Monday, December 31, 2012

The Week of Christmas

At the end of this last week we were all wondering why we felt so exhausted. When I started thinking about everything we did, then I realized why. This was our week:

Sunday, Dec 23 - baptism at church. After church we spent all afternoon cooking for our big Christmas meal which we ate a few days early. :)

Monday, Dec 24 - We had our regular Christmas morning routine: cinnamon rolls and coffee, opening gifts, and reading the story of Jesus' birth. In the afternoon Eli and I joined the other Christians in a parade around town, singing and drumming, to announce the celebration of Jesus' birth.

Tuesday, Dec 25 - spent all morning in church and then hosted Christmas visitors in our home for the rest of the afternoon. That is why I did so much Christmas baking (pictured above).

Wednesday, Dec 26 - as is the custom in South Sudan, we visited all our friends in town, basically going door to door, giving Christmas and New Year greetings.

Thursday, Dec 27 - we had a campus wide celebration eating the goat we gave as a Christmas gift.

The children ate off their own tray, the ladies in their corner, and the men in their corner.

On Thursday afternoon Isaac started a very high fever and we realized he had malaria. Today is day 5 and he's still hanging out on the couch but feeling much better.

Friday, Dec 28 - we spent most of the day keeping an eye on Isaac and hosting more Christmas visitors in our home.

On Saturday we celebrated a wedding on our compound: the daughter of one of our students. It was so interesting to learn more Dinka culture relating to weddings. We spent almost 7 hours drinking coffee and eating multiple times along with probably 200 other people squeezed on our compound! It was quite the day!

Sunday, Dec 30 - we decided we seriously needed a day of rest so we stayed home from church and went out on the boat for a riverside service instead. Isaac was feeling so much better and was feeling bored from being in bed for 3 days so we went out for a few hours. Dad shared an encouraging word from Exodus 33:12-23 and we sang a few songs and went for a swim. It was so refreshing. Once we sat down and talked about our week we understood why we all felt so tired. Hopefully this week won't be quite so packed.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Very Wonderful Christmas!

This year our Christmas was extra special for two main reasons: 1) Bethany's parents flew from Uganda to spend 3 weeks with us and 2) it was our first Christmas in Melut. We knew December 24-26 would be very busy celebrating Christmas at church and in the community so we had our own family Christmas complete with an amazing meal on Christmas Eve Eve - the 23rd.

On Sunday the 23rd, twelve people were baptized in the Nile River. One of them was my Sudanese Habooba/Grandmother. She is a 70-something sweet little lady and it was so meaningful for her to take her stand for Christ.

The Friday before Christmas we showed the Nativity Film on campus. We packed out our classroom with mothers and children on campus and it was such a good reminder for all of us of what this season is all about. Here are some of the special women who live on our campus.

Mom and Bethany are doing a lot of cooking together

Mom and Dad are both helping out a ton. Here Dad is taking several computers apart in the college library, trying to get them to work again.

Josh and his buddy Goich

One day we took Mom and Dad out on the Nile River for a fun boat ride. We tried to fish but didn't catch anything.

So thankful for this quad bike that can carry so many people at one time!

God gave us this breathtakingly beautiful sunset on Christmas Eve. We stopped what we were doing and we all went out to watch it.

The whole fam on Christmas morning, on our way to church. The boys' shirts were a gift from their grandparents from Uganda. Mom and Bethany have new "lauas" which are the traditional dress in this area.

Our 3 precious boys

We always have to get a picture on the river - it's just so beautiful! Mom and Dad can't stop commenting how beautiful Melut is. I think they're jealous we get to live here! :)

Christmas morning service - 470 people

Some of our Christmas vistitors. The custom here is that on Christmas day and the days afterwards everyone roams around from house to house visiting their friends and neighbors. When people come to your house you serve a cup of juice or water and some sweets and cookies. I made 2 cakes and had a case of candy and went through it in one afternoon! I also passed out balloons and that was a big hit.

Mom and Bethany as we visited house to house with other ladies on our compound.

My mom is a natural and everyone loves her!

Eli has a special "big brother" relationship with John, his friend on his right. John brought his friends over on Christmas so the guys hung out while the ladies visited.

Today, Dec. 26th, we still had more friends to visit. We were out until 4 pm going from one place to the next. It was so much fun to see how people had decorated their homes and fixed things up for Christmas. This is our family with Eliza, the special lady who helps us in our home. We are so thankful that God brought her to our family. She is a HUGE help.

Wherever you were this Christmas, we pray that the meaning of Christmas will remain with you now as you look toward the New Year and through this coming year, 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Grandparents arrived!

Bethany's parents, Skip and Ruth Sorensen, who are missionaries in Uganda, flew the 2 day journey to our home in Melut, South Sudan to spend 3 full weeks with us over Christmas. We couldn't be more thrilled!

