Saturday, June 30, 2012

Feeling Blessed

 This week we moved to another, larger house on the campus. The Donker family wrapped up their 3 years here in Melut and flew out, leaving their house for us to live in until we build our own. It is great to have more space, to be able to unpack all our things, and to feel a bit more settled. This morning Eli and the boys hung a swing in the front yard and as I looked at the view from the kitchen window I was amazed that we get a frontyard like this! The Nile River is in the background, garden on the right, swing to the right.

Our home for the next 6 months

The view seems unreal!

My little monkey

 Joshua came running in the house to tell me he'd made a new friend. I was eager to see who he meant and had to laugh when I found out it was this little black goat! Joshua told me the goat had been talking to him. Sure enough, when I got out there, the goat was baahing at Josh and on his own, Josh had the idea to start feeding him the lovely new grass growing in our yard. Doesn't he look so proud?

This is my little garden. We hired someone to come help build the fence which was completed this week.

These are my little plants at the end of week one. Can't wait to see how it goes!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yuna's Story

Told June 28, 2012
       When we first moved to Sudan in 2007, one of the first friends we made was Yuna Bulan. At that time he was our compound manager so he handled a lot of the business on the compound – coordinating the cooks, workers, guards, etc. His family lived right outside our compound: Martha, his wife, and their 7 children. During our 3 years in Yabus, we grew very attached to Yuna’s family and felt like they had invited us to be family with them. When we left Yabus in April 2010 for our first home assignment, we didn’t realize how much life would change for them.

      Later in 2010 Yuna moved to Melut, South Sudan to begin studying at Gideon Theological College. At that time the school provided for boarding students but did not house their families. After the referendum and vote for the North and South to split in mid 2011, troubles began to erupt in our Yabus area. Our SIM teammates had already been evacuated so Yuna decided to travel to Yabus in November to check on his family. Yuna told me that shortly after he arrived home to Yabus, God spoke to him in a vision. He saw a man telling him he needed to get his family and leave the SIM compound. God didn’t tell him where to go, just that they needed to go. So the very next morning he sat down with his wife, children, and their closest friends/neighbors and told them seriously how God had spoken to him and they needed to gather some food and clothes and leave as soon as possible. He also went to warn other neighbors but they didn’t want to go. They walked to a small remote village called Damo, a 45 minute walk from Yabus. Only 2 days later, bombs dropped on our SIM compound! After the bombings, a neighbor found Yuna and his family and brought a large piece of shrapnel, saying there were pieces of shrapnel/metal all over his compound. Someone surely would have been injured, maybe even killed if they’d stayed!

     One Sunday while all the believers were in church in Damo, suddenly a large group of soldiers loaded with guns and artillery showed up. They said they had come to protect the civilians. But again God spoke to Yuna, telling him to leave. Yuna didn’t know where to go but he thought it would be good to find caves near the river where he could hide his wife and children (his youngest is 3 years old.)  He and a good friend searched for a safe place and God provided 2 very large caves where they moved their families and hid for weeks as they heard antanov planes coming daily and bombing nearby.

      Finally Christmas arrived and they decided to celebrate by going fishing so everyone could eat fish on Christmas day. Yuna’s eyes were huge as he was telling me this story because he said they took nets out that morning and caught so much fish he felt like one of the disciples when Jesus told them to put their nets down on the other side of their boat. They had enough fish to last all of their families for several days! So they came out of hiding for that one day and ate and celebrated. Yuna said at one point while they were eating, mind you it was Christmas day, they heard the sound of an antanov plane and sure enough saw it in the distance. They quickly hid and waited. It ended up totally bypassing them and leaving.

        After hearing part of Yuna’s story today, I was amazed at how God has been growing his faith. God spoke to him 2 times very clearly to move his family and indeed it was for their safety. There are many other incredible stories we’ve heard from Yuna and his wife Martha. I hardly know how to respond. I can’t imagine what they’ve been through. I can’t imagine what their children have gone through! In the last few days Isaac and Yuna’s son Jeremiah have really started hitting it off and starting a neat friendship. Isaac taught him how to ride his bike and fly a kite. Today Yuna told me that all his kids were up late last night talking about how happy they are to be back with our family, remembering the Yabus days.

      I had just sat down to start typing out this story tonight when I heard a soft knock on the door. When Eli answered the door, there stood all of Yuna’s kids, bringing us some cooked fish they’d had for supper. I invited them over to the computer and showed them pictures from our years in Yabus. They had such a great time pointing out their friends and themselves in each picture. It was so wonderful seeing their smiles as they remembered home and those who had been there. It breaks my heart to think that Yabus SIM compound might never be the same again. And neither will these families. But we press on in God’s strength.

     This year Yuna got to bring his family – all 7 of his children – to the college to live right here on campus with him. What a blessing! Martha, his wife is expecting # 8 in a few months. We don’t know what is ahead but praise the Lord, we have stories like this to look back on God’s faithfulness, in order to keep trusting and believing that God has a great plan for their lives and ours.

Eli and Yuna eating monitor lizard together in Yabus - 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our first fish attempt

 Though Eli and the boys fish almost every day, they didn't catch this one! We have some friendly fisherman friends who now beach their boat by our fence every day to show us their catch. Yesterday when Eli saw this crazy eel-like fish WITH TEETH, he couldn't resist. And so the lesson began for me: how to gut, clean, and fillet a fish!

