Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sudanese Triathlon

I got my own taste of what a Sudanese triathlon would look like on the day we flew from Yabus to Nairobi.

Event 1:
Load family into vehicle as soon as you hear airplane flying overhead. Drive the 2 miles through 2 rivers to airstrip without getting stuck. Unload family into airplane and load supplies brought by airplane into truck. Return the 2 miles home with truck and supplies; unload. Run the 2 miles back to airplane and hop into plane as it taxis down the airstrip.
Time allotted for Event #1: 40 minutes

Event 2:
Arrive at refueling spot in Pachola, Southern Sudan. Interpret where the fuel is being stored using Arabic, English, and sign language. Run the ¾ mile to house where fuel is stored, avoiding the ostrich who is guarding the compound. Kick or push two 55 Gallon drums filled with fuel, each weighing 375 pounds, back to the airplane and position them under the wings of the airplane. Proceed to pump the fuel into the wings of the aircraft using a hand crank.
Time allotted for Event #2: 25 minutes

Event 3:
Arrive in border town of Lokichoggio, Kenya. Unload plane and locate counter for visa into Kenya. Compete with other passengers coming from all over Sudan to obtain visa form, fill it out, pay for visa, get passport stamped, check baggage, and take children to bathroom (no toilets on small planes). Only upon completion of these tasks will you be given a seat on the airplane flying to Nairobi. Although you have paid, your seat may be given to another so you must complete your tasks quickly.
Time allotted for Event #3: 32 minutes

Christmas in Uganda

We left Yabus, Sudan less than a week ago, traveled through four countries (Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda) and arrived in Kabale, Uganda where Bethany's family lives by December 23 - just in time for Christmas. We've spent the past few days cooking up a storm, laughing, and most of all, celebrating the birth of our Savior - the reason all of us work in Africa.
On Christmas Day we went to Mom and Dad's church and worshipped with our Ugandan brothers and sisters in Christ who were very full of joy, clapping, singing, and drumming. Audrey and I sang a duet in church which was always our custom growing up and that was very special for us.
The day after Christmas we got together with the rest of Mom and Dad's team here in Kabale and sang Christmas carols together. It's been such a wonderful time.
We've been able to relax and have fun together over the holidays, yet the party continues. Mom and Dad seem to be spoiling us with lots of good food, fun activities, and special treats. We're so thankful we will spend a full 3 weeks here.

Making gingerbread cookies

Bethany explains Jesus' birth on Christmas Eve

Eli gave Stan a Sudanese cobra skin

Evan's so proud of his new toys

Isaac gets new trucks- yeah!

Evan's Christmas stocking

Isaac pulls lots of treats out of his stocking

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pastors' Conference in Yabus

I have often thought to myself that Sudan is a land of extremes. One of the latest extremes I have learned about is the partnerships that are formed in order to serve the people of Sudan. Many of you have just supported a church leaders' conference in Yabus through your support of us. Now although SIM hosted the conference here in Yabus, it was greatly funded by Samaritan's Purse who asked teachers from African Leadership to participate who are from the African Inland Church but training leaders for the Sudan Interior Church. Enough cooks in the kitchen? Well mix in the fact that there were 5 different tribes (6 if you count my tribe) and the course was taught in 3 languages!

When all was said and done, 41 church leaders spent 2 weeks working through an Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Old Testament survey, and New Testament Survey. These three classes are part of a program called African Leadership in which they take 10 such courses and earn a degree. This time we had 19 men and 1 woman graduate. When we handed them their certificate, they just sat there staring at the piece of paper with THEIR name on it, reading and re-reading every word. So proud of accomplishing something a few years ago they thought impossible. So proud of moving their church and country forward one small step.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Alarm

Our Sunday afternoon nap was pierced by the screams of our Ethiopian colleague, Meseret. I had never heard urgency in her voice like this before, so in just a few seconds I was out the door. I heard several loud pops, and as I rounded the corner I was horrified to see our meeting place in full blaze. Our guards and several other people were desperately throwing water on the 15 foot flames. Our local construction lends itself exceptionally well to fires: grass roofs, bamboo trusses, and wood walls. One of our guards was already throwing water on the other nearby buildings to prevent the fire from spreading.

