Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 23, 2009

Leaving Darfur

   A Page from my Journal | 27 February 2005 | From Darfur to Khartoum

Our Team

Our team with local doctors.

   Waking up early in the morning is not too difficult because I have not been able to sleep much. The heat and my thoughts have conspired to keep me awake every night I have been here — tossing and turning mixed with thinking and praying. After breakfast, we had a final visit with one of the local doctors and then made our way to the airport. We waited under the relative comfort of a covered area and then checked in for our flight. We met some UNICEF workers from Ireland and Morocco. Darfur has attracted relief workers from all over the world — each concerned about bringing some measure of help and relief to those who are suffering here. A few have lost their lives.

   It does not take long for the heat to intensify and to begin suffocating the life out of every living thing. When it was time to leave we walked across the sandy ground to our waiting de Havilland Dash 8 — the same United Nations plane that had brought us to Al-Fashir. We boarded the plane and I sat next to my friend Ray Raulston, a retired airline pilot, for the trip back to Khartoum. Our take off was amazingly smooth, especially given the fact that there is no tarmac at this airport. The landscape below is marked by dry wadis and shades of brown and death that give the ground a marbleized appearance. No signs of life anywhere among the burned-out remnants of villages below — villages whose inhabitants may never return to rebuild and to reestablish their lives.

   We stopped for fuel at El Obeid, one of the largest cities of Sudan, located in the western desert. What we expected to be a brief stop turned into a longer layover. Our flight was delayed because Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the military dictator who became President of Sudan after a military coup, was boarding his helicopter and trumped our take-off. According to a recent article I read in the Parade magazine insert in the Dallas Morning News, Bashir is the worst dictator on the planet. From my window seat, I was able to see his entourage assembled on the tarmac. Guys like Bashir sure make it tempting to pray imprecatory prayers.

Sitting in Heat   Our team was tasked with assessing various aspects of the relief work. We will spend the next couple of days debriefing with those who serve here. Hopefully our observations and recommendations will result not only in lives saved, but in helping the beneficiaries of the aid offered by Christian NGOs understand that God loves them. No single individual or NGO can do everything that is necessary to help the displaced peoples living in Darfur. But the combined and cumulative contribution of each is resulting in lives saved. My friends and I will continue to speak for those who have no voice. I am leaving Darfur, but Darfur will never leave me.


  1. Speaking of the heat reminds me of my three weeks in Ghana, doing humanitarian aid with the Navy. It was ninety degrees by eight a.m. We were housed in an Army barracks, and the outdoor shower area was enclosed but not roofed. Anyway, after showering we would be sweating as soon as our uniform was back on. Hydration was a definite issue and I suffered heat exhaustion and ended up with a field I.V., compliments of a fellow Commander. I got behind the curve on my hydration at night. Too exhausted to drink. After that, I kept the water bottle under the mosquito netting and drank at night too.

    Seeing the picture reminds me of my feelings of helplessness when viewing the same type of landscape in Ghana, as we were on the tail end of the dry season. Yeah. I worked eighteen hour days and stood a two hour watch every couple of nights. But then, back to kiss the American soil and resume a life of blessing. For these poor people, aid assistance is just a few happy moments in an otherwise blighted existence. Our tears should water the earth for these people.

    Tammy Swofford

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