Sunday, February 22, 2009

TIA (This is Africa)...or...It's Always Something

Thanks to Kathy for writing up the events of our next to last day in Yabus. The local missiounaries were often heard exclaiming "TIA" when things went sideways. The TIA stood for "This is Africa" and seems to capture the phenomenon that, because of the scarcity of resources, the local's lack of concern or focus on the concept of time, the need for flexibility and creative Macgyver problem solving, one needs to accept the difficulty, resolve (if possible) and move on. Without that learned attitude one would surely not last long in this place. The subject Wednesday seemed to contain a particularly intense number of TIA moments, culminating in what seemed at the time to be the perfect storm. Here's Kathy's well written re-cap. Thanks Kathy!


Our last Wednesday in Yabus was scheduled for a celebration dinner for the start of a new school year at the secondary school. It was a perfect day, given that it was near the end of our team’s stay in Yabus and we would be joined by 3 men from SIM headquarters.

As it happened, the date had been floated as a possibility for a pastors’ conference as well, but that hadn’t been confirmed. However, on Wednesday afternoon three distinguished pastors arrived with their suitcases. Their arrival prompted much discrete scurrying around to prepare a tuckel (hut) for the pastors without them knowing we weren’t prepared. Beds were moved and made, towels provided, etc. while the pastors were given a tour of the compound.

Earlier in the day the water pump at the river stopped working. It was fixed by the evening but without solar power the compound had to make do with the water already in tanks, a nifty trick given the extra water required for all of the extra people. The extra people also drained the power for the satellite so the internet was not available, dismaying to those of us hooked on staying in touch with home.

In the late afternoon we heard that a mom in a village 45 kilometers away was in labor two months early. Val and others drove over very rough roads to assist the mom. A small but healthy baby girl was delivered before the men arrived. Val named the baby Glory. [backstory: Val told us that as the truck was tediously bumping along the rocky, difficult road he had called out in Prayer, pleading God to protect the mother and child and to Him would be given all the glory. So when they had arrived and the baby had already been safely delivered the name of the child was a no brainer!] Mom and baby Glory were transported to the GOAL clinic in Yabus via our compound giving the rest of us a chance to admire the beautiful baby girl.

Meanwhile party preparations continued. The compound cooks did not want to cook for the school and the school cooks had quit the previous day, so the brand new school cooks were pressed into service along with Victoria and Camberra to make dinner for 50+. The menu called for goat stew, but there wasn’t enough goat meat left from the previous evening. A man was sent to buy a goat, which walked with the man into camp at 6:15. Steven slaughtered and butchered the goat, and dinner was served fashionably late at 8:30. The guests arrived by 7:30 so Victoria started the evening by leading everyone in a fun song, then the students sang beautiful African praise songs until dinner was ready. The area outside of the student dining room was decorated by Camberra, and event was lit by a few flashlights. Backpacks, caps, pens, team soccer balls and jerseys were given out. A good time was had by all.

In Yabus, expecting the unexpected is the norm, but it was a crazy day even by Yabus standards.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home Safely and Promises of More Blog to Come



Sorry for the long lapse in communication. We have a few amazing final days in Yabus to catch you up on (one including the arrival of unexpected dignitaries, water outages, a cooking crisis combined with the big celebratory dinner, missing goats and the delivery of a tiny baby named Glory) as well as a few great days in Nairobi (one including a terrific game park tour and really, really good meals...though anything not based on rice and beans may have qualified as such).

The energy shortage (both electrical and physical) by the end of our visit just didn't bode well with doing any blogging and I apologize for any concern the lack of communication may have caused our family and supporters. The discovery of satellite phone communication helped with the family coverage so hopefully also alleviated some of the concern. I plan to post more of our experiences from those last days, with the help from journal notes and other team members. I'm asking the team members to also contribute a final summary of their impressions and experiences as well. And, now with access to reliable and plentiful electricity and Internet access we should also be able to include more photos. Dean and I have to make a presentation at all church services this Sunday which I am going to be focusing on today and I have over three weeks of neglected work to face tomorrow so it may take a few weeks to get the blog finished up. Stay tuned, if you'd like.


We've been travelling since late Sunday night. After two very long flights it was heaven to see family at the airport. I was brought to tears when I opened my little home to find that my dear friends had come by and stocked it with welcome groceries and flowers to welcome me home. Do you know how many tears fresh vegetables and home made cookies can induce after weeks of rice and beans and two long days of travel?

As good as it is to be home, a piece of my heart remains in Sudan with the incredible Missionary staff in Yabus and the sweet, sweet people of that country. Experiencing only a few weeks of how difficult life is there, and yet how fully present God is in His provision for the tremendous need is something it will take a while to process. I look forward to continuing communication and support with our new friends as well as sharing our new knowledge with our churches and community to help support the good work that is going on there. God bless!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Update from Rick in Doro

Yesterday (Tuesday) AIMAIR arrived in Yabus and I got on and played co-pilot (only passenger!) It was a great flight at 4000 feet over to Doro following the Yabus River. I was met by Grace Womack (from Austin, TX), Joanna Mansanti (from Roseburg, OR who had met with our team in Portland) and Joel Beckett (from Eagle River, AK). We walked 100 yards to a great lunch on the Doro living compound. In the afternoon short term PA, Sara Benson, gave me a great tour of the Village of Hope (nutrition village where Grace and Joanna minister), the medical clinic where a number of the missionaries work including our team member, Dr. Andrew Chang, the Community Health Workers school where Barb Hartwig and Vicki Beattie work and the BELC (Basic Education Learning Center) building where Stuart Lee is overseeing the completion of the grade 8 exams the next two weeks. I am so proud of the work Dean and Andrew have done here. Dean has been hard at work creating a portable outhouse using dormant welding skills that have proved very helpful. Joel told me that Dean has been a great help to him, tackling one project after another. Today he and I threw 50 pound bags of Sorgum into a new storage area he has organized in the workshop area. He has implemented his medical organizational skills and offered very practical suggestions for the organization and patient flow at the Medical Clinic as well. Veteran missionary nurse, Sandy Ewan, who oversees the clinic was so thrilled with Dean's ideas that she called a meeting yesterday afternoon to have him share his ideas with all those involved in the Clinic. I was so blessed when Sandy commented that she knows exactly why the Lord brought him to Doro. Andrew, likewise, has been an invaluable help and contributed significantly at the Medical Clinic. I visited him today and saw his gentle strength merging beautifully with the nurses and national workers in a compassionate ministry bringing help and love to many here. He and I are sharing a tent and thankfully we both got plenty of sleep last night!
Today the dust off the desert has swept in and blanketed us with a layer of brown but a cooling breeze we all appreciate. We called it Harmattan in Nigeria so it is like being home in Nigeria for me. At the end of our walking tour yesterday we visited the cemetary where Dr. Robert Grieve and his wife who were killed in a bombing raid by the Italians in 1941 and Dr. David Masters who passed away last April are buried. It was a sobering reminder that the spread of the gospel is not without sacrifice. What a privilege to be here to see the results of the sacrificial labors of SIM missionaries, past and present. I pray we as a team will be able to accurately communicate all we have seen and experienced and the value of the investment of those modern missionary heroes who are here today loving and reaching the people Jesus loves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More from Andrew in Doro

It was a good day. The only bad news was that when we got to the clinic, the sick malaria baby was gone! We talked to the night watchman and he said that the baby died and they left at 5am. But after more conversation, it turned out the baby was alive but they just decided to give up home and go home. It was kind of discouraging to us all but I think we tried our best. At we can tell throughout, somehow the mom was just not too enthused with helping the baby. Yesterday we had to keep telling her to pump her breast milk to try to feed the baby throughout but she seemed quite reluctant. The missionaries here says that sometimes that happen when one of their child is very sick, they'd detach emotionally and don't feed anymore so they'd concentrate on their remaining kids. But who really knows what the reason they left? I think the baby still had a chance but now if they go home and dont feed anymore, she'd die for sure.
I had a good day in clinic. I am seeing patients myself and am getting somewhat comfortable in treating these patients. I dont know my doses for kids so i'd have to keep looking it up but for adults, I am very comfortable from the IM background. We finished around 1pm. I stayed awhile with the 2 Sudanese students that are our translators and chatted with them. they are brothers who fled this area during the war and walked to Ethiopia and they learned English in refugee camp and recently they just came back last year. As I was leaving the clinic, (Sara already had gone back to the compound), the Falata man who I treated last week came in with acute asthma attack. He was in bad shape and can barely breath. I searched around for meds (the med cabinet was locked and Sara had already gone) and incredibly I found an inhaler (I told Sara later and she didnt even know they had one there!) and gave it to him. That helped tremendously and I gave him some Steriods, which was quite incredible as there were just a bunch of unrelated meds in a big metal chest. I told him God was looking out for him!
In the afternoon, I took a short nap in the lunchroom on the table (the tent was just way too hot) and I felt guite good. Today is not as hot as it was a bit cloudy but it is very humid. Afterwards, I went out with the boys to get water. We took the ATV with a trailer and we drive out to a pump to get well water. It is tiring work but it was fun getting to experience how that is done and I got a great view of sunset and scenery as I was pumping the water.
After all, Rick will be able to come to Doro tomorrow as there is a plane going to Yabus and that plane was going to carry people to other areas but Rick was able to get them to approve to take him here. I am glad he is coming so he can see the situation here and he will be a source of encouragement to me and to the team here. I will also be able to hear how things are going in Yabus.

