Thursday, September 20, 2007

Meet our team

Finally we can formally introduce you to our new family here in Yabus, Sudan. On the far left is the Crowder family: Chris, Beverly and 10-month old Thomas. In the middle is the Kassu family: Kassu and his wife Meseret and their children: Tsiyon (10) and Benjamin (5). Next to them is Nate Kidder. And the four of us.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just in case you wondered:

I was working on a new design for a student lounge hang out area last night. We slope the roof so that when we lay a tarp on top, rain water is funneled down to a barrel. Clean drinking water is highly prized and the water out of the boreholes apparently tastes quite bitter. We already are catching a large quantity of water and are seeing new people come every day to our homes with their jerricans to collect whatever water we have.

We were finishing the roof when one of the students, Zakki, walked up and told me there was a problem with the boat. Not unusual since our boat is made of 50 gallon drums, angle iron, and a cable. Sudan has a way of testing things to their limit. I should start a company that tests various products in Sudan. If it survives a month here, we could stamp it with a ten year guarantee for any other country. I think my body has been trying to tell me this lately.

What Zakki failed to elaborate on was that it was market day and many people were a little tipsy from the local brew, marissa, that is served each Tuesday. They then rushed onto the boat which is only capable of handling 10 passengers. When none of the 16 passengers budged from the boat, the boatman told them he was getting off because he knew the boat would flip. Sure enough, the boat got out into the current and flipped, sending money, coffee, sugar, and the days market purchases miles downstream. The boatman was then swarmed, thrown in jail, and the boat left upside down for the night in the middle of the river.

This morning we went the mile and a half down to the river, I stripped down to my boxers, much to the delight of the gathering crowd, and slipped into the rushing current. Now, you do not swim in a straight line in a river. The current is so rapid during the rainy season that we went a good 100 meters upstream in order to hit our target area across the river. A few strokes in I realized my boxers were not good swimming trunks. Let's just say the current of the river won over the elastic. Luckily the water was muddy from last night's rains and I arrived safely on the other side, no one the wiser.

We flipped our boat, retentioned the cable it runs along, and did some maintenance while were wet and had the tools out. Back in business and it was not even 10:30 am. I put my clothes back on and started hiking down the river.

This boat is not really working. I have adjusted the cable no less than 10 times as the river rises and falls according to the rains in the neighboring country. I have sliced my hand open trying to remove some grass (yes.grass!) from the cable, and we pay five people to guard and ferry people back and forth across this river.

But crossing is so necessary. 15,000 people are cut off from the clinic, market, school, airstrip, and family when the rains come. The river rises to a dangerous level for 4 months out of the year. This is hardly ideal, so that is why we work so hard on this boat.

Oh yes, I should mention that Chris Crowder and Nate Kidder went into the police station to free our boatman and to talk over some guidelines for using the boat. The police should have a heavy presence on market day from now on.

Anyway, so I am hiking downstream because I spotted an area where the river narrows. If the river is narrow, we should be able to throw a couple cables across and with a little help from an engineer who is reading this, have a pedestrian bridge that will be open all year. I hope it will free us up from maintaining and adjusting our boat all year long. The boat just isn't working in my opinion. I measured the potential areas and it came to about 240 feet across! Ouch. I thought it would be smaller than that. Well, let's see who our God provides to give the technical advice for this project.

I came home to find the kids taking their afternoon nap so I went down to check on the water-catching student lounge. It rained from 3 in the morning until 6 so I hoped the 400 Liter water tank would be full or close to it. I pulled open the cover and to my surprised found less than an inch of water in the tank. Hmm. I looked at my work and realized the building was sound but the last step was flawed. The water was dribbling off of the tarp when it needed to be guided into the barrel. I located some old roofing material, mabati for those from Kenya, and fashioned a small gutter out of it. The water should now pour nicely into the bucket and provide 35 students with the cleanest water they have ever had. All this was done with several students watching and helping. Work in progress.

Bethany made some wonderful pizzas with cheese and pepperoni from America. WOW. Pizza Hut move over. For an hour I couldn't believe I was sitting in a hut in Africa.

