Monday, January 27, 2014

Our 2014 Spiritual Life Conference

The boys with their MK friends
This year our Spiritual Life Conference with our whole SIM South Sudan team couldn't have happened at a more perfect time. A month after all pulling out of South Sudan due to fighting and unrest, we spent 5 days together in a beautiful place - worshiping the King, praying, encouraging one another, and hearing from the Lord through a great pastor, Steve Harling.

The kids enjoyed sitting at the "kids table" at almost every meal
 Our conference was held at Brackenhurst, a beautiful conference center amidst Kenyan tea fields. We ate 3 meals a day plus two tea breaks complete with cookies, muffins, or doughnuts. Yes, we were spoiled this week!

A team came from Tennessee to teach and love on our children while we were in sessions all morning. At the end of the week all the kids performed a few fun songs for us.

A team also came to lead our worship. One day my dear friend and teammate, Amie Cross, did sign language to the hymn, "It is Well with my Soul" and it was so powerful and moving for all of us.

We also had a fun skit/talent show afternoon. Our Kenyan friends got up to sing and dance, including Debbie. :)

 One night we made a fire in our room and cuddled up next to it while Eli read before bed. It was a special time to spend as a family since we'd been busy all week.

Our teacher, Steve Harling, shared Elijah's story from 1 and 2 Kings, challenging and encouraging us in our journey of faith.

I close with this picture of our Melut team. Two couples are missing because they are with Pioneers so were not at our conference. The couple on the far left are hoping to join us later this year. We are saddened that for now our team will spend at least the next 6 months in different areas since it is still not safe to return to South Sudan. Please pray for our whole South Sudan team as we pray and pray about what comes next for all of us and for our dear brothers and sisters in South Sudan.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

While We Wait

Well, I have tried to write on my blog multiple times in the last few weeks and part of the problem is that our internet has been bad, plus the website won't let me post pictures, but honestly I think most of the reason is that I just don't know what to write. There is so much swirling around in my head even now, but for your sake I will try to put some thoughts and information down for you.

We arrived in Kenya on January 13th and have enjoyed re-connecting with other missionaries and teammates with our organization. We attended a very encouraging time of prayer on Saturday morning this weekend with missionaries from all different organizations who have been working in South Sudan.

We also had a very good Melut team meeting this afternoon where we shared updates on what is going on in Melut from what we gather from emails and phone calls with our South Sudanese friends and colleagues there. And we talked about our risk thresholds and where each of us stand as far as knowing when we are comfortable to head back into South Sudan.

There have been some disappointments this last week where fighting got worse not better in the capital of our state, Upper Nile. We have been so heartbroken by the horrific stories we hear and how it is affecting all our dear friends. Food is now becoming a serious problem since many markets, shops, and homes have been looted.

Just this weekend we hear news that a ceasefire agreement has been put into place between the two sides so please pray with us that this will be the first step in South Sudan returning to peace. It will still take a lot of time to "heal" and return to any kind of normalcy.

This week we're attending SIM South Sudan's Yearly Spiritual Life Conference. Every year we go to a beautiful location in the tea fields and spend five days with our team fellowshipping, praying, worshipping and hearing reports of what God is doing in SIM's different bases. All of our plans are in the air as we wait to see what will happen each day in South Sudan. For now we wait and pray.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2013 photos

2013 started out with the construction of our own home in Melut, South Sudan. Building began on January 23 and I remember the joy Eli and I shared on the day he took this photo with those iron poles in the ground because we knew this house was God's house and would only move forward to completion because of Him.

We welcomed in the new year with Bethany's parents, Skip and Ruth Sorensen, who joined us in Melut for 3 weeks to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with us. Dad helped Eli with quite a few projects around campus despite the heat.

Towards the end of January we welcomed little Nyangat to our GTC family, daughter of John and Julia.

The highlights in February were welcoming two new families to our team: the Crosses and the Heskas. These prefab houses were both built this month!

Orientation meeting under a tree

Eli and I were thrilled to have others join our team.

In February we also celebrated the new GTC boat arrival and dedication.

Construction continued to progress on our own house.

In March we began the final school year for this batch of students at GTC.

At the very beginning of April we moved into our new house and our campus had a special time of prayer and dedication.

A bright spot of our year: our growing team

At the end of April we flew to Kenya to enjoy a week on the beach with Eli's parents.

We then met up with more Faders in Nairobi and spent a few precious days together.

In May our beloved Principal of Gideon Theological College, Rev. Philip Eisa went to be with the Lord suddenly and we attended his funeral in Mabaan county.

In June the rains began and our boys joined with their Sudanese friends to plant their first garden on their own!

In July our three homeschooling families joined together to do fun classes together twice a week: art, music, public speaking and even a few science experiments.

In August I walked through a very difficult time with one of my closest South Sudanese friends when she lost her baby boy in child labor.

In September we experienced a great miracle when God preserved the life of one of our student's wives during a very strenuous labor and delivery. We rejoiced when both baby and mother were able to return home safe and healthy.

In October God gave Bethany an extraordinary gift by opening up the way for her to travel to Bali to spend a week with one of her close friends and attend a Thrive Women's Retreat.

Later in October we were saddened to lose another of our own at GTC - Elizabeth William. Another funeral in our community was a hard blow but we each experienced God's grace, love and comfort.

At the beginning of November we showed the Magdalena film (Jesus story) to women/ friends we had in the community. One of my (Bethany's) favorite moments of the year was watching Mary, a wife of one of our students, share beautifully from God's Word.

November 30th was probably the happiest day of the year: graduation for our students at GTC. It represented God's faithfulness and goodness, carrying all of us through, despite challenges and hardships.

GTC Graduates 2013

On December 11th we packed up our house and flew to Uganda to celebrate Christmas with Bethany's family. We left 5 days earlier than planned as we were very eager for a break and to be with our family. Little did we know that on December 15th, the day before we were supposed to originally travel through Juba, horrible fighting broke out in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan!

Here we are, safe and sound, with our family, while war is waging in our beloved country. We never expected this when we left Melut. We are thankful for God's protection over our family but our hearts are breaking for many of our friends who have suffered through this time of unrest and fighting.

Our boys have LOVED special times with their Uncle Stan who flew from the States. They've spent a lot of time wrestling, having nerf gun fights, water fights, and learning how to be a real man from their uncle.

So here we are: the Fader Five. 2013 has been the most challenging year of our lives so far and yet so rich. Eli and I have both grown so much in our faith and love for the Lord, our children are thriving, our marriage is stronger and sweeter, and we love our South Sudanese brothers and sisters more than ever.

Please pray with us that peace will return to South Sudan. Pray for all the believers in South Sudan to be shining lights and voices of Truth during this difficult time. And please pray that our family can return to the place where God has called us.

Happy New Year ---Kulu Sana wa Entu Tayibiin!