From Andrew in Doro

It started well as the kids seem to do better this am. I went to town with Dean and got my fill of cokes. We had lunch there and roam around and walked back in 95+ weather. There were actually a little clouds today so a bit cooler.In the evening, the IV of the sick child fell out. We tried an hour in the dark (only with flashlight) to try to get another IV but couldnt. The baby is still quite out of it and not able to drink any water. Some people went out there now with a translator to pray with the family for a miracle. The life of that baby is really in His hands now. The other sick child is also not turning around quickly despite all our efforts.
The local staff here (consist of an American trained PA and a Sudanese doctor) and I make a good team as they have the knowledge of tropical diseases and I have the ability to treat acutely ill patients. I give praise for new friendships with the local people, good working relationship with the missionaries here.
Top Pleasant Surprises in Sudan:1. The beauty of this land.2. Incredible sunsets, sunrises, and starry skies at night.4. Goat meat is quite tasty.5. Can get cold cokes at town!6. How good cold showers feel and how relaxing it is outdoors under the moonlight!

Tuesday Catch Up

Today is Tuesday. Which means I think I owe a reca of Monday. We had full classes as several students who had had trouble getting here for the first week of school because of tribal fighting they had to pass through, arrived over the weekend. Phalice and her team had to do some negotiating as some students had not made proper arrangements to continue on from last year. This was all done diplomatically. She also had to do some tough negotiating with cooks and the student cooks have left so now they are trying to find new ones. It seems that there are always administrative issues to work on on top of all the lesson planning and teaching. Phalice can hardly sit down without someone hunting her down to take care of some negotiation or another.

The team helped with teaching classes and taking care of maintenance around the compound. There are always things to do. To the extent possible though we try to lay low between 1:00 and 3:00 as that is the hottest time of day. And by that I mean over 110 - in the shade.

Dinner was Ugali and fish. Unfortunately the fish here are coming with parasites in them so mostly we ate beef jerkey and peanut butter. I think the fish parasites are an aquired taste! But not to worry. Tonight we are having fresh goat. I just heard it being captured and led down the path.

Last night, the team ladies did a "girls-night-out" for the women of the compound. While the men took care of the children, we treated the women to a foot washing, leg massage and pedicures. We listened to good music, shared a few special treats (Tootsie Rolls, Cinnamon Balls and cold juice). It was just a nice bonding time and we thank the men for allowing the women this time off.

So now to today: Market day. Several of us took the truck into town for a quick trip to the market before the truck had to go out to the airstrip. We had a cup of tea in the tea shop and then went to negotiate a few things. We came back with a few presents for family (don't get your hopes up too high...it's pretty slim pickings!). We also got mangos (still need to ripen) and oranges. We tried to buy cold sodas but what cost us only 7 bir last week, when we had a local negotiating for us, were 10 bir each today. We walked away at that but one team member, who will remain nameless, really wanted the pop and so agreed to the higher price. It's not the price..it's the principle! Well, we will enjoy a cold soda anyway.

Eli went to pick up three officials from SIM who are visiting. On the plane that dropped them off, Rick went to be with the balance of the team in Doro.

Power's going out. Signing off for now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

To Mrs. Clark's Class

Today in English we gave the students the stories you wrote. They had such large smiles on their faces: they were pleased that you wrote them personal stories. They read them outloud. There were a few new words they learned. Like penguins and peacocks! They wrote thank you letters and this afternoon are practicing their new computer skills by typing a letter in return to you. Not all of the students are able to get to computer class so hopefully we will at least get a hand written note. They have such nice penmanship. Thank you so much for the stories. They are eager to meet new people and learn about the world.

Sunday in Yabus...



begins with all dressing in their very finest, and heading for church. As a team we all headed together to the Maban church where Stephen, one of the SIMSS teachers was leading worship this Sunday. It was a lovely stroll, delayed slightly while we allowed some large bulls to cross the river road ahead of us. We took the path by the old, burned out helicopter, a remnant of the war. It’s been there a while. Trees are growing through it.

By the time we made it to the church we were among the late arrivals. There was room on the men’s side, and in fact Rick and Peter got seats of honor at the front. Val was able to find a seat in the middle of the men’s side, which came in handy as he was called upon a few times to lead in prayer as well as give greetings for the team. He did such a good job. I expect him to have his own TV show back in the states! However, the women were not so lucky. There were very few seats left on the women’s side by the time we got there. Not quite sure why the church seats remain divided in half, one side each when women and children outnumber men at least three to one. Traditions and deep rooted custom are the key.

We deposited ourselves, in small spaces between the women and children. The seats are no more than small, hand hewn, boards, maybe 4 inches wide, at most, braced on supports. While much of the service was difficult to hear (because we were in the back and surrounded by children) we were none-the-less entertained. The wardrobes were as varied and interesting as you could ever imagine. One little two-year old boy arrived in a lapeled wool suit and a necklace (no shirt). A wool suit in 100+ temps!. Most of the infants had on hats and sweaters. We are learning this is typical for the first year of a baby’s life here as they lose so many babies. The little girls had on patchwork dresses, polyester shifts decorated with jewels and buckles. I saw at least one Arnold Swazeneger T-shirt over a plaid skirt, and a Bob-Marley T-shirt with lime green kimono pants. The women were also well dressed. Some of the Maban women that we had met in our prior consultation on beading, where they had been dressed in mere rags, were wearing washed and ironed dresses. Simple but very well taken care of. I am beginning to understand: their daily lives are so rough: hot and physical labor. Why wear anything but rags. They are close knit and not out to impress each other. At church, when they come to glorify God they dress in their very finest. At all times, at work and at worship, they are always so happy to greet you and give you a warm smile and sticky handshake. Beautiful.

Stephen preached on Love. He was very energized and engaging. He preached in English, his interpreter following closely. He walked up and down the aisle. Involving the audience. He is a great preacher. I have no doubt he will have a large church some day. We joined along in the singing as best we could. Children came in and out. Many were outside, sitting just on the other side of the bamboo wall from where I was (on the shady side of the building) and the little girls were holding and taking care of the even littler siblings. They would bring the babies in to their mothers to nurse when needed. Otherwise they were pretty well self contained and well behaved.

At the end of the service, the tradition is to follow the preacher out the door and sing and clap, gathering in a circle, which is also sort of a greeting line. The little children ran around to the back door of the church to get in the back of the line leaving the front of the church so they could pass around the circle and shake hands too. It’s a beautiful tradition. Wonder how we could incorporate it at home.

Our walk home was slow and uneventful. That’s a good thing. The thermometer on Kathy’s bag said 110-degrees. The afternoon we wrested for a while and then prepared to prepare Sunday dinner. The compound cooks are off on Sunday and so the mission staff do the meal preparation. It was quite an interesting dinner. As we were relaxing on the patio, one of the roosters let out a mighty squak and we looked out to see Phalice had him by the tail feathers. We had been talking about chicken dinner, and the roosters had been so obnoxious with their crowing. We were trying to get enthused about our own twist on rice and beans and then, voila! Rooster. Another rooster was rounded up and the planning proceeded. Kathy, always one to learn a new bush skill, got in on the plucking. Meanwhile, Hanna and I got lessons from Phalice and Bethany on charcoal baking. We made a chocolate cake from a mix. Cooked on coals in a pan, on a dirt base under an aluminum pot. A little intimidating. But it worked!