This guy had some serious teeth! And he weighed a little more than 4 kilos which is more than 8 pounds! The other strange characteristic it had was 4 appendages! The things that live in the Nile! Eli wanted it for lunch so the first thing I did was go over to my neighbor Mary to ask her to come show me how it's done. She told me this fish is very very tasty but takes extra work.

 I'm sparing you the pictures of what I had to watch! After cutting off the head and pulling out all its innards, we put the pieces of fish in boiling water for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, we could take the chunks of meat out and with a knife, pull off the skin and scales.

Next, we deep fried it in oil and I sent half of the fish home with Mary. This was very much a bonding experience!

The family very much enjoyed lunch! I think Josh and Isaac ate more than anyone!

Becoming one of the ladies

 From the beginning, we have felt very welcomed and accepted by the students and their families. One of the women's favorite things to do is hang out in the afternoons and drink tea and coffee together. So this week my new teammate Kathy hosted a Ladies Tea at her house.

From my years in Yabus I remembered that ladies love having their toe nails painted so I brought a little bag of nail polish. When the ladies were finished drinking their tea and coffee, I took turns going around the circle painting ladies' nails the color of their choice.

Then yesterday I was invited to one of the lady's homes for coffee. Most of the student wives came too. I've noticed that many of them can't remember my name because it's so strange and new for them. So yesterday I suggested they pick a new name for me - one they can remember. So they each wrote their name of choice on a piece of paper, folded it, and put it in a pile. I got to pick one and that was my name. So I would like to introduce myself to you: My name is Nyadeng. My name means rain. I asked them if they named me Rain because I arrived during the rainy season and one of the ladies said, they named me Rain because Rain is a blessing and I brought the rain/blessings when I arrived. :) So sweet. So now I'm Nyadeng. Some of you might think I have an identity crisis since I was also given the name Yasmiin while we were in Khartoum, but it's not confusing for me. I LOVE that they've given me a Dinka name. To me this means they've accepted me as one of them, one of their sisters, and for that I'm overwhelmingly thankful! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Welcome and Farewell Party

 Last week was the final week of this first semester of the year at Gideon Theological College. To celebrate the end of exams, and say farewell to the Donker family who have invested many years in the school, and welcome us to Melut, there was a lovely afternoon celebration with the students and their families.
 The student wives sang a special song

 The students also sang

 The Commissioner was our guest of honor and gave a short speech about goodbyes

 This is Mr. Philip, our principal of Gideon Theological College with the school secretary, Joyce on his right. After welcoming the Donker family up front to appreciate their years of hard work, and after a kind speech by Philip, they were presented with gifts from the students.

 Then they welcomed Eli and I to the front with a special song. Eli introduced us again and then expressed how excited we are to be here and humbled to try to fill such big shoes.

 Dr. Donker bequeathed his box of chalk and red pen to Eli.

 Kathy passed on the "kettle of hospitality" to me.

 Next, the Donkers presented lovely photo albums as gifts to each student, filled with photos of their first 2 years in college life so far.

 After the program tea, carcade (hibiscus drink) and local doughnuts were served and everyone had a chance to mingle.
 Eli and our friend Yuna from Yabus

 Evan enjoyed the tea too!

And here we are: group photo of Gideon Theological College. We're PROUD to be a part of the group!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Days packed full of adventure!

 On our 3rd day here, a huge barge floated by our house - 3 boats connected - carrying people from Khartoum in the north to many towns along the Nile River in the south. This was the view from our porch!

 With so little available in the market, I've been eager to get my garden started.

 The boys took the boat out to try and fish again, still no luck.

 Every night that we have rain, we all wear our boots the next day :)

 Eli mingling and getting to know the students of the college

 Fixing up his motorcycle brought from Yabus - Praise the Lord!
Isaac bravely making friends

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Introducing our new home

I would like to give you a little tour of our new home in the peaceful and beautiful village called Melut, in South Sudan. This is our new home and we're very excited to show it to you. Originally we were going to stay in a guesthouse set up down the road but it was quite a distance from the school campus and since we've been so eager to come and get to know everyone here - the students and their families - we asked if we could stay here. Our teammates thought it would be too small and that's why it hadn't been an option. But we've made ourselves quite cozy and at home already. The picture above is our view from our porch!
The Front of our house
 My kitchen seems amazing to me after having to cook on charcoal with no electricity and no running water in Yabus. Now I have both! So I have a 2 burner stove and have running water from 9am-6pm everyday!
 This is the main bedroom we all share. Eli and I on a twin bed and 2 of the boys on a twin bed. :)

This is the way we like to start our days - on the porch looking out at the river with the cool morning breeze. It's seriously like paradise!

We have been so thrilled with Isaac's courage to reach out and make friends already. Evan and Joshua are still pretty shy but today they were joining with other children in the compound to chase out the goats! Please pray that they will be able to make friends quickly.

These are some of the special children on the school campus - children of the students

 These are our nearest neighbors

 The boys were aching to go for a swim so Eli took them down to the "swimming area". There were a lot of reeds but they drew many other "friends" into the water with them.

 The boys have been dreaming of all the fishing they'd do on the River Nile so they have been begging Eli to take them out fishing. So sure enough, on Day 2 in Melut, they went for a late afternoon fish. No bites...yet.

 Again, they attracted quite a crowd of bystanders!

We finished off the day with a lovely watermelon which we purposefully ate on the porch so we could strategically spit the seeds into the dirt where our sink and bath water pour out in hopes of our own watermelon plants soon. Please keep in mind that all these photos were taken on one day, Day 2 in Melut. And I wonder why I was so exhausted at the end of the day!!!!