Thursday, October 22, 2015

Today blew my mind!

Visiting my friend Manahil's home

God has been blowing my socks off with how personally involved He is in reaching the Ingassana tribe here in Mabaan county! I have got to tell you about my day! I've shared with you before that I started going out to one of these camps with a teammate, about a 30 min drive from home, to teach these new believing ladies the Bible. These women are hungry for God's Word and embracing it so excitedly. However, trying to teach the Bible, even a simple parable, in Arabic is quite a challenge for me. I know I should be better at it by now, but it always terrifies me to try to communicate God's Truth in a language I speak like a 3-year old!

And yet, despite my shortcomings and weaknesses, God has put these ladies so heavily on my heart. Most days I wake up and they are one of the first things I pray about! I have been asking God for guidance and wisdom, for transportation to get out there several times a week, and for a translator. Today God granted all my requests! But it took stepping out in faith, not fully understanding how everything was going to come together.

Last Sunday I asked my contact/friend in the camp to announce to the ladies that I would be coming on Thursdays at 2 like we did before. I didn't know what I would teach, how I would teach it in my broken Arabic and how I would get there! Eli had agreed to stay home with the boys. All week I prayed and trusted. Just yesterday, the day before I was set to go, a kind teammate offered to watch the boys so Eli and I could drive out together. (No one was excited about me trying to get out there by boda-boda, motorcycle taxi).

On Tuesday Eli was out in this same camp and God ordained for his path to cross with a lovely lady named Hadiya who graduated from Gideon Theological College years back, speaks beautiful Arabic and English, and loves the Lord. She was ecstatic to hear that Ingassana people were choosing to follow Christ. On the way out to the camp today, just on a "whim" (but honestly led by the Lord), I called Hadiya to see if she was in the camp again and invited her to come and meet these new Ingassana believers in our ladies group. She agreed! So when it came time for me to teach my lesson, Hadiya translated for me. Not only was the message delivered clearly, but at the end, one of my brave friends volunteered to now sum up the Scripture lesson in their mother tongue (tribal language). Honestly, I could hardly stay seated, I was so excited about what took place among the women today!

After our lovely time together, I asked if my friend Manahil would take me to her house so I could see where she lived and meet some of her family. About five of us walked together, visited her home (pictured above) and then Eli and I drove back home to our boys.

What I haven't mentioned is that I woke up this morning not feeling well. I had a bad headache, was very tired and my whole body ached. I was worried I might be coming down with malaria. Eli offered to teach the boys school so I could rest in bed. Around 10:30 dear friends - and their whole family - came to visit us. I pushed myself out of bed to fix juice, tea, and lunch. Even though I wasn't feeling my best, we had a lovely visit right up until Eli and I had to leave around 1:30.

I had not expected any of this to happen today. And yet I believe God orchestrated it all. I feel like God is stretching me so much lately but it's in such a good way. It doesn't always feel good but I'm so thankful to be seeing Him work in such real and tangible ways, in big details and small of my life. Days like today, where God orders all the details in His perfect way, fuel me to press on and keep stepping out in faith, doing what I know He's calling me to do.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Clueless

Blog: October 17, Saturday

Clueless
It is amazing to me that even after eight years spent learning as much as we can about the beautiful culture and people of South Sudan, there is still so much we do not have a clue about! I have felt more clueless and helpless since we moved to this refugee camp than I ever have in my whole life. Today was yet another day that I felt like I really had no idea what was going on around me. Let me explain.
 About two months ago when we first arrived to this new area, I started going out to a distant camp where the Ingassana tribe live, to help teach a group of women who are very new in their relationships with Jesus. It was a joy to go out there every week. Their faces were bright and eager to learn and we became fast friends. Since that time, many more people from this tribe have asked for this same teaching. They want to know what the Bible says! So now, some of our teammates are coming out together twice a week and breaking into different groups to teach in different parts of these more distant camps.
As a team and also on our own, Eli and I have been praying and asking the Lord for guidance. This ministry seems HUGE. A tribe of over 100,000 people, who have in the past wanted nothing to do with Christianity, now are begging for us to teach them! How do we do this? We are just a handful of people who still understand very little of this cultural context and whose Arabic is still limited, especially when it comes to teaching the Bible (which should be our expertise!) So why has God chosen us to meet this vast need? I honestly don’t know, but it’s thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. It keeps us totally relying on God and recognizing that we are clueless and that it’s not about us at all. We are just the vessels. It’s all about our amazing God who has been preparing peoples’ hearts and who wants to offer them His hope and new life!
Speaking of God preparing hearts, we heard something so extraordinary today. A man who recently joined our small Bible study groups was sharing a bit of his testimony this week. He said that for two years he’s been having a recurring dream where a man urged him to read a little white book. He never understood where he could find this white book until he arrived in one of the Ingassana camps last week and met a man who had a little white book that looked exactly like the one in his dream. Do you know what it was? A small booklet that Eli’s been using for teaching the Bible chronologically! For two years this man has been dreaming about this white book and now here he is finally getting to learn what it’s all about. Isn’t that incredible? Doesn’t God work in such miraculous ways?!
Y’all, it is testimonies like these that keep us doing what we’re doing. To be honest, there were times today that I asked myself,
 “Are we really doing any good here?”
“Is this teaching sinking in?”
“Are we doing this right?”
Yes, we do flounder at times. It’s taken several weeks to figure out the best way to teach these groups of people. You know why it’s so complicated? Because there are soooo many people who want to learn! Isn’t that a great “problem” to have? But we keep moving forward, we keep doing our best, trusting that in our weakness, He is strong and that He will fill in everything that we leave out. It’s messy. It’s complicated. We fumble and make mistakes. But it is exciting to be putting God’s Word into people’s hands and teaching them the truth that it holds.