Meanwhile, back in the cook hut, Victoria has offered to cook a Nigerian meal, using the chicken, rice and whatever else we could round up. After cooking the rice we mushed it up and then she showed me how to toss it in a bowl to a smooth round ball before placing it on the platter. Tuo shinkafa. We made a vegetable curry with broth, tomato paste, garlic, onions peanut butter, and a vegetable like chard. While all this was going on, the two old roosters were being boiled away, head, feet and all. We used this stock for the curries. Victoria transferred the boiled chicken into hot oil and fried it. Then she taught me how to make a wonderful curry paste sauce to toss the chicken in. The flavors were wonderful but those old roosters were so tough. We chewed and chewed. Sucked all the wonderful flavor off. But most of the meat was unchewable. The end to the feast was the chocolate cake, which was enjoyed by all. Dinner was followed by singing songs of praise outside under the full moon. We are all recharged now and ready to take on the new week.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Message from Rick

We finished the Pastor's Workshop with three men preaching and then I commented on their sermons. They have made huge progress and are really focused on preaching Bible passages. I am encouraged as is Eli. He has announced follow up sessions beginning next Friday so that the men can continue to benefit from and build on the training. Thanks for praying!

Saturday in Yabus


Today was Saturday, a break from classes. Rick finished his workshop and graduated the participants. Then he and Eli and Val drove some of the students and their families to Belatuma, about an hour (20 miles) away over very rough roads. Back at camp, the ladies enjoyed visiting, doing some housework. We walked over to the nearby Maban village where the ladies are doing the beadwork. Many had gone into town and so it was mostly children and a few women left behind to watch the still where they were making a local type of Mash. We rested over the hottest hours. Phalice is feeling better but is taking it easy to fully recover. Bethany and I rode into the town to visit her friend who is sick. I had an interesting conversation with several Muslim men visiting from Khartoum who own shops down here while Bethany gave medicine to her friend. They had come into the shop for coffee. It was a pleasant conversation. The coffee was delicious and we were also treated to warm cups of kierkede (sp?) which is tea made from the hybiscus. Brought back fond memories of Khartoum many years ago. We also dropped off a few supplies at the clinic that we had had donated. It was such fun to ride with Bethany on the quad bike.

Late in the afeternoon, after the truck got back several of us loaded into the truck and headed down the road to get as close to Bee Rock, where we climbed to the top to see the beginning of a beautiful sunset. The color is impossible to capture on film but I'll include a picture of the team at the top of the rock. The Faders, and Stephen and Victoria and their family, Thomas, Asule, Cambera all made the trek with us. It was quite a treat. We headed back to get home before dark.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we (the team) are headed into town to the Maban church where Stephen will be preaching. As we worship here in Sudan we will be thinking of our churches back home and our friends and supporters there.
Blessings.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday At Camp

Today was focused much on school. In addition to teaching our last group of students the intro to computer class, Hanna and I took over English class to give Phalice a day to recover. It was so much fun. Cathy did such a good job of caring for her (as she does for all of us). Val helped haul sand up and helped with all the keys and locks. He, as well as the others all pitched in to help the students with the computers. In this class there were a few students who had been on computers before. But most were so new. They are really starting at ground zero. The problem is that they won't have ready access to the computers to practice so it will be slow progress. The computers get very hot and it is dusty around here, no matter how clean we try to keep the room. Not sure how long they will last and the students will be so disspointed if they lose access. Any good ideas about how to prolong their life would be much appreciated.

We don't know how hot it was here today. Kathy's thermometer only goes to 120-degrees and it reached that in no time flat. And so when we weren't teaching we sat on the screened porch and moved as little as possible. Though we are hot it doesn't seem to slow down the locals. All day long the ladies walk by with huge loads of sticks and things on their heads. The children bring fish back from the river. All who pass through are so friendly and stick out their hands to shake, huge smiles on their faces. Men, women, children. All are anxious to greet us. Even the babies.

Just got the word: power is going down. More later.

Medical Treatments in Doro

We had a good day today. I (Andrew) had good day in clinic, seeing patients with strep throat, doing prenatal checkup for 1st trimester OB patient, treating URI and bronchitis. I actually diagnosed a patient with lymphogranula verneurm (enlarged lymph node from STD) since we have that back home as well. One interesting patient was a young man who came with his uncle. They belong to the Falata tribe which is a nomadic tribe that originated from Nigeria many years ago. They don't even speak the local language so I had to go through 2 translators (good thing his uncle spoke Arabic) to get a history. He was very striking looking, handsome and dressed in their tribal clothing. I have seen some of their women in the market and they all wear a long black colorful flowing gown. The women are also tall and striking looking. Throughout my history and exam, the uncle had to constantly go out and check their donkeys. I took a picture of them on the donkey on the way out. There is one child of 1 year old at the nutrition village that is quite ill. The nutrition "village" is a small enclosed area right by our compound that they treat babies and child with severe malnutrition. They get fed with high caloric food every 3 hours around the clock. Imagine an enclosed dirt field with 2 tents, a small shelter and about 20-30 people (the sick child plus their family) lying on the ground under the tree getting treated and fed. With the severe malnutrition, they are prone to getting all kinds of potential deadly diseases. I saw this child few days ago and she was struggling to breathe with pneumonia. I gave her Albuterol on top of antibiotics and for a time, she was getting better but she took a turn for the worse today. We told the parents we're going to do all we can for her but it will be up to God to heal. I started an IV and adding another powerful IV antibiotics. Before I can do the IV, Dean had to construct an "IV pole" for me on the branch of the tree. I think that was my first outdoor IV! Please pray for this little girl as the family is quite distraught but they say they have been praying to God for healing. They came from far away for treatment. Dean worked hard putting up a draining system on the room of the building they use for community health school. He put up a small solar cell stand for one of the tukkul. He seems to be having a good time and is putting his talented skills to use.

Life In Doro

This description by Andrew of life in Doro is passed along from his wife, Shirley:

I want to give you a glimpse of what life is like here. Overall, it feel a lot like camping but because it is a enclosed compound here. This reminds me of what I imagine what a colonial life is like. I sleep in a small canvas tent. I have 2 beds, one of which has a mattress. The bed is made of wooden sticks and the inside area made of colorful nylon strings. The compound is enclosed with wood sticks and straws. There are permanent tukkuls (made of straw roof and mud walls), and small all straw tukkuls that serve as cooking and storage areas (like a kitchen and pantry). There are 4-5 tents like the one I am sleeping in. There are shower areas made with straw enclosure. There is no roof but a bucket on top that we have to get water to put in the bucket for showers. There are 2 "outhouses". There is one big "community room" where we all eat and have meetings. Every morning we have morning devotion and morning prayer. After some breakfast of bread and PB, I'd go to the clinic. I'd walk outside the compound and walk about 10 minutes, I'd pass by pigs, goat, beautiful Nim trees and Baobab trees. The baobab trees now doesn't have any leaves. I'd pass by children who'd call out "kwaja, kwaja" (foreigner, foreigner). I'd pass by women with heavy buckets on top of their head, maybe a few donkey carts. What an interesting commute?! Huh?! Once I get to the clinic, there would be a bunch of people waiting for us just outside the clinic who had already gotten a number to be seen. I have seen all sorts of diseases, some common in US, some not so common, and some I have only read about in medical school. Dean is very good at building all sorts of things and he is very much a blessing here as he is building shelves, fixed a hammock for missionary here, and making the clinic easier place to work. now the heat, the dust, the inconveniences of daily living is starting to get to me. I have to borrow a basin or bucket for simple things such as washing my face or doing my own laundry . I know I am coming to the difficult stretch and I just need to grind my way day to day. God will provide the strength and endurance I need.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quick Shout Out

The power supply is very low tonight so this will be brief. Thankfully Rick seems to have made a full recovery and had a wonderful session today. He thanks you for your prayers. Phalice is now under the weather with some bug so please add her to your prayers. Hanna and I are team teaching her classes in the morning. We are all a little overheated and trying to keep cool as best we can. Please have good green salads, maybe a cobb salad(?) and milkshakes waiting for us at home! Actually, we are very well taken care of here. More than the green salads, we miss our loved ones. Know you are in our thoughts and prayers. Hopefully both the solar batteries and our own batteries will be recharged in the morning.

With love.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wednesday: Learning Computers and other things...

It is getting difficult to tell what day it is, but since yesterday was market day it must be Wednesday. Whatever stole my energy gave it back over the night and today I could be productive again. Praise God! Now it is Rick that has lost his so we pray that he gets a quick recovery as well. For several of us, much of today was spent preparing for our first computer class. For some unknown reason I am the head teacher of this subject, though others on the team are equally qualified: at home we all use a computer every day. Imagine trying to explain, step by step how one goes about using a computer to young men who have never in their life been on one. Fortunately, these students are very eager to learn and I don't think they caught on as to how foreign this teaching thing is to me. We had our first group of six students and each had a computer. We went through the basics of how to turn on a computer, how to open Word, how to type a few words, how to save the document and how to turn off the computer. All at the same time we have to teach about the battery and power because we are running off the solar panels and need to be on the batteries as much as possible to conserve the energy. Some were very reluctant to move the cursor around, some very aggressive. It is difficult not to get too wrapped up in correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation as these young men are still learning all these things (my family will laugh as I am still often corrected on these things myself!) Those that were making quick progress were beginning to write the stories of their lives. One had written that he "first came to earth in Sudan in 1986 when his family was shifting to the bush." I want to hear more of his story. Phalice and I discussed a future book with some of these stories put together.

