Renjith EJ was an extremely picky eater. He was particular about having clean and tasty food. Little did he know what was waiting for him in Africa

Renjith EJ, from Thrissur, Kerala, is an 8th batch International fulltimer. He shares about his mission experience at the Western equatorial state (part of the Tampura – Yambio diocese), in South Sudan.

It was while working in Oman, that I met Jesus Youth. Until then, I was trying to “enjoy my life” like any other youth. Yet, I could sense that something was missing. Meanwhile, my friend and I was invited to a JY prayer group and after much persuasion, I decided to go. The very first day, the fellowship and joy struck us deeply. We decided to be a part of JY then and there, and never missed the Friday mass and prayer meetings from then on.

One day, I heard about Jesus Youth Fulltimership and desired to go for it. But I had a huge commitment to look after my family. However, God went in front of me and made all my impossibilities into possibilities. After the initial training, I was chosen to go to South Sudan, in Africa. I was accompanied by Fr. William, one of the youth chaplains of the Tompora Yambio diocese.

The culture, people, food were all new for me. They didn’t have basic facilities like good roads, food, water, electricity, schools, hospitals etc. It helped me to open my eyes and understand how blessed I was. My responsibilities included: visiting parishes, conducting workshops for youth and introducing JY, teaching in an Italian missionary school, helping the rainbow communities, which were for HIV positive patients, conducting Small Christian communities, and mentoring teenagers. It was indeed a great formation for me.

Picky eater

I was very picky about food. During this mission year, my concept of food changed. One of their favorite foods, Casava, is made from tapioca. The process of making cassava is quite long. You dip the tapioca in water for more than one week, then take the decaying tapioca and dry it to make a powder. After that, cook it thick and dry, and make a curry out of its leaf.  The first time I had it, I couldn’t take the smell and taste. But I couldn’t show my reaction in front of our hosts. Another food they like to eat is dried meat and dried fish. They smoke the meat and dry it, but don’t allow the inner core of the meat to get dry. I couldn’t stand the smell of the dried, decaying meat. I still remember a meal we had at a youth workshop.  After a whole day’s journey, we reached the place and they had prepared a special dried meat, from the leg of a wild buffalo. When I noticed some liquid coming out of the meat, I asked Father if there was something wrong with it. He reassured me and said it’s just oil. After some time, I saw live worms comes out it. I was horrified and began to pray to God, ‘Please give me the strength to eat that.’ Surprisingly, with God’s grace, it was the one of the most delicious foods I had in Sudan.[ihc-hide-content.

His angels to guard

Throughout the whole year, I experienced God walking with me, guiding me and protecting me from all the tough situations. Once, while on our way back home, we had an accident where I injured my ribs. We were informed that if we need an X-ray, we would have to travel another 500 km. I was also told that if I needed any major treatment, I’d have to go to Uganda or another place, where the political situation could be much worse. I decided to consult a doctor in the US, and he asked me to take proper rest, for a month. The JY International Office asked me go to the Don Bosco mission home in Maridy, about 180 km from our place, where I could get some rest. Later, I realized that even this was God’s plan, as I was able to forge some great relationships with the youth there and, we were also able to start a JY prayer group for them.

At the end of the month-long rest, Fr. William came to pick me, and on our way back, we had a second major accident. Miraculously, Father and I didn’t have a single scratch on our bodies. The incident helped me realize the importance and power of Word of God, especially in Psalm 91:11-12, where it says, “For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone”. I used to pray this Word of God daily and, I truly believe we were saved because of it.

The local Bishop asked if I would prefer to
remain there until the situation got calm, or
if I would want to head back. I told him that I
didn’t intend to leave without completing my
year of commitment and, if God wanted me
to die there, then I was ready to accept that

Once, there was a tribal conflict that almost completely demolished three states. More than 100, 000 people were killed, and many more fled the states. There was a lot of confusion among the people. Even a good portion of the international aid volunteers, had to go back to their countries. The local Bishop asked if I would prefer to remain there until the situation got calm, or if I would want to head back. I told him that I didn’t intend to leave without completing my year of commitment and, if God wanted me to die there, then I was ready to accept that. All of these experiences helped me to surrender myself completely to God’s hands.

To love and to serve

Before I came to Sudan, I had heard about the AIDS epidemic and it had been bothering me. But while in Sudan, whenever I travelled, played, ate or spent time with them, I never felt bothered. In fact, one of our cooks was HIV positive and I also volunteered for the Rainbow communities, for HIV positive patients, to help them with their medicine supply and conduct programs, every weekend. God gave me the grace to love them and serve them without any complaint. My one year of fulltimership was one of the greatest formation experiences of my life. It fueled me to live my entire life with my God and to help others.

When I resigned my job, to serve the Lord, many people said I had gone mad. But my God blessed me more than what I deserved. Now I am running my own my business. I started a company for interior designing and construction, while at the same time remaining very active in Jesus Youth for the last three years. I am so grateful to everyone who helped support my journey, especially Jesus Youth Oman and my family, friends and of course, my Lord.