Tonight was game night. It was my turn to go as someone needs to stay home with the kids. The Ethiopian family, Beverly Crowder, Nate Kidder, and David-a teacher with the highschool that is starting next year- all played a rousing game of Uno.

10:30 pm and I am heading to bed. Details left out? Of course. But you'll
just have to come and see for yourself.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Today Eli, Isaac, Evan, and I set out to walk to town for Market day. Radiya, who helps watch our boys, has been sick with malaria so we stopped by her house on the way to check up on her and give her today’s doses of medicine.

By the time we got to her house we knew it was going to be too much of a hike to go all the way to town with the kids. It poured rain for a few hours yesterday and the footpaths are all covered in about 6 inches of sticky black mud. So Eli volunteered to head back home with the boys so I could go into town and visit a few of my friends. As I hiked and slipped through the mud, I prayed and sang praise to the Lord in my heart. Inside I was laughing at how comical I must look.

After crossing the river I stopped to greet a group of ladies who live along the road. They all came running out of their huts carrying their babies with big smiles on their faces. I took turns holding each baby. Some cried hysterically since my white skin and hair scared them. One little boy in particular just loved me and was cooing and smiling the whole time. When his mom saw how much he liked me, she said, “Please, take him. Take him home. He’s yours.” What? It was very tempting, but I handed him back to his mother.

As I approached the market, people began noticing me – the white woman – and all turned to stare. Yes, it’s a little disconcerting at times. I try to smile and greet everyone I see. First I stopped in at Hakima’s “cafĂ©” to sit and have a cup of shai (tea) and talk with her in my struggling Arabic. She wasn’t around, so I sauntered over to the one “restaurant” – a hole in the wall called Welcome Hotel. They have a solar fridge and sell sodas which are our Tuesday treat. I filled my backpack with cold sodas, paid the boy, and after shaking hands and greeting everyone inside, I moved on to the next dukan (small store.)

After my shopping was done, I went over to look at some pretty miniature tea cups. Sometimes I wonder how certain things make it to Sudan – like those tiny fragile china cups. I asked how much they were for the set of 6 with matching saucers. The man said “30 birr.” Some bystanders overheard and jumped in to help me saying he was asking for a high price because I’m white. In just seconds a small crowd gathered to listen and see how I would handle the situation. I decided the cups weren’t worth it and knew my face was growing redder by the second.

I went back to check on Hakima. She still wasn’t there and I was starting to feel uncomfortable being in town alone, so I decided to start on my way home and stop to see one more friend. In one mile I probably shook hands and exchanged Arabic greetings with at least 30 people! That’s not counting all the adorable naked children who came running up to shake my hand and pet the hair on my arms.

I stopped in to see Doras. She’s the most beautiful Sudanese woman I’ve ever seen and her 8 month old baby is gorgeous too. She was very happy to see me and I stayed for a little while, making conversation with my limited Arabic vocabulary. After saying goodbye, I marveled to myself how many women of the Burtah tribe (100% mu$lim) God has brought into my life in this short time. Eli and my heart grows more burdened for these lost people every day and we’re thankful for the opportunity to reach out to them in friendship.

After crossing the river again, I ignored how tired my feet and legs were from trekking through the muck, thinking instead of all our new friends here in Sudan. How can it be that we love them so much already? Is God going to draw each of them to find Him and know Him in a personal way? My heart aches for it to happen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Last week our colleagues brought our solar freezer from Kenya where it was being repaired. We hooked it up and it’s working beautifully. We couldn’t believe how thrilling it was to have a COLD cup of water.

This week we decided to try making ice cream using powdered milk since that’s all we have available. We made ½ gallon of vanilla and ½ gallon of chocolate. Then last night during our team’s game night, we served it up to everyone. What a treat!

The highlight was watching Daniel, our night guard, taste something that cold for the first time. We told him it was cold but he wasn’t ready for what he put in his mouth! He shouted and had a horrified look on his face. We all erupted into laughter and he begged us to add hot water to his! What a hoot.

Can’t believe we’re drinking cold Koolaid and eating ice cream in the bush…but it sure is great!

Monday, September 10, 2007


It is difficult to put into words just how different this day has been than how I dreamed it would be for so many years. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the jungles of doesn't get more exotic and romantic for the Christian. So what happened today? How come my experience was so different?