Earlier in the day Val, Hanna and I had a marvelous experience out in the kitchen hut for the school. We had gone down to have morning tea (actually breakfast) with the students during their first break. The school does not have a bell and so things happen not so much on time. Since we got there early we entered the kitchen hut where two wonderful women, Mary and ?? were busy preparing for the mid-day meal. They were so tickled to have company. We sat down and did our limited visiting (limited by language that is). We learned each other's names (obviously not too well). Mary was in the middle of peeling garlic and Val, who I've learned cannot sit without doing something useful, started peeling garlic as well. Soon we were all peeling garlic. The other cook was straining lentils from water and putting them in a pot to cook. I wanted to get a picture of the three of us peeling garlic with Mary so attempted to show the other how to take a picture. While it was quite entertaining, we only met with moderate success. We got a picture of the wall behind us, but we pretended that was exactly what we wanted and the women were very excited. The whole encounter was precious.

We were then joined by the students who came on break. We had a nice visit with many of them. Peter, who had joined us, showed pictures of his home. One of the young men told me that he had a daughter also named Jennifer. I asked him where he got that name. He told me that he looked in a magazine and saw the name and it looked pretty in writing so he chose it. Another young man there told me that he had six children. This man appears to be in his early twenties. He told me that he started young: they were 14 and 15 years old. In discussing the situation with the team later, I learned that this is quite common because so much of their population was lost in the war. Something like 32,000 reduced to 8,000.

This evening, I just came from the student's worship service which I attended with Phalice and some of the other team members. Several of them gather on Wednesday evenings. The singing was beautiful: about a dozen young men harmonizing beautifully in a beautiful language. Often one took the lead. Sort of like the music I've heard from "Lion King" I believe. I was able to digitally record some of the music and when I have an opportunity (it may not be until I return to the states) I'll try to post it to the blog. When they came to a break, the student that I had visited with earlier at tea asked that "his daughter Jennifer" pray (he's the one with the daughter that I share names with). And so I had the privilege to pray for these young men and their families and the school and the teachers. Praying out loud is not something I've a lot of experience with but, just like so many things on this trip, God led me through.

Tomorrow morning some of us from the team are going with Bethany to the nearby Maban village where the women do bead work. Those that went to the market yesterday bought beads which we will take to them and ask them to create some jewelry for us. We will have our second round of first computer class in the afternoon, and in the evening, the women of the team are hosting a special Ladies Night for the women here on the compound. We will do our best to pamper them (which takes some mighty creativity with the resources here and with what we brought). I am just floored with how hard these ladies work. With their dedication to the people of this country. To their patience and acceptance of conditions here. I am very humbled.

Good night (good day for you back home).

Pastor's Workshop (Rick Calenberg)

Today was the second day of the Pastors’ Workshop on Biblical Preaching being held at the Uduk Church in Yabus town. So far 24 pastors (mostly lay elders) have come for this weeklong training. One of my supporting churches supplied the money to feed these men, some who have trekked in for hours to be here.

On the first day, I challenged them with the responsibility to “Preach the Word” (the theme of the workshop) and gave five reasons why preaching the Bible (not personal opinion or telling stories) is so crucial to the spiritual well being and growth of the flocks they help shepherd. Some of these men are very young (early 20s) and very young in the faith. They constitute the leadership of churches newly planted in their areas. Some are Uduks who have Genesis, Psalms and the New Testament translated into their language. Others are Mabaan who likewise only have the NT. The Gonza and Koma have no Scriptures in their language and are listening in Uduk. Some of these men cannot read. I think you are beginning to understand the challenge of helping this group of spiritually hungry and teachable men be able to preach the Word of God to their people!

I am giving the some basic principles of Bible study as the basis of trying to understand the meaning of a text of Scripture. Tonight they are looking at Luke 5:16-26 and having to answer the Who? What? When? Where? Why? questions. It will be very interesting to see what they come up with. Africans tend to spiritualize the interpretation of the Bible and make immediate application of a passage often missing the basic meaning. A logical sequential process of asking questions of the text to understand what it meant back then before asking how it applies today is not part of their way of thinking or approach to the Bible. So, assuming they can understand what they are reading, we have a big task to help these men become biblical preachers!

Please pray for me and for my translator, Joseph Malkan. He is the only ordained man in the district and only one who really hears my English. Pray that he will be able to interpret what I am saying about interpreting the Bible! There are three more days of the conference and I hope to also speak to them on spiritual, servant leadership.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More on Market Day

(Guest scribe Kathy on Market day experience) We were going to take the truck to town, but a tractor got stuck on the bridge so the truck couldn't get through and we needed to walk. It was ok. We walked fairly slow and drank a lot on our way. The market was fun...mostly stuff that we wouldn't want, but I saw some cool stuff too. We saw Ethiopian coffee pots (kind of a clay ball with a spout that they put grass of some sort to filter the coffee when then pour it into cups). The other day when we had tea and coffee at a little village, one of the ladies roasted beans over fire, then ground them and made coffee over charcoal in this same kind of pot. She first made tea for us, which is kind of like chai tea, and both drinks have lots of sugar. Today we visited a moslem friend of Bethany's who has a little coffee and tea shop in town. She and Bethany are very fond of one another, and Bethany's baby Joshua loves this woman. Joshua let me hold him too while we were having tea. Bethany and I had tea, and Val and Hanna had coffee. The coffee is hot, sweet, spicy and strong. And both are served in juice glasses, which are really hot to touch. However that's nothing compared to the women picking up hot charcoal from the fire. Victoria, who is married to one of the teachers here, said you can't be a real African woman if you can't pick up hot charcoal from the fire. And I thought I had abestos hands. We tried to pay for the coffee and tea, but she said we were guests today, but we could pay next week. We bought greens, mangos and oranges. We ate mangos at lunch and they were delicious. We also bought beads that we're going to take to some local women so that they can make us necklaces or bracelets. And I bought a red arabic dress that loose and hopefully cool. We walked back at the end of the market tour, as the truck was still stuck at the bridge. Malesh!

Latest Update from Andrew and Dean in Doro

Sunday night, the Commissioner of this county (equivalent to the Governor) invited us (the ST and the LT missionaries) to dinner. We had the VIP treatment as he sent 2 land cruisers (one of which his personal) to pick us up at the compound and took us to town. We had dinner at a place run by a Ugandan woman. We (9 of us) sat outside on dirt, the place was fenced around with grass. Right out are animals, what looks like garbage dump and kids and adults staring at us eating. We were given cold soft drinks (cokes!), served a large meal with 2 different kinds of potatoes, sweet potato, chicken and goat stew. Despite the unreal atmosphere, the food was quite good. We chatted with the commission about all sorts of things (his wife and daughter lives in America and he actually is an American citizen). We chatted about politics in Sudan, what problems he faces as he tries to improve the lives of the people here. It was quite an educational and fun experience. Monday Andrew started working at the clinic. It was an extremely busy day but we saw all sorts of stuff. We saw stuff like Malaria, various GI diseases, and even a case of Oncho! I certainly can appreciate the difficulties of working through a translator, working through various cultural issues and the lack of diagnostic tests. We had to treat based on symptoms alone. Andrew went along on a "house call" to treat a patient in a nearby village. We had no clue where the patient was but it was by God's help we found people along the way who spoke just enough English to point the way for us to find her. When we found her, she was lying on a cot outside. She clearly was ill but I think she is improving from urosepsis. The conditions are just as what you'd imagine is a very primitive 3rd world country. I biked back from the village, even though it was around 6 pm, it was 105+ but I had a lot of fun. Dean worked in 100+ heat to put up the rebar (support for partitioning) in the clinic. He is dirty, hot but is loving every minutes of it!!