The building which was on fire was where we received guests and sheltered ourselves from the afternoon heat. It was also home to our quad bike. Sure enough, as I peered into the conflagration (thank you 12th grade English), I saw one of our greatest assets engulfed in flames. In its short life, the quad bike had been used for evangelism, hauling sand for building, gathering supplies from the market, hauling water, taking passengers to the airstrip, and giving our family fun outings together.

We quickly ran out of water but contained the flames to one building. Tired and in shock but thankful the flames were dying down, we looked around to find out that the 5-year old son of our Ethiopian colleagues was missing. 30 minutes later he was located and it was found out that he had been playing with a lighter when the accident happened. What Satan meant to use as a divisive event turned out to bring us closer together as we prayed, forgave, and worked through this together as a team.

Praise God that no one was hurt and that we only lost what we did. Praise God that He can use all things to bring us closer to Him.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yuna's Story

The rains have stopped and black strings of ash dance in the wind. The annual ritual of burning the grass that has grown wildly for the past few months has begun. The night sky glows with fires sweeping across miles and miles of savannah; quite beautiful really. The lack of rain has made the roads passable again and suddenly a flurry of activity is taking place in our little town of Yabus.

A few days ago I spent 10 hours driving on some impressively difficult roads in order to pick up some church leaders for a conference we are having. I took a guide, Yuna, and at one point he pointed off into the bushes and said, "let's go over there". He led me to a large rock and a small shack that had been built over a hundred years ago out of stones.

Yuna then let me know the history behind this delapitated home. Slaves, lots of slaves, were gathered from his tribe and brought to this location. They were then "sorted" and the strong ones were taken up north to be sold. The rest are said to be found in a deep hole in the rock we stood on. Amuna, the woman who ran the slave trade, was a bertah and Yuna is an Uduk. Even to this day, there is deep suspicion between these tribes and they both live in Yabus.

Bethany and I have stepped into a place with deep scars. Lift up this place, these people, our lives to God in prayer. Nothing short of a complete change of heart can bring peace. Nothing but forgiveness gives hope for the future.

Above: Yuna visits the place his enslaved ancestors were brought

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yabus Thanksgiving

We thought of you all so much yesterday but were quite content and grateful for our first Sudanese Thankgiving. It was a blessing and encouragement to our hearts.

For our meal we had chicken, rice, and pumpkin pie for dessert. I can't believe it, but the pie was PERFECT! It was so exciting for me seeing as I had to make do with ingredients we had and baked it in a large metal pan on a charcoal fire! I put about 2 inches of sand on the bottom of the metal pan, put the pie pan in, covered it with a metal lid and put more coal on top. It worked beautifully. I think I might try making brownies next.

We invited Kassu and Meseret and their family, David, who lives behind us, and our two visiting teachers who will be teaching our pastor conference this week. We went around the table and each shared what we're especially thankful for this year.

Our pastors' conference kicks off tomorrow. We'll be hosting 30+ men here on our compound. So we've cleaned out 2 tents, 3 large huts, and the room next to David behind our house. We'll have lots of people around for the next 2 weeks. I hope all goes well making sure they're all taken care of, fed, and all that. What a blessing to be a part of this!

Here's a picture of my beautiful pie. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where's the Pepto?

It's funny how we have not had to seek out adventure, it simply crawls into our lives here in Sudan. A knock at our door at 3:30 pm turned out to be our fabulous guard, Daniel. He motioned excitedly for me to follow and indicated that the camera was an obvious necessity. Sure enough I found myself admiring a very large lizard, probably something related to the monitor lizard. Daniel had found it crossing the path and commenced sending it to lizard heaven. As I snapped a couple pictures, Daniel informed me that the skin was a present and the meat was delicious. I thanked him for the former but was looking for the exit on the latter. Nope, too late. Nyai, the tallest Uduk we know, had showed up with some coals and was getting the fire started. An impromptu barbeque started and in a couple minutes we had a small gathering. I was handed the tail a few minutes later and to my surprise, found it incredibly delicious! Eat large lizard- I guess I can check that off my to do list.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back in Yabus

Hi Everyone,
I couldn't believe how exciting it was for all of us as we landed on the Yabus airstrip and saw our friends waving frantically! It is SO GOOD to be home - we really missed everyone here.