Dugubele; a long drive south and we have already been to two services today. It was my turn to preach this Sunday and we have been teaching through the Bible. The story today was about Jesus and the woman at the well found in John chapter 4. I spoke in simple English sentences and Kasu, my Ethiopian colleague, translated into Arabic. This was then translated into another language. Not ideal.

After finishing the second service we again got onto the four-wheeler motorcycle and headed further south. Dugubele was a long way away and we had not been there before. We took along Johan, an elder in the church, who knew some people in a village that was close to Dugubele. Sound sketchy? I thought so too. But that is how life is lived here.

We forged ahead across streams, through grass over 10 feet tall, over trees that had fallen on the road, and constantly dodging the thorn trees that hung their arms out to catch us. The worn road became a forgotten road, the forgotten road became a foot path, and this was dangerous. Hidden stumps and rocks can tip the four-wheeler so we press ahead carefully.

We arrived at the known village and found a young man who ran in front of the motorcycle, stopping 10 minutes later to point us down another foot path. This path took us through some incredible land. It was as if God the Father had played marbles with Jesus and they left some of their marbles in Sudan. Massive stones, perhaps 300 feet high, and fantastically shaped. Some rounded, others with sheered faces. What a beautiful place.

Dugubele was a small village. Perhaps 10 homes surrounded by fields of okra, sesame, and sorghum. We parked the motorcycle and walked towards two men working in the field. There was an exchange between Johan and these men who then turned and motioned us to a clearing. Without a doubt, it was the cleanest place I have ever seen in Sudan. Someone had painstakingly swept every stick and stone off a 40ft. by 100ft. area. They had then poured a thin film of white sand over the clay soil, making it look spectacularly clean. I had never seen something like this in all my life.

When we were about twenty feet away, our escorts stopped us and told us to take our shoes off. We were now entering sacred soil. I looked at Kasu and he politely explained to me that we were going to share the gospel with a witchdoctor and the price we would have to pay is to take off our shoes. A bargain in our opinion.

Upon the white sand sat four men and one woman. There was a small fire burning and a small house. We shook hands with each person and then asked for the head of the village. The witchdoctor identified himself as Gusmala and welcomed us, noting that he was pleased we had removed our shoes. Kasu then explained in simple Arabic that we wanted to share some words from God. Gusmala, the witchdoctor, became quite excited and explained that 8 years ago God had spoken to him and told him to never leave this cleaned area. Gusmala was also never to wear a shirt, and indeed we found him shirtless. Oh boy, I thought, this is going to get confusing.

Kasu pressed on and shared a simple summary of the Bible. God loves us. We have turned our backs on God and are all headed to a horrible punishment. God sent Jesus Christ to save us from this punishment. We can accept this gift of eternal life with God if we believe that Jesus Christ is God and we follow him.

Gusmala smiled. These are good words he said. We want to know more! Kasu continued to teach for a little while and then Johan shared some words but I couldn't understand Johan's Arabic. Finally, we all stood and Kasu led everyone in a prayer, asking Jesus to come into the lives of Gusmala and the villagers that had begun to trickle in.

We opened our eyes to see dark rain clouds forming right over our heads so we quickly said goodbye and left Rugubele. We had only been there for 45 minutes and suddenly we were leaving.

As we traveled the two hours home on the motorcycle, I couldn't help but doubt the reality of what just happened. Did they really believe? Could they even understand us? There is so much they don't know. Will Gusmala stop practicing witchcraft? Who is going to teach these people? No miracles, no spiritual confrontation, no persecution. I thought it would be so different.

Over the past few weeks, the response to the gospel has been incredible in this area. Kasu returned to Gusmala's village and taught for two straight days, beginning in Genesis and going until the ministry of Paul. This has repeatedly happened so that in four weeks we have seen 5 churches planted!

The amount of teaching that needs to take place in order for these churches to be well-rooted is daunting. They are so far away, there is so much to say, and we are already experiencing backlash from those who do not wish to see these people come to Christ.

A small window into one interesting day of my short time here in Sudan. As you can probably tell, I have many more questions than answers.