Market Day

(From Val, guest scribe) Last night was a special time at the dinner hour. It was so hot in the dining room that we went outside. And heard one of the African staff playing her guitar from her tukul. We invited her out and then sang hymns in the dark. Praise is a 3 year old African boy and he stole the show with his singing. Jennifer said she has recorded some of his songs for us to enjoy forever.
Today was market day in Yabus. So, most of us planned to take it in. Rick started his “Pastor’s Conference” this morning. He left on the back of a quad with 2 others. Not your typical mode of transport for a church conference. He reported a good turn out and mentioned more would be there the rest of the time since the market would then be closed.
At breakfast the hot water was all gone by the time I got there, so I poured my luke warm crystal light over my instant oats. While there Thomas came in, I asked him how he slept. His answer was, “I think this camp should eat more chicken, starting with the rooster.”
It was very hot in my tukul last night. Because it takes along time to cool down from the 124 degree high of the day.
Our group of shoppers left in the pickup because we were taking 9 bags of sorghum in for grinding. However, there turned out to be a tractor broken down on the bridge, leaving no way around except by foot. We locked up the pickup and set off.
Before leaving Peter asked Thomas how will we know how to find the market. In his dry Switzland accent he replied, “when you see all the parked donkeys you have arrived.
At the market we had to experience the local coffee house. While inside Kathy looked at her temperature gauge and it read 100 degrees. We bought some greens that look like basil, which Bethany’s family will enjoy tonight with their dinner.
As you can see its happening place, but I think I’ll close for now.
Another Servant, Val

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yabus is Hot

Today was very hot. Someone just told me it was 124-degrees. That explains why it has been a little slow moving around. We did accomplish some things this morning. Val got some painting done. Kathy started sorting through the things we brought to ready them for dispersal. Rick met with some elders to plan the preachers conference. Peter, Hanna and I began planning for and setting up the computer lab. A few of the guys got up in the middle of the night to catch the news on the Superbowl. Then mostly we rested and tried to keep as cool as possible. This is about all I have energy to write about today. Please pray for good heat coping strategies and an adjustment to the heat. I think it will get better as we get used to it. With love from Yabus!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

News from Doro!

We were so excited to get word from Andrew and Dean in Doro. Here is what they had to share with us (will finish tomorrow, battery is on empty):

Yesterday, (sat) we went to the market and that was a fascinating cultural experience seeing people of different tribes. We even met a UN convoy made up of Cambodians and they are here to demine all the land mines around here. According to Dean, they are some of the best in the world to do this kind of job. Saturday was supposed to be an off day, but God has brought a very sick child with cerebral malaria, a women with TB and another child struggling with pneumonia in the nutrition clinic. I am getting my feet wet learning from Sara (a physician's assistant). this morning we had church right outside the compound under trees. it is the exact location where early missionary had a house when SIM first made its presence. just 50 yards away, I can see the tombstone of 3 missionaries that lost their lives here for the cause. what a privilege and honor to worship along with my Mabaan brothers and sisters! Dean and I are doing quite well and well taken care of. we are getting to know the ST and \LT missionaries here and each has story of sacrifice and dedication for the cause of the gospel. thank you for your prayers, God has certainly taught and shown us much in just a day and a half. We look forward to what god has in store!

Sunday in Sudan

Last night we enjoyed a dinner of rice and vegetable soup. The highlight was the fresh homemade bread. This is the staple bread here and is made a few times a week. Yeast based, similar to pizza dough, pita size rounds, cooked on the sides of a large, wok sized bowl over a charcoal fire. The Faders had arranged to have a large bonfire in the central area of the compound. Val and Ely had gone out and gathered wood earlier for this occasion. We were treated to a lovely musical program from the SIM Sudan choir. Our team attempted “Awesome God” in return. It was obvious the SIM Sudan choir is much more experienced than our sorry choir!

This morning we split up into three teams to go to three different church services. Details from the other two will be added by those attending. Blog Scribe set out with Rick and Phalice towards Gondolo about 9:00 for their service. We walked along a bit, practicing a song that we could share with the congregation. After a bit we were joined by a little boy who seemed to just be enjoying our company. Every local we passed greeted us with a handshake a greeting of “Salem Alekum” (sp?) We passed mostly little boys, empty handed, and women (including young girls) hauling loads on their heads, heading toward the river and town.

Pretty soon we were joined by a young boy who seemed to enjoy just walking with us. After a bit, I asked him “Gondolo?” hoping that he could help guide us if needed. Yes, he nodded, and so we walked in. We came to a few paths that turned off the main “road” and each time we asked “Gondolo?” He shook his head so we continued on. We went a good long while and then realized, by the clock that we should already be at Gondolo, so we pointed ahead on the road we were traveling, inquiring “Gondolo?” Oh no, he shook his head and pointed back to the way we had come. So we turned around and headed back down the road. We came across a woman carrying a large load of sticks on her head. She answered our “Gondolo?” with a point back down the road towards our origination. So the young boy kept with us and, when we were almost back to where we had started, and come to think about it, about where he had joined us, he took us down a path and nodded affirmatively to “Gondolo.” We traveled on this new path quite a distance and eventually came to some scattered huts. They were empty so we hoped all were at church, and hoped that it was nearby. Finally we came to a small group of children, many tending babies, and then we heard singing so followed that to the church. We were so late, because of our detour, they were just finishing. We were greeted warmly. Phalice recognized a few. We took group photos and then we went into the church. Suspended from the crossbeams of the ceiling were small stuffed animals, a few Pez dispensers and various toys. It was the strangest sight. We think it may be items that had come with care packages and since they do not play with these things in this part of the world they were used to decorate the church. Or maybe they were offerings.

We found out that our young guide was actually from Gondolo, and that is probably why he answered affirmatively when we asked “Gondolo?” He probably wanted to see where we were going all along when we were on the wrong road. His name, it turns out, is Solomon.

We were seated and they sang a lovely song for us. A young gentleman was able to translate quite swiftly. We introduced ourselves and brought greetings from our home churches. Rick gave a nice shortened sermon (since they had already sat through an entire service before we arrived). He spoke of peace and God’s protection in making peaceful choices when confronted and offered great words of encouragement. I was surrounded on the woman’s side by nursing mothers. All there, including the youngsters, listened with great interest to what Rick had to say.

Following the service, and goodbye handshakes, a small group took us over to the school compound. Here, about 120 students are getting primary education. They must come from a great distance around, as the village itself, had only maybe a dozen huts. The school consisted of four open sided buildings with grass roofs. The seats the children sat on were mere poles (which if you consider how little padding they have on their backsides must make for a long day and difficult to sit still). A blackboard was in the front of each “room”. The one we went in had a lesson on hygiene and keeping health by keeping clean.

One of the young men from the village and Solomon agreed to take us back to the road, and it turned out that they actually lived in a hut along the way. The mother of the young man came out to meet us and stuck out her hand to shake. It was very wet and the air was thick with fish odor. I think we interrupted a fish cleaning. But shaking hands is very important here, no matter what the person is in the middle of doing so we shook, regardless of reservations. We didn’t stay long. We were all getting weary and anxious to get back to our own place. By this time we had been traveling more than three of the four hours we were gone and it was in the mid-day sun. In fact, when we arrived back “home” I had a minor collapse. Team mates were quick to revive with a foot soaking and cooling cloths. Those that had been to the other services were just arriving back. They had been able to participate in the services and have tea with the hosts at the other churches. The heat got to many of us this day and so we rested much of the afternoon. Rick helped take the Fader boys to the river to play.

This is Sunday so the Missionaries are on their own for meal preparation. Bethany and Victoria put together a wonderful spaghetti dinner that we all shared outside under the covered patio. It was a wonderful ending to a full day. Tomorrow (Monday) school starts back in session. The students have been straggling in to start the new semester. Some are not expected to arrive for a while as they have to walk across an area where there is tribal unrest and may have to wait for things to settle down before it is safe for their travel. This creates a bit of a dilemma for staff as they have a lot of material to cover and don’t want to leave those arriving later too far behind. These are the kind of challenges that the school faces.

This week Rick will work with Eli and a local church in guiding the elders of the community in leading churches. Peter will be teaching a Bible study to the school students. Kathy will be helping Phalice organize information to share with folks about what to expect when they come to this area on mission trips. Val will lead a variety of building and maintenance projects which the rest of us will support as we can. Hanna, Peter and I will also be helping set up the computer lab and figure out an approach to teaching the students how to use them. We’ll be working with James who will be the main instructor for computer knowledge. We’ll also be supporting Anter with his agriculture program, perhaps figuring out the bucket irrigation systems we brought and see what seeds we brought they may want to start. It’s a pretty full week and we are all worn out so that’s all for now folks. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday in Yabus


First night was restless for some. Though those not sleeping got to hear drum beats, barking dogs, crying babies, braying donkeys, and in the morning, rats scurrying around the tin roof and the roosters. Rick found that grass roofed huts are not good for hay fever, so he’s been moved to a tent, where he’s had to chase away an ant colony that had taken residence underneath.