We had very good trip. We did it in 2 days which made it easier with the kids. Thursday we flew to Lokichoggio, Kenya which is right on the border of Sudan. We spent the night with a new friend, our AIM AIR pilot, and his family. Then early on Friday morning we flew to Yabus.

We've spent today (Saturday) unpacking everything, handing out gifts we brought for friends here, and getting the boys transitioned AGAIN. Evan's been clingy but that is normal.

Thank you for praying for our trip. We will truly enjoy these next few months here in Yabus before we leave again for Christmas. We are so thankful that Yabus feels so much like home. Our three weeks in Kenya were wonderful - we saw lots of friends, got lots of rest and good food, spoke with many family members and friends on the phone, and arrived back here refreshed and overjoyed to be back. That's the way it should be!

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Refreshing Weekend at Lake Naivasha

We've been looking forward to this weekend away with our close friends for a long time. They work in a country north of us but came to Kenya for a conference. We drove 2 hours out of the city to a beautiful lake lodge and stayed for two nights. We ate buffets at every meal, took long naps, went on a boat ride and saw giraffe, hippo, gazelle, and many types of birds.
Now we're back in Nairobi and wrapping up things here before we fly back to Sudan on Wednesday, Nov. 7th. Please pray for safe travel and smooth adjustments back to life in Yabus.

Our friends: the Clermont Family

With our friends at the lodge

Fun in the pool

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our weekend at Rift Valley Academy

We got to spend the whole weekend at our old high school in Kijabe, Kenya. Not only did we get to see a bunch of old friends and staff members, we spent lots of quality time with my little brother Stan who is in ninth grade there. Isaac and Evan enjoyed playing with their Uncle Stan and it was so good for me to see what an amazing young man Stan is growing up to be! As you can see in the pictures, Eli got to play some rugby on the familiar "upper field".

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sudan to Kenya by air

On our flight from Sudan to Kenya, our friendly pilot invited Eli and the boys to come "help" fly the plane. As you can imagine both Isaac and Evan loved it. The pilot gave Eli his first flying lesson and let him control the plane for about 20 minutes. Yikes!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Our home in Yabus, Sudan

Our compound consists of:
a brand new secondary school
4 missionary homes
student dorms and staff housing
a community eating area
several kitchen huts
outdoor shower and outdoor toilet

Our house (until we build our own)

Instead of a tent or hut like we initially expected to live in, our house is made of brick and cement with a tin roof. The tin roof is nice for catching clean rain water.
The house has three rooms: one all purpose room where we have our table and chairs, our solar freezer, and a huge shelving unit Eli built for storage, one is our bedroom, and one is the kids' room.

Eli and Bethany's bedroom

Eli built our bed the day after we arrived in Yabus!

Isaac and Evan sleep in special mosquito net tents so we don't have to worry about critters sleeping with them

The kitchen

Our kitchen is in a separate mud hut. Our colleagues brought in a nice propane stove/oven and Eli installed a real sink and built a nice counter top.

Our shower

Our vegetable garden

We've got tomatoes, green beans, lima beans, 2 types of squash, pumpkin, watermelon, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, and broccolli. There's nothing like eating fresh produce from your own garden!

Family highlights

No two days are the same. But hopefully these photos will paint you a picture of our daily lives. Isaac and Evan play non stop all day and love Sudan. Every evening after dinner we spend a few hours together as a family as we wind down for bed. We've also set aside Saturdays as our day off and usually try to do something fun as a family. Some of our fun family outings: playing in the sand at the river, hiking up a huge rock, or walking to town for local donuts.

The boys help with the dishes


Dinner time


Fun family outings: hiking and trips to the river

Eli on the job

Marco and one of our raincatching contraptions

Our backup boat: an inflatable boat

The Buldit church building (one of the new church plants)

Our boat for crossing the river

Eli skins a snake for a souvenir

Let us introduce you to some of our friends

We are so thankful for all the special people God has brought into our lives in Yabus. These are a few people who have become like family to us.

Some of our young friends: Tsiyon and Benjamin