Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 19, 2009

Into Zamzam

   A Page from my Journal | 25 February 2005 | Zamzam IDP Camp

   Sleep does not come easily to me in Darfur. The unbearable heat alone is enough to keep me awake at night. However, it’s the troubling visions of the day that replay over and over again in my mind that are most effective at driving away sleep. At night I see the faces of the children whose childhood has been defined by unimaginable horrors. I see the mothers at the wells, pumping water into plastic jugs while the babies strapped to their backs bake in the heat. I see the elderly sitting quietly in the dust, displaced from homes they will never see again and separated from loved ones they will never hold again. I see the signature of despair everywhere I look. I welcomed the morning.

   We were all a little more quiet and reserved at breakfast, subdued by a combination of emotion, fatigue, and anger over what we have seen. Our time together in morning devotions seemed even more significant than yesterday. The time in the Scriptures and in prayer keep us tethered to hope. We are among the least of these in the worst of places. We are here because we love God and love those for whom Jesus came to die. Darfur is an object lesson in the power of worldviews to either destroy life or to affirm its value. We are here to affirm its value.

   We drove to the hospital after breakfast. Dr. Tom Dickey, Chief of Pathology at Baylor Irving Hospital, and Dr. Jerry Squyres, our team leader, spent the day making rounds with the physicians there. The rest of us secured permission to travel south to Zamzam, an IDP camp named for the well that Islamic tradition says was revealed by Allah to Hagar while she wandered in the desert with Ishmael. The road south is dangerous. A relief worker was killed along this road prior to our arrival. We passed several military checkpoints along the way and received permission to continue on our way. The final checkpoint boasted a tripod mounted machine gun atop the only hill in the area — a sobering reminder of the continuing instability of the area.

Blue Tarp Home   My impression is that Zamzam appeared more desperate than Abu Shouk. I spoke with one man who has been in the camp for almost a year. When his village was attacked by the Janjaweed, he managed to escape with a few of his animals. However, his animals all died along the way as he traveled the long distance from his home to Zamzam. Another young lady told me that she and her mother had been in the camp for three months. These people and tens of thousands of others are now living in houses made of sticks and covered with sheets of plastic donated by NGOs. Somehow, these displaced peoples have managed to build their new community with the barest of essentials.

   We found the women queued up at the wells around the camp, as in Abu Shouk. The children have somehow found ways to entertain themselves. They clamor about in ragged clothes, some even smiling and laughing. One little girl was clutching a broken doll, the only toy I have seen and an ironic symbol of the many broken lives residing in these camps. My heart aches most for the children.

   We made our way back to the hospital in Al-Fashir to pick up Jerry and Dr. Dickey. We then headed north to Abu Shouk to visit the clinic there but were denied permission to enter. In the evening we debriefed and talked late into the night. We will return to Zamzam tomorrow to meet with the school teachers there. I am tired and need to sleep but know that I face another restless night.


  1. Omar, while I know that this entry refers to events that took place four years ago, I also know that there have been other adventures since then, and will no doubt be even more in the future. I pray daily that God will bless you, your companions and your efforts in the desolate and godless places you visit. Perhaps because of what you do, those places will know just a little bit of God when you leave.

  2. Lanni…

    Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I am grateful to God for opening doors for me to venture to remote places to meet the people who live there. I hope to return to Darfur in the future. Please pray for the Fur people who inhabit the region named for them in western Sudan and also for the many displaced peoples living in Darfur.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.