Today we all split up. Phalice took Rick and Peter into town as she had some sorghum to be ground. Upon arrival, they found that the grinder had not been working for a few days. Peter was able to figure out what the problem was and helped them make the necessary repairs, using adhesive tape from the first aid kit found in the trunk, etc. Seems rats had chewed through the tubing used for chilling the grinder. When the grinder finally fired up, the sound must have been music to the town’s ears, as while the sorghum was being ground, many people started showing up with their own grains to grind. While in town, Rick broke bread with some Arab Muslim locals. What a special experience.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, Val tried to organize some men on a project, and as he puts it, they ended up organizing him. We arrived to find Val, gainfully employed in the sun, mixing concrete for a hut floor. Seems they had taken advantage of his helpful spirit. Some of the men asked Eli how much Val was getting paid, certain, I’m sure, that he was getting higher wages. They seemed disappointed to find out Val was volunteering. They said “no one works for free.” Val sure showed them.

And the ladies were taken by Bethany and Victoria (with their babies strapped to their backs) down the path to a small community where many of the students live. There we experienced an under the tree gathering. The locals all introduced themselves with an outstretched hand, a smile and a greeting. Men, women and children alike. When we arrived the littlest children were naked, but most were dressed in very ragged clothes by the time we left, about three hours later. In the trees overhead, racks of filleted fish from the river were drying in the sun. In front of one of the huts, an older woman squated (it’s hard to tell ages. She may have been in her fifties, but looked very old. Life here is hard). She was pounding on these things that look like dates, but are very hard and bitter. They have quinine qualities and are used for a cure for malaria. This woman was peeling them and getting the nuts ready to process for oil.

We were seated under a shade tree, and others slowly gathered around. They were all so happy to see Bethany. We shook hands and did our best to visit with all the ones who had brought stools to join us. There were men and women alike. Lots of children, also happy to meet us. After some visiting they wanted their pictures taken. A little girl was very busy holding an infant while the mother was busy with something in her hut. Then this enterprising young girl washed several small juice glasses, while another woman boiled water over a charcoal fire adjacent to where we were sitting. The small glasses were filled halfway with coarse sugar and passed out to us. Then hot tea was added to the glasses and we sat and sipped with the group. Then I looked over and the woman at the fire was sorting through a pan of green coffee beans which then went into a shell of some sort over the fire. Soon we smelled roasting coffee. As we visited, this woman transferred the roasted beans into a container and began pounding them. This time, small coffee cups, half filled with sugar were passed out. Next one of the men came around with a gourd filled with fresh roasted coffee. It was so delicious.

Behind the tree under which we were sitting, were new hut walls. Roofless though. Bethany explained that the home was being built by a woman with four children whose husband had left two years ago. Nobody was sure where he had gone. Apparently this happens quite often. Anyway, no more than fifteen minutes after Bethany told that story, I noticed a man in soldier uniform coming down the path behind. This caught my eye as we have heard about problems with the army in this area. A few minutes later the man came to join us under the tree, with a child in his arms. Turns out it was the husband of the woman building the hut. He had been in the army and told us he had built a home in a place about two days bike ride away. He was planning to move his family there. The wife had gone to gather grass for the roof and had not seen his return yet. We were all caught up in the romance of the moment, guessing we would see a joyous reunion. The man sat with us a while, with his child (photo at left), but eventually left. Shortly after that the wife returned and came to join us under the tree. Bethany asked if she was excited to see her husband. She was not. Said she didn’t want to see him. She’s probably a little angry about being left to raise the four children with no notice. It’s a bit of a pinch me moment to be there to witness all this. What are the chances of being there when the missing returned? However, it was not a Prodigal son moment! We visited a while later, then asked permission to leave. We were graciously excused and wandered back to the SIM camp. Here, we just had our first camp lunch: rice and a lentil stew, which I understand we will have every day. It was good, though will probably loose its charm after the sixth or seventh day in a row. Now we are in the hottest part of the day where we rest. Hanna is having her hair braided by Victoria. Tonight we will have a fire after dinner and discuss plans for church tomorrow.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Into Yabus


Yabus!

Thursday we had our last breakfast in the Free Pentecostal Guest House, following a great devotional by Dean. We did yet another sorting and repacking because we heard that we would be allowed less weight into Loki than we had originally thought. Then the team that was going to run out and pick up burgers from Wimpies (yes!) walked to the wrong shopping plaza, then got lost, a few times. They finally had to order a cab and drive around to familiar territory before they could find their way back, and so lunch arrived about the same time as the van did to drive us to the airport. However, nobody got hurt this time, and we made it to the airport. Stuart, a fine young Scottish gentleman who has been working with SIM, joined us as he is going into Doro for his next stint. He recently completed several months in Yabus so he was able to give us a preview of what to expect.

At the airport, God had our back: no complaints about our extra pounds. We took off on time, in about an 18 seater plane. A nice round of “Happy Birthday” was sung by all plane occupants for Rick. A little choppy going up and descending, but in between it was smooth. As we descended into Loki (Lokichoggio) it really felt like we had finally arrived in Africa. In other words, we were landing in a town in the middle of nowhere. Getting closer we saw small circles which were fences built around huts and compounds. Eventually, near a river, near a ridge, several buildings were spotted, and then the landing strip.

We were greeted by Debbie (the aforementioned SIMmer heading to Theangriol) and Leah, who is SIM logistics person in Loki. We unloaded all our things and headed to the storage crate where the boxes we had sent ahead had been kept. We had to weigh all our personal bags and declare our own personal body weight (mortifying…but not a good time to be dishonest). When all this weight was totaled Leah figured that we had to shed a certain amount of kilos, so we sorted and repacked again. More items were left in the crate and we think they will be arriving around the 10th.

Then we hopped a taxi (well, really three) and headed to the guest house. Driving through town, there was a mix of people (different tribes), business shacks, a very rutted main road. Just a typical day in town. Dean, Andrew and Stuart went off in another truck to change money and pick up food supplies for Doro. The taxis we were in turned off the main road, seemed to just go over the side of the road really, headed down a rutted creek bed and then arrived at a gate which was the guest house compound. We were greeted there and checked into our rooms. Deborah and Clair and a few other SIMers heading out to other posts were also there. Our rooms were simple, clean, two to a room, mosquito nets provided. Showers and squatty potties at one end of the compound. Settled in and then gathered up again for taxi rides to go out to a nice dinner at African Experience, fondly referred to as “Afex.” Had a lovely dinner outside. Addition to our group were about six other SIM missionaries and two families (wives and children) of missionaries (from Ethiopia) currently stationed in Abwong, where violence has broken out and so the fathers have sent the women there to live until safe to return (these are really long sentences and I know constructed poorly, but I am tired and have so much to catch you up on so please bare with. Spelling too!) Dinner was all you can eat buffet: the stew that seems to be served at all meals, some grilled meat, soups, cooked vegetables, watermelon, custard. One more round of “Happy Birthday” sung to our fearless leader by all around the table. When we got ready to leave one of the taxis had a flat tire (understandable, given the roads) so we waited around for the change. Back to the guesthouse, showers and a fitful night sleep. It was plenty hot.

We got up early and headed to Leah’s home at the SIM compound for a good breakfast and fellowship. We got word that the plane we were to catch was running behind so we stayed a little longer, played with the children. Dean and Val took a little walk and got stopped by the police for questioning. Police presence is heavy in Loki (we know of others who have had cameras taken, etc.). Fortunately, they were let go without too much trouble but Val was happy he didn’t have his camera on him.

From there we went to the airport. Got our passports checked for travel into Sudan, went out to the storage crate and went through things….again. Had to get rid of a few boxes for later delivery. However, we had a few bags that we put on the dolly to be added to the plane if it was ok with the pilot. The plane arrived, unloaded, we loaded. The few things that were “iffy” got on, and we were off. Flight was uneventful. Flying over Southern Sudan, we realized how remote we will be. No roads. Just brush, an occasional river bed, some huts here and there, and finally the landing strip at Yabus, which really was in the middle of nowhere. Eli Fader and a few of the locals with the school were waiting for us. Unloaded our gear into the Yabus truck, and then said our farewells to Andrew, Dean and Stuart. We rode on our stuff in the back of the truck. The roads were a mess. Cannot imagine what it would be like in the wet season. The ruts were wild. We went through a dry river bed: just like a roller coaster. Ducking the thorn trees stretching over the road. As we got closer to the town, we passed many women, carrying loads on their heads and babies on their backs. Everybody called out and waved. Children ran to get their hands touched. Big smiles all around. “Hello” and “How are you” rang out. Outside of the town we came to the river that separates the SIM compound from the main town. Water was low enough so we could drive over the bridge but all around women washing, boys fishing, kids swimming. Another roller coaster ride and we were through and entering the SIM compound. Phalice and the other missionary staff were all waiting our arrival. It’s always so nice to have people waiting to see you! All so friendly, beautiful. Hands to help unload.