Dinner as a family

The boys are soaking up the special grandparent attention. What a gift!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Super Fun Saturday Activity

I wrote earlier that one of Eli's projects this month has been working on a boat that belongs to another organization here in Melut. On Saturday we decided to take it out on a practice run to see how it did. It sure was fun!

Literacy for Kids

During the 3 month break from college classes, Bethany started a literacy class with the children on campus. Every morning for an hour, all the children gather in the college classroom and are learning their phonics and slowly beginning to read and write. This is our 3rd week of classes and we're already seeing such great progress.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chronicling our House Construction

The construction of our house in Melut is finally under way. We are so excited and want to celebrate every step of the way knowing that it is ALL God making things fall into place. We heard news this week that the barge carrying our building supplies from Juba to Melut is on its way so we're praying for it to have God's speed.

This week, day by day, we make more progress. A few days ago we got our first load of sand. Yesterday the UN brought their forklift to move a huge old water tank that was sitting right where we want to build our house. And today a tractor brought a load of small rock. This is soooo exciting. In the picture above Isaac is showing you the building site where we will build our house. Can you believe that we get riverfront property? Look at that! That is the Nile River!

Of course the boys were all over the tractor when it arrived.

Here we go - already starting to look like a construction site. Praise the Lord! Stay tuned to see what else God does...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pausing to celebrate God's goodness

When the semester at Gideon Theological College wrapped up 2 weeks ago Eli wasn't really sure what these months would hold for him. We had really hoped that he could work on building our new house during these "free" months but we kept running into road blocks. So Eli has tackled several other projects and I want to recap some of them for you. When you sit back and think of it all, he's been very very busy. :)

The first project began when the UN loaned us their forklift (with driver) to move some of the shipping containers we have on campus. It turned out to be a little interesting because each container had hives of bees living underneath it so for more than 24 hours all of us were kind of stuck indoors because the bees were angry and needed to find a new home. P.S. The upside was that we recovered honeycomb 1 foot wide and 8 feet long!!!

The next project concerned this boat. This boat belongs to a local NGO but the motor wasn't working and it had multiple leaks and holes in the bottom of it. Eli spent a few days on the motor and got it working beautifully and the holes are patched. Now we just want to hunt down the water skiis that are rumored to be stored somewhere in Melut!

Once the bees calmed down and moved away, we decided we needed to fill in the spaces under all the containers at their new site. Mud is local and free so being a woman's job (as I wrote previously) I joined the ladies to smear several layers of mud along the bottom foundation of each container.

Eli also installed electricity in 2 of the containers that we are hoping to use as guest houses. The 3rd container will serve as a storage place and probably won't have lights.

Not pictured here is the UN "honey-sucker" that arrived yesterday. Due to the high water table in Melut our pit latrines/toilets fill up very quickly, mostly with water. All the latrines on campus have been almost full and we were starting to get very worried. :) Our UN friends came to our rescue yet again and brought their special truck over to drain our latrines. We weren't able to do them all but it was a huge help to at least empty some of them!

And finally today, another forward step toward building our house! The UN forklift came back to help us move this old empty water tank which has been resting in the exact spot where we want to build our new house. The forklift moved it out of the way.
Another development is that Eli found a new contact for getting truck loads of sand and rock so it has been ordered and one load of sand has already been delivered. The area where our house is going to be built is starting to look like a construction zone now! Praise the Lord!

We are so thankful that in all these crazy projects we have had no injuries except for a few bee stings. It is really amazing to see God working and to see His timing in all this. I want to close with a beautiful quote I read this morning by Oswald Chambers:

Friday, December 07, 2012

Learning how to mud

'Tis the season for mudding! Here in South Sudan, everyone re-muds their huts so they are new and beautiful for the new year. This week the mudding has begun. It is mostly a woman's work but on our campus our men have servant's hearts and they joined in to help. Our first project was to mud the bottoms of our metal containers to keep the bees out. Some of you might have heard that when we moved these 2 metal shipping containers a few weeks ago we had to deal with clouds of angry bees for 48 hours. They had built their honeycomb underneath the containers. We want to convert these containers into guest houses on campus so we want to do whatever we can to keep the bees OUT for good. The answer was: MUD.

Eli and the boys had the fun job of mixing the mud, grass, and water to make it just the right consistency for the first "coat."

Now that we've been in Sudan for almost 5 years, I figured it's about time I learned how to mud. My friends showed me and soon I had joined in.

As I mentioned above,  mudding is a woman's work. Elizabeth, on the right, explained to me that every woman has her own "style" of mudding. Sure enough, I noticed this and developed my own style I'm sure.

Even 3-year-old Nyagua joined in.

2 hours later both foundations on the containers were mudded. We had a great time chatting and singing while we worked and after cleaning up we all went and enjoyed some tea and coffee together. As we were all heading home Elizabeth, on the far right in the picture above, announced that she'll be mudding first thing in the morning at their house and we're all invited to join. Guess we'll be getting some mudding experience this month!!!