, perhaps aged four or five years, running along the dusty path with a wire hoop on which a piece of string which was tied, leading to a small stick so the child could rotate the hoop with the string and run alongside it.

Such a simple toy brings hours of fun to these camp children, but then I saw a child who was trying to make his hoop rotate being stopped by a much bigger boy who took the hoop from him, broke the stick and threw the hoop into the stagnant stream I had earlier seen the dragonfly. Why? I have no idea.

I was immediately angered as the older boy simply ran off leaving the little fella holding his broken stick, sobbing. He had had very little, yet even that was suddenly and savagely taken away from him.

As I watched all this happen in front of the Sanger I was visiting, I then saw something wonderful. A little girl followed to where the boy had thrown the hoop. Grabbing the toddler's hand, she dragged him to where it was just beyond some barbed wire, laying in the pool. The girl then lifted up the barbed wire at some risk to herself so the boy could crawl under the barbed barrier and retrieve his hoop toy, broken but repairable. She then held him and he stopped weeping and returned to the camp with her, hand in hand.

How can such a contrast exist side by side in this wilderness? Beauty and brokenness; brutality and kindness; bullying and compassion? Like so much of the world, this country is a mystery of contrasts, just like that red dragonfly, a thing of beauty on a stagnant pond.

Perhaps, we as Christians are to be that beautiful creature in a broken world: a delicate dragon fly hovering above a stagnant pool; or a little girl who helps the broken hearted find what they have lost and begin the road to healing?


ColeMaynard223Cole Maynard has been a Baptist army chaplain for 20 years, and is currently on deployment in South Sudan as part of UNMISS, the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan. He is blogging for The Baptist Times 

Read his other blogs:

Cole Maynard| Ministry of Defence 
Dragonfly | Makumik0 | Pixabay
Baptist Times, 25/07/2017
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