We’ve now settled in. We are definitely in a village but it’s impressive how all have made this a home. Beds and mosquito nets waiting for us. The men are in their own tukil (grass roof, mud walled hut). We are all with Phalice. Quite a palace: a nice screened in front porch, two beds in two rooms. A shower at one end of the building (which is basically a bucket with a spout that you climb up and turn on and refill when done. Sun warmed. And further down the path, the potty. Not a flusher but has a seat! (Hope this isn’t TMI, but only helpful for you to imagine). We’ve already held babies, sat and visited with the missionaries and women, ate a communal dinner: ugali (the staple that is like very thick cream of wheat), fish stew and fried fish.

I am having a very had time uploading pictures so will keep trying, but in the meantime, words will have to suffice. It’s actually miraculous to me that we are even able to keep in contact with the internet. Tomorrow, Saturday, some will walk into town with Phalice to get some sorghum ground, a few of us are walking with Bethany Fader to visit with the women and children, wives of the students of the BELC. I’ve been promised a cooking lesson over charcoal. Maybe on Sunday.

Well, the internet is out for the night. Hopefully we can post this in the morning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday in Nairobi







This was a day of extremes. From the Kibera slum to dinner at a fine restaurant, our day was plentiful. Breakfast at the guest house was followed by our group devotional, led by Andrew. 1 Corinthians 4: 14…++. This was followed by a very moving and special witness by Debbie, currently serving SIM in Theangreol. We have been awed and inspired by the people whom we’ve met who are willingly and graciously doing God’s work in the Sudan and Kenya.

We then walked to the SIM offices to take care of some business. Unfortunately we had another team member go down on the walk to the office. We lost one to the sewer yesterday and one to a pothole today. An Ace bandage and Neosporin was procured and we are hopeful of a full recovery. At the SIM office, our team members who are going to Doro (Dean and Andrew) met with the medical director and found out more about their assignments. Perhaps it may have been better if one of their major assignments was kept as a surprise. Apparently the latrine in Doro is nearing capacity and a new one is badly in need of digging. They have a (word I’ve been asked not to use) job ahead!

Then we arranged for a driver to take us to a small shopping center. There, at a sort of international food court, we settled on Indian fare, which was quite good. Next we went to procure the last necessitites needed for our flight into Sudan: toilet paper, mosquito nets and rat poison. What a telling combination!

Next, we had the special experience of going into the Kibera slum. If you’ve seen the movie “The Constant Gardner” this is the place. We were taken in by Raul, who has a ministry that focuses on bringing the gospel to the Muslims in Kabari. Kibera is home to approximately 1-million, the second largest slum in the world (I’m assuming the first is in India). Our preconceived ideas of being swarmed by aggressive, pick-pocketing beggars were not what we experienced. Adults humbly went about their business, running shops selling things you would never expect to be sold in shops, many hairdressers, frightening butcher shops, linens. Several churches. Stores were mostly mud or tin faced, with corrugated tin roofs. The outer layers of the slum were relatively garbage free, but the further we got in, the more trash we encountered. All in all though, not too bad. The ground was rough with water running randomly across and beside. But the most remarkable thing were the children. “How are you” (imagine in a pinched English accent) ringing out wherever we went. Little hands reaching out for a shake. Enormous smiles and shy grins. All they wanted was to be acknowledged. School was just getting out and we crossed paths with so many happy little children. Though some were accompanied by mothers, most were seemingly on their own, happily holding hands and laughing. Some running ahead and alongside our group. Just wanting to greet us. We did not take so many pictures, as it seemed more genuine to relate than to snap and the we tried to be sensitive to the conditions and the adults around. This is something that we will have to remember more in our hearts than on film. The conditions are so very rough. The children so happy. The adults so tired. In one area there was a great deal of activity. Near the edge of the railroad track. Great big panels of corrugated tin were being fastened over the side of the hill. As we looked over the expanse, huge plastic prints of eyes were strewn over the roofs of slum huts below. We found out a French NGO was preparing to shoot a film. The tin on the side of the hill would be covered with these large banner prints of eyes too and a helicopter was to fly over to do the film. A strange thing to happen upon.

We shook many hands through the slum, left hands even as the children put out whatever wasn’t being used to carry backpacks. We met our driver at the other side and when out of sight disinfected (just want our families to know we are being careful). And then returned to the guest house to rest for a few hours before being picked up for dinner. Dinner tonight was at the Carnivore, the best known restaurant in Nairobi. We experienced a multi-course meal. Since we expect to have not much more than beans and rice for the next few weeks this was probably the ultimate opposite. Here, many gracious waiters, in safari get up, were attentively serving this multi-course all you can eat meal. Hang on. Here is the list of what we were offered (the meat being served from large skewers, carved right at the table): cornmeal sticks with tomato chutney; bread rolls and butter; a green salad with vinaigrette; salad; small side dishes of corn, rice, collard green like vegetable; baked potatoes; barbequed pork rib; ostarich meatballs; pork loin; turkey; sausages; chicken livers; chicken; crocodile; alligator (note, not served in this order, just trying to remember); beef; lamb (fortunately all meat pieces were small so you could try everything you wanted and not leave much on the plate uneaten); choice of dessert (the fruit sorbet was the winner); coffee or tea.

Now we are back and most have retired. Internet is VERY slow and not very stable. Things taking forever to load and mostly disconnecting so I will post for tonight (Inshallah) first without pictures, and then, if possible add those in later.

Oh, and thank you to those leaving messages on the blog. We've gotten them all and it's so nice to hear from home!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

WE MADE IT!


After a nice send off from our families, we checked in all the boxes and luggage. The special arrangements for additional weight and pieces were honored and we all cleared security quickly. The North West flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was not full so we could spread out for a more comfortable ride. The second leg was on KLM, and again, no problems. We arrived in Nairobi and had to go through the exercise of getting our Visas to enter. This is done rather archaically, taking several minutes to clear each person. They only work in us $$ and one poor couple ahead only had Euros, so we were able to accommodate them, as Euros will be needed later on by a team member going to Europe in the future. We were able to get a limited Visa, which allowed us entry for $20, instead of the $50 we were expecting. By the time the last of us got our Visas the first had retrieved all of our luggage…yes all of it! All pieces arrived untampered. Then, as a group, we headed through Kenya customs. Rick explained to the fellow there our mission and he waved us all through, no questions asked. We were greeted by Clair, SIM personnel, who showed us to a large bus. All boxes and luggage were lifted to the racks on top of the bus and we were off.

First we had to adjust to riding on the “wrong” side of the road, as here it’s opposite than what we are used to. Just as soon as we were convinced we were not going to be in a head-on, the driver slammed on his brakes as a zebra darted across the road! A herd of about 8 were standing by the side to welcome us into Africa. The road from the airport runs through Nairobi Animal Park.

We headed to the SIM office to drop off the large boxes which are being flown out to Lokichoggio before us. We had to do a bit of baggage repacking and the backpacks that had been donated were put to good use as we loaded them up with some of our extra gear (weight limitations on our next flights are less than what we were allowed for our international flight from the states). After that we were taken to our local housing: the First Pentecostal Free Church Guest House. This is a nice little compound, with maybe about 20 rooms (?). Accommodations, though not the Hyatt, are nice (clean and safe) and most rooms have their own bath and shower. As soon as we dropped off our suitcases we were shown to the dining room where we were served a lovely dinner that they had been holding for our arrival. We had a delicious spread of creamy yellow mashed potatoes, a corn meal cake/porridge, a stew and local greens (much like collards). Also enjoyed were the large bottles of water that we were so happy to have. Ending the evening, we all headed to our respective rooms and collapsed!

In the morning, our light breakfast was followed by a team devotional, which Rick led. This was followed by an orientation meeting, facilitated by Clair. We were fed another wonderful meal at the Guest House (this time fries from those same wonderful yellow potatoes), a cabbage and carrot salad and fresh fried tilapia. I am not sure how my plan for losing weight in Sudan is going to go with such good food (so far) offered at every meal. Up to this point, our exposure had been pretty limited, just a night drive and being well taken care of at the Guest House. However, we walked, as a group to the SIM offices, guessing about a half mile away. Here we got to see a little of the locals, small little shops set up on corners, beggars with mangled feet with their hands out, and some rather aggressive urchins looking for a hand out. But mostly just everyday people going about their every day business, walking to and from the market. The weather was very pleasant though enough sun to darken our skin a little bit. One of the team learned a lesson about watching your step as she stepped off the curb to cross the street and right into a drainage hole in the curb. God was good and only plopped her down on her seat, letting her keep her ankle intact and she didn’t even loose her shoe to the sewer below. Close call.

