Monday, August 29, 2016

Sunday in the Refugee Camps

Eli and his translator Daud 
Yesterday we worshiped with our friends in Yusif Batil Camp. The church structure in made of twigs and branches with a grass roof and we sit on split log benches. Though these baby Christians are just learning how to lead a church service, we enjoyed teaching some new Arabic songs, sharing encouraging words from Scripture and from personal testimonies and then Eli gave a wonderful sermon with a clear gospel message. His message must have stirred in peoples' hearts because even after the service was over, everyone filed back into the church and wanted to ask questions and have discussion. Some of their questions were:
1. Can Satan forgive our sins?
2. If people pray for us after we die, can we go to heaven?

Please please pray for the new believers in the three Ingassana camps because though they are hungry for Truth and God's Word, divisions and misunderstandings have already shown up in their midst. 

Our car load going home
 Our friend T in the bright pink in the above picture is a new sister in Christ. She has been passing on the Bible stories she learns to her little sisters and this week not only brought her sisters but her mother too. Her mother was sick but she sat through the whole service and then we brought her back to town with us to go to the doctor tomorrow.

Even the front seat was full!
 We stopped in town and ate lunch with our friends at an Ethiopian "restaurant" and then drove to a far part of one of the refugee camps to drop off our friend T and her mother and sister.

The scenery driving to one of the camps



A Special Visitor from Melut

Eli and Kur in our home in Doro 
Last week we had a very special visitor come to see us from Melut - our friend Kur Deng Kur, the Principal of Gideon Theological College. He spent a few nights with us, catching us up on news from Melut, how the church and school are doing, and the success of the new Theological Education by Extension program that he started up in Melut in July. The exciting thing is that the weekly classes are now meeting on GTC campus which is such an answer to prayer. Soldiers continue to live in the empty houses (including our house) but at least Bible education continues to happen in that special corner of the world on the Nile River.
     Below is a picture of the 19 students, which includes 3 women, who are currently studying in Melut. This is in addition to the 70+ students in Mabaan county who have just started their 3rd term. We are praising the Lord that even in the midst of challenging times in the country, those who are hungry for God's Word are being filled.

19 Theology students in Melut

Friday, August 05, 2016

First 24 hours

Back to our Reality:
 
 
      A few days ago I was enjoying hot showers, Dr. Peppers, and eating out. Today I felt the stark contrast of my life, my reality here. My reality check started yesterday at 2:30 am when I had to wake my children and husband to head to the airport for our journey back to South Sudan. In the van on the way to the airport I realized that I needed to pray over every step of the journey. We had to first fly to Kenya where we then had to change planes and arrive in Juba in time to join the mission charter plane. It was a chain and it needed to all work without a hitch. And it did, other than an hour and a half delay in our 1st flight and almost having to leave a teammate behind, we made it to Doro by 1 pm, just in time for lunch.
 
Our co-pilot
 
In a flurry of hugs, handshakes and greetings, all I could think about was all the cleaning and unpacking ahead of me. Since we'd been in limbo for the last two weeks, not really knowing when or even if we could return to South Sudan, I felt very eager to be settled again and get back into some kind of routine (notice I don't even try to use the word, "normal"). All afternoon I swept away cobwebs, wiped things down and unpacked the next 3 months worth of supplies, battling pangs of guilt as I stacked cans of fruits and vegetables knowing so many of my Sudanese friends are hungry every day.
 
     Even though I've been living this "bush" life for 9 years, I still had to fight to crank my brain into the right mode - trying to think of what to cook for dinner for my family. Should I take the time to light the charcoal - the more economical option -  or splurge and cook on propane which is much faster? Should I dig into our fresh stock of canned goods or resort to the local lentils? By thte time we got the boys in bed by 7 (because of our early morning), Eli and I were ready to head to bed right after them!
 
     First morning back and I am woken at 6 am by several booms and some gunfire. I told myself it was thunder and rolled over to go back to sleep. A half hour later, our kittens who missed us dreadfully started meowing to let them in, the rooster started crowing and my mind instantly kicked into gear.
    
     Shortly after 7 am we got a phone call confirming that yes, the 6:00 booms were clashes about a 45 minute drive from us. So this is how South Sudan welcomes us back after a month away! Unrest rmeans Eli spends extra time on the phone and meeting with key people in the community who pass news and information on to him. Basically, he jumped right back into his role as team leader!
Fast forward a few hours - the house was unpacked, the kids were out in the neighborhood playing happily with their friends, so I decided to go visit and greet all my neighbor friends. I drank tea and coffee and helped my friend chop onions while she told me some of the sad tales of what July was like for her - sickness, hunger, unrest, etc.
 
     I walked home, my heart heavy, my emotions all over the place and the words to one of my favorite hymns came to mind: "I need Thee every hour." This was significant because one week ago, missionary friends prayed over our return to South Sudan and asked us to choose a song to sing. We chose "I need Thee every hour". And today, when those words came to mind, I couldn't help thinking that God had been preparing us days ago for what we would return to.
 
      Another God thing is that the day before we flew back to South Sudan God led me to read from Deuteronomy 31 where God (and Moses) encouraged Joshua to be strong and courageous with the reminder that the Lord would personally go with him and even go ahead of him. These verses were so comforting as I prayed and anticipated our return, I even shared them with Eli. Then the day after we arrive, new clashes occur. It was timely - God's loving timing - to bolster me with courage and remind me He went before me and is with me now.
 
      I know this post might sound negative. Honestly, my heart is feeling lifted, positive and at peace. I can't allow the circumstances of this war-torn country and the suffering of its people to steal my hope. God is Here. He is doing something. And I'm so thankful He brought our family back - however long that might be.