So will you pray for us every Thursday and Saturday as we drive a half hour from home to minister God’s Word as best as we can? There are a myriad of circumstances that happen to prevent us from going – no vehicle, unrest in the area, sickness, miscommunication, etc. Pray that we will press on, making ourselves available to the Lord. Pray that every person that comes to hear and receive God’s truth will then go and share it with someone else.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Confessions of a Missionary Mom

I just wanted to visit my friend who lives out in one of the further camps. Usually when I go with the boys, we feel like the Pied Piper as crowds of children surround us as we walk. Since it's a 40-minute walk today I thought it would be a good idea for the boys to ride their bikes. WRONG!

We had just barely made it into the outskirts of the camps when one by one, two by two, children came running from everywhere to see these strange little white people on bicycles. Soon they were yelling and cheering, getting as close as they could to the boys who were a bit alarmed and unsure whether to slow down or speed up. Meanwhile I was walking behind the boys, going as fast as I could to try to keep up with them so I could at least attempt to manage the crowds.

We finally made it to the turnoff for the specific area of the camp and turned onto a footpath which would normally be wide enough for bikes but today there were piles of murrum (gravely stones) spaced every 30 feet. So the boys had to get off their bikes and walk around each pile, now giving time for all the hoards of children to catch up with us and push in, almost to where we felt we were about to be knocked over. I grimaced a few times as I noticed some of the wee children being stampeded or knocked over. Several kids weren't watching where they were going and stepped right into thorns with their bare feet. Oh what a mess we were making!

Further down the path, an older man suddenly sprang from behind a hut with a long switch/whip and started whipping at all the throngs of children. Again I cringed as these innocent children who were just clambering to see something exciting for the first time, were snagged by the mean whip. I know this man meant well. He was trying to give us some space, but I felt badly that it was at the cost of some of the children running in the opposite direction sobbing in pain.

We finally arrived at our destination, my friend Marta's house. She is a dear friend from our first year in Sudan. We don't talk much since she is very quiet and shy but our friendship is special and has been tested by time and distance. Before I get to Marta's house I know by looking at Isaac's disappointed face that Marta is not around. All their huts are locked up. I asked around and found out she was at a funeral, the whole family was. I had planned on visiting my friend Rauia, also from our Yabus days, but found out she too was at this funeral. Like an angel at just the right time, Marta's husband showed up with a surprised look on his face. He too explained where everyone was. I couldn't even get close enough to shake his hand because of all the village children pressing in. In fact, we could hardly hear what the other was saying over all the voices around us!

After a bit of deliberation, I realized this visit was not meant to be. Even though we'd pushed through all the way to their house, there was really no way this visit would happen today. Humph! So I smiled, passed the bag of coffee beans and sugar I'd brought as a gift for my friend to her husband, and told him I would try to come another time - next time alone. :)

On the way home, I told the boys to pedal ahead of me - that way they could get going faster than the children could keep up. And I would follow behind. I'm so thankful for my responsible 11-year old who I knew I could trust to keep all his brothers together and get home. As I walked behind them, even though the boys were out of sight, I could hear the chanting and cheering of the Sudanese children as they sprinted after the 3 miniature bikes. I smiled to myself and thought, "Well at least this will make a great blog post!" I've learned my lesson: don't take your children on bikes into the refugee camps!

This is a first for me, living among refugees. I'm so thankful for all we get to learn but it's not always fun in the learning stage. I couldn't help but spend my brisk walk home praying for these precious people. Several things stood out to me as I smiled and nodded at people that I passed and as I stopped to greet a few people that I knew:
   - Friends that we've known from Yabus or Melut are now much thinner and older looking. The years have been hard on them. After not seeing each other for five years, they comment that we look just the same and it saddens me a bit because their lives have been so harsh. They have had to fight to stay alive and many of their own family members have died in the struggle.
   -  There were a lot of drunk young men.
Making local alcohol is a money maker so many women in the camps brew it and sell it from their homes. With life feeling hopeless and empty, many men turn to alcohol to escape the pain and helplessness. It is devastating to see how alcohol is gripping many mens' lives and holding them captive.

*I  share this story with you because for one, it was such a crazy experience, I had to share it! But also to ask you to pray for the many different tribes who are having to live almost on top of each other in this community. For many of them it is getting old, and since we didn't have a good rainy season this year, crops have failed, cows have less grass to feed on, and people are really desperate. More violence and unrest has broken out in the last month between different tribes. They've been trying to get along but are just plain tired of it, I think. Please pray for patience and endurance and that all would desire PEACE more than anything else.