There was a buzz of activity at the SIM office compound. We were just a handful of the many visitors. One gets the feeling that people come and go in great numbers through the offices and they are quite adept at welcoming hospitality and conducting important business at the same time. We met several missionaries stationed at several Cities. We got an orientation from Jimmy Cox and also took care of some financial business. From here we were driven to the house of Chris and Beverly Crowder where we were given a brief presentation on health (like how to protect it while in Southern Sudan) and local custom and culture. An awesome Ethiopian meal, prepared by Beverly, was served and we were joined by several impressive young adults who live in the compound. Jet lag was catching up with several members (not naming names!) and so we returned to our quarters at the guest house, where some have retired to bed, and others are busy corresponding with loved ones or, in this case, catching the blog up. We have taken some pictures but the camera is across the compound so for now will just try to paint the picture for you with words. We will see more of Nairobi tomorrow and use one more day to rest up before we make the next leg of our journey. Oosiquila (which I think is the phonetic spelling of what the guys in the kitchen just told me to say, signing off in Swahili). “Oosiquila”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Comments to leave?

The blog hosting program, blogger, is not the most friendly set up for leaving comments. At the end of each blog entry there's a place that says "0 comments" (or some other number if we've received any). You can click on that and you will see a box where you can type a comment. If you have a gmail account or are a blogger then you can answer under that option. But if you don't have that or any of the few options it also gives you, you can leave the comment under the "anonymous" option. Just don't forget to sign your name at the end of the comment if you want us to know who you are! You may also be prompted to type in a word that is shown. That's set up so that the site isn't overwhelmed with computer generated spam stuff. Sorry it's not easier to comment. We feel your frustration! But we sure would love to hear any thoughts or things you want to share. If there's a number showing you can click on that and see what comments others have left. Your comment, should you want to leave one, will appear there. Be aware that others reading the blog can see your comments as well. It's a great way for us to see who is following the journey. Just one more great way to support the team! Thanks so much....

It Takes a Village....

...to send our team to a village! Just one more day and then we are out of here. Getting us to the point where we board that plane...well it takes a village of families, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Our families support the funding of our trip, take care of each other and our personal business, support us emotionally, mentally and physically as we prepare. Family members hosted our team during our preparation meetings...fantastic meals were served and hospitality abounded. What love it took in accepting and supporting our decisions to go. This is not a quick trip to Vegas! We are going to a place that isn't easy to get to or to maintain communications from. There are concerns about health and safety. At home bills must be paid, houses maintained, children and pets cared for. We recognize the sacrifices you make leading up to and during our adventure. And I suppose you will have to put up with some adjustment factors when we return home to the nest. So thank you for all that.

Neighbors and friends have jumped in to help take care of our families, our homes, our pets. They have provided personal items for the trip and supplies for the village we are going to. Funds have come from friends that help make this trip possible. And knowing that we are in your thoughts and prayers makes it so much sweeter to get on that plane.

Co-workers take on the extra responsibility to make sure projects and clients are left in good hands. It gives us peace of mind to know that our professional commitments will be covered. It is so wonderful to work with people who support our journey. Your interest in the effort and willingness to do what it takes to get us out of town means so much. Financial support also came from co-workers. You are absolutely wonderful. Knowing you "have our back" makes the thought of returning to the job almost palatable! Thank you for all that and more.

None of us could make the commitment to take on this humanitarian effort without the support of our village. Thank you and bless you for your immeasurable support!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Need You To Survive

At the MLK service at FPCB, we joined hands with our brothers and sisters from Mt. Calvary Christian Center, and closed with this song. This is a good song to go into our trip with. (Can be downloaded from I-Tunes and will definitely be playing on my I-pod as we head over the ocean)

I Need You to Survive (Hezekiah Walker) :

I need you, you need me. We're all a part of God's body. Stand with me, agree with me. We're all a part of God's body. It is his will that every need be supplied. You are important to me, I need you to survive. You are important to me, I need you to survive. I need you, you need me. We're all a part of God's body. Stand with me, agree with me. We're all a part of God's body. It is his will that every need be supplied.You are important to me, I need you to survive. You are important to me, I need you to survive. I pray for you , you pray for me. I love you, I need you to survive. I won't harm you with words from my mouth. I love you, I need you to survive. It is his will, that every need be supplied. You are important to me, I need you to survive.

Monday, January 19, 2009

All Our Bags Are Packed...We're Ready To Go...

Well almost. There are the final preparations: the last few things to gather up; the last few loose ends to tie up; the last few bases to cover. But, for the most part, all items have been gathered and the large boxes packed. The good news is that all the items that had been procured and donated were able to fit into the item number and weight limitations we had to work in. Part of this was possible due to special arrangements through relatives and airlines that allowed us to bring on the needed bridge parts without counting against either limit and some additional weight allowed on two boxes. What a God-send. Literally! It is good to have an ex military man on the team who has lived through the logistics of large group deployment to keep us all organized, inventoried, ordered and packed. Soon we can finish the title song...'cause we're leaving, on a jet plane....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inshallah

in·shal·lah
Pronunciation:
\ˌin-shä\
Function:
foreign term
Etymology:
Arabic in shā' Allāh
: if Allah wills : God willing

Preparing to return to Sudan, the phrase "Inshallah" comes to the front of my mind, to the tip of my tongue. Inshallah = God willing. As I remember, in Sudan, nearly every statement is followed by this expression. It hints at the unpredictability of how things will go. It reminds us that planning is just that: planning and not necessarily how things will go. We say what we want: how we intend things to go. But in the end it is in God's hands. "The plane will leave at 2:00. God willing." "We will have rice for dinner. God willing." "We will meet with the elders in an hour. God willing." You know, that's not a bad approach. An audible, automatic recognition that we are in the hands of God.


While we have plans for this trip, God has his own. And it is good to remind ourselves, as things go according to plan, or not, that God's got our back. That things are going as He has willed. This week, as we finish up all the details of our preparations; as we struggle over decisions as to what fits in and what gets left behind; as we do our best to get our work lives buttoned up and projects covered; as we make leave of our families and friends and do our best to take care of their needs while we are gone: let's not forget that things will be OK, as God has willed, not necessarily as we have planned. Here's to our final week of preparation. May it go smoothly. Inshallah!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Travel Itinerary

For those who are keeping track of our travel, the following schedule gives the calendar details. You will note once we are in Sudan the calendar is fairly open. We do know that we will be there during (and to help with) a major celebration for the school. We understand local officials, dignitaries and SIM officers will be in attendance. We think the celebration will take place around February 11, near the end of our stay. There are lots of things we plan to accomplish while in Yabus and Doro, but those will be on God’s time. That’s a good attitude to adopt when in Sudan. Social interaction takes precedence over agendas and schedules. It will take a mental adjustment for us “westerners” who are oft driven by our “to do” lists and rely on the clock and schedules in our everyday life. My hope is that we will be able to update the blog frequently to keep you posted on how that adjustment is going.

Calenberg Team Schedule:
Sunday, January 25: Southern team contingent flies to Seattle. Joins rest of team to depart to Amsterdam.
Monday, January 26: Arrive in Amsterdam, 2.5 hour layover, and then fly to Nairobi
Tuesday, January 27: Day in Nairobi at SIM guest house or other accommodations
Thursday, January 29: transport to Lokichoggio, Kenya (near Sudanese border) and stay night there or (see next day)
Friday, January 30: transfer to smaller plane and fly into Yabus. Part of team continues on to Doro.
Friday, January 30 through Wednesday, February 11, in Yabus and/or Doro
Wednesday, February 11, school Celebration (eat goat!)
Friday, February 13, leave Yabus for Lokichoggio, Kenya then transfer and fly to Nairobi
Saturday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day), Sunday, February 15, in Nairobi
Sunday, February 15, evening, leave Nairobi for Amsterdam
Monday, February 16, Amsterdam, 7.5 hour layover, leave for Seattle, arrive Seattle in afternoon. Southern team contingent flies to Portland after 2 hour layover.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Team Member: Kathy

I am a suburban housewife and among the least likely people to be going to Sudan. I have never been to the third world and I have never been on any sort of mission trip. I don’t even go camping. BUT… I have long had a mother’s heart toward the “Lost Boys” of Sudan, and upon meeting Phalice had an immediate heart connection with this woman who would be equipping these now young men to be teachers. When asked by my missions pastor if I would be interested in joining this team, my quick answer was “Yes!” It was a response that can only be described as a God thing! I did not have to ponder and take a long time to make a decision; I felt compelled by God to accept this opportunity. My intention is to help wherever I can, but I fully expect to learn and to gain more than I give. Perhaps 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a good summary: The Lord said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Amen!