Monday, October 12, 2015

These Days in Doro


It has been a couple months since arriving in Doro.  I have had the immense pleasure of shadowing my fellow missionaries and believers in our area to see what God is doing in the lives of the people in and around Doro. 

SIM runs a clinic in Doro where I have seen people receive excellent care at the hands of our team of nurses, PAs and Community Health Workers.  Our family has even been the recipient of their care.  Evan developed an abscess on his leg and they cared for it until it healed completely.  Two chaplains are available for counseling and share the gospel with those who are waiting.

 
I had the privilege of shadowing the SIM water team as they went out to fix a borehole for a community.  They received a report that the borehole stopped working and after investigating, gathered the tools and supplies necessary to fix the problem.  I got to drive them out about 45 minutes away on a quad bike and trailer.  They were a well oiled machine.  After gathering the community and praying for the work they were going to do, each man on this 4-person crew knew their assigned task and they whipped the cover off and had the pipes and other things I had never seen before pulled out of the ground in no time.  They figured out that the pipes were worn through from corrosion, replaced them and had water pumping before lunch! 


 

I tagged along with 3 of the ladies who work at the clinic to some of the different Bible studies that they do with women in the various refugee communities.  Through a combination of spending time, story-telling, pictures, discussion, and even a wind-up radio that tells the story of the gospel, these ladies communicated the love of Jesus Christ.  

Two of our teammates, Bubba and Cathy, invited us to go out and visit a tribe called the Ingassana.  We were introduced to several people who had heard about Christians before but now they wanted to know more.  Over the last couple months, we have spent several days with them, sharing the gospel and starting to tell the story of Scripture.  There were 58 people gathered to worship God yesterday!  This has been truly amazing to witness as there have been only a handful of believers in this tribe before. 

 
We were invited to attend the annual Spiritual Life Conference of the Uduk Church in the refugee camp.  The Uduk tribe has embraced the gospel and they have a strong church.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but the boys and I bought some sugar and coffee (these are very dear to the Uduk heart) and when we rounded the corner to the church, there were over 1,500 people packed into the shelter and spilling out into the shade of nearby trees.  We spent the day worshipping God in no less than 6 languages and being encouraged by the Word of God. 

On August 23, 75 years ago, two SIM missionaries lost their lives in Doro and were buried near where we stay.  Another grave stone marks the spot where Dr. Masters was buried after he passed away in Doro in 2008.  In memory of these missionaries who paid the ultimate price, we gathered and cleaned the grave sites.  Bethany planted flowers and they have begun to bloom.

 
Two of our teammates, Christiane and Debbie, hosted a seminar to look at the topic of discipleship in Scripture.  It was a fantastic time to be a “fly on the wall” and look at Scripture together with Sudanese and Southern Sudanese.  I will be facilitating a seminar next month where we will look at how oral learners can understand and apply Scripture. 

 
It has been an incredible couple of months and even though we are not at Gideon Theological College, we are excited at the ministry opportunities that have opened up here in Doro.  God is at work and we are thankful to be a small part of it. 
Here are some ways you can pray:
1. Despite the peace agreement that was signed last month, there is still a lot of tension and active fighting between forces of the government and former rebels.  Please pray for peace to come.
2. There are a lot of tensions between the refugees and local people here.  Sadly, some people have been killed lately.  Pray for peace between the tribes here.
3. The rains have not come this year and people's crops have died.  The hunger has increased tensions and theft is happening more frequently and people are in need of food.  Please pray for miraculous rains and for people to not turn to stealing when they are hungry. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A New Nephew

Holding my new nephew on his birthday 
You might have noticed a bit of silence on our blog since I'm the main writer and I've been away this past month. I had the precious privilege to fly back to the States to be with my sister for the birth of her first child. The timing of my trip couldn't have been more perfect! I arrived five days after her due date thinking she would have the baby by then, but I arrived in California to a still very pregnant sister! We spent a week together doing special things together including lots of walks trying to get her labor started. On September 22, little William Ethan was born. They call him Ethan.

Baby Ethan
 Another special thing about my time in the States is that my brother Stan joined us for four days. It was great to get to catch up with him and encourage him. He lives and works in Washington state and I don't get to see him very often.

After Ethan was born, I still had one week left, and enjoyed every diaper change and cuddle I got! Audrey and David are natural parents and they are doing a wonderful job with little Ethan. He is now 2 weeks old and very healthy and growing. After such a special time with them, it was hard to say goodbye, knowing I wouldn't probably see them for at least another two years. But I'm so so thankful for this unexpected gift to get to go and be with my sister during this important milestone in her life.

I couldn't have done this if it weren't for my amazing husband who stayed home in South Sudan with our three boys and did a stellar job homeschooling, cooking and parenting! I don't know any other man who could do what he did! Needless to say, I was sooo excited to come home to my four men and I think they were pretty happy to see me arrive on the airstrip as well. We are now settling back into our life as a family. We've had some sickness already since I've been back but I'm just glad I am here to take care of them.
Happy Reunion with my kiddos