Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another week

Just a few days after settling back into our house on the Nile River, we started homeschool back up in order to complete this school year by the end of June.

We had a lovely meal and time of fellowship with our college grad, Joseph Monywut and his family in their home.

Another one of our college grads, David Awan, and his large family of 9, are heading south to Yei in pursuit of better education for their children. We hosted a farewell tea on our porch with juice, tea, cake and cookies. We spent our time sharing memories of our years together and encouraging and thanking each other for what we meant to each other.

This is a regular happening in our home - the boys are ready to fish! This Saturday they spent most of the day in the river and Joshua caught his first catfish which he gave to our cat. Q-tip, our pet cat, who survived the 16 months we were away and has reunited with us, has been very thankful for the boys' hobby!

Joshua was so thoughtful to pick a bouquet of the river hyacinth flowers for Auntie Claire.

We are starting to feel like we are in a good rhythm here in Melut. We've had some very full weeks since we've spent a lot of time visiting and seeing old friends, but now I believe we are entering a new normal. Eli starts teaching English and Computer classes on Monday morning. The community is always begging us for English classes and teaching is what Eli loves to do more than anything. The classroom will be packed since there are almost 50 people registered!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More Wonderful Visits

We continue to visit friends in town and it has been such a sweet, special time of reconnecting! Though the days are hot and we end up walking quite a distance to get to where we're going, the boys are such troopers and have enjoyed reuniting with many friends as well.
It feels like we've spent more time in town in these two weeks than we did in the two years we were here previously! Of course, before the college was in session and the majority of our ministry and life happened right on campus. It's a little different now with the college not in session yet.

The boys have been teaching Uno everywhere we go.

This is my sweet, sweet sister, Eliza
She helps us in our home

Visiting one of our college grads, Joseph Monywut
What a spread! The fish was amazing!

This is truly why we are here. To live with these people, walk through the highs and lows of life together, and help point each other to Christ.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Photos of the week

4 boys and a man on a quad bike

There are so many pictures I would love to share with you all but our internet is painfully slow and it has already taken me several hours this morning just to compile these few photos. I had at least double this many but it was just too much for the internet speed to handle!

We had a full but wonderful week. I spent my mornings homeschooling the boys while Eli ran around campus managing different projects going on - building, painting, fixing the quad bike tire, planting trees, fixing roads, etc. We have spent several afternoons this week visiting different friends we have here in Melut. The reunions have been very sweet!

The boys also continue to reunite with old friends and make new ones. Goich continues to be a faithful friend. He lost his father years ago and his mother works from dawn to dusk in the market so he enjoys spending most of his days here with us.

We visited one of our college graduates. These are his darling children.

Eli with Zechariah (GTC grad) in his home

The boys are back to building forts

Our house
One of the highlights of the week for me was visiting our friends in one of the camps here in Melut. I blogged about it a few days ago so make sure you scroll down and read about that too.

Overall our hearts continue to overflow. Though we fall into bed exhausted every night from the heat and all that our days hold, we are so very thankful to be back in Melut with the people we love so much.

Friday, April 17, 2015

An Afternoon in an IDP (Internally Displaced) Camp

April 16, 2015 – POC Camp, Melut
      Everywhere we go with the boys, people stare. They see foreigners around town but it is a new and unusual thing for them to see kwadja (foreign/white) children.  The other day I sent Evan to a small shop with his friend to buy some rice. A UN guy pulled his car over to ask Evan questions because he thought it so peculiar to see a little white boy with his Sudanese buddy walking along.  A few days before, Isaac, Evan and Joshua went with some of their friends to buy mangoes from the mango grove about a half mile from our house. While walking along the river some men from the Indian battalion who were swimming in the river noticed the boys, rushed out of the water, grabbed their phones and started snapping photos with the boys! Again, it seemed strange and bizarre to them to see these three boys walking along with their friends. The question they’re asking is: “What are they doing here?!”
      Since December 2013, the Nuer tribe in Melut and its surrounding areas have had to hide in a small camp called the POC (Protection of Civilians) camp on the UN compound here in Melut. Today our family and teammate Claire went to visit the friends we have in the camp. Before we even got to the entrance of the camp, children started flooding out to see us. They were most excited to see the boys and crowded around, all wanting to shake our hands and ask our names. These dear people have lived in this small camp on the UN compound for 16 months! The women go out to go to market but the men do not leave. They keep themselves busy by volunteer teaching all their children (they have a small school set up in two canvas tents that teaches grade 1-6!) and holding prayer and worship meetings. We were so overjoyed to be reunited with many of our dear friends. It was immediately apparent that our tall, thin friends had somehow grown even thinner. Children ran around with reddish hair (a sign of malnourishment) and barely clothed. But their smiles were huge! They were thrilled to have 6 new visitors.
      Eli and the boys stayed in a makeshift tent with the men while Claire and I walked over to join the family of one of our college graduates’ family. We spent some time catching up and then they informed us that they were about to have a prayer meeting for a woman who was sick. We walked over to her house and found chairs set up outside. I knelt to get in the door and though the ground was swept clean, all that was inside was a mat with a woman lying on it. She couldn’t seem to open her eyes all the way and she looked very weak and dehydrated. We found out her name is Rebecca. Men and women from their local church body gathered and we sang a few songs and opened with prayer. Then a man, probably around 40 years old and already missing most of his teeth stood up and began to share what ailed this woman. His story broke my heart. 
      In December 2013, this man’s wife died.  Rebecca, this sick woman,  traveled from her home in Nasir (quite a distance), to come and visit/comfort the grieving family, leaving her husband and 4 children behind but pregnant with her 5th. While she was here, the fighting broke out between the Dinka and Nuer tribes and she had to seek refuge at the UN camp along with the rest of the Nuer. Since then she has been stuck here and gave birth to a little girl in the camp. She has been separated from her children and her husband and thus her sickness is a form of deep depression. She hardly eats or drinks and just lies on the mat all day. She has a nursing baby but by the sight of a baby bottle on the ground in her tent, I don’t think she’s able to produce the milk her baby needs. I was so deeply saddened to hear the story of this woman’s tragic separation from her family but also the guilt and sadness that this man carried because it was he and his family that this woman had come to visit.
The man leading the service asked if anyone had anything to share and then he directly asked me. I had been sitting there thinking of the verses from Hebrews 12:1-3 that I’d just read that morning and so, spur of the moment I agreed to share an encouragement from the Word of God. I wanted her to be able to hear, so I asked if we could duck into her tent to speak directly to her. The man came along to translate into Nuer language. Her eyes were open and she stared at me blankly as I encouraged her to press on, fixing her eyes on Jesus, remembering that He is with her, He will strengthen her and comfort her, and He is her hope.  The whole group of about 20 believers prayed earnestly for her. When we finished and got up to go I noticed tears falling down her face. I hope I can return again in a few days and check on her. There is not much I can say or do but I want her to know she is loved and she is not alone.
      Meanwhile, the whole time this little prayer service was going on, Isaac, Evan and Joshua were hanging out in a tent with a good friend of ours. Children kept huddling in the doorway to get a good look at them  and every few minutes an old man would swing a switch/whip around to scare the children away. I couldn’t believe how well the boys were doing after sitting in the tent for almost 3 hours with not much to entertain them! The sun was setting so we knew we had to hurry and leave so we could walk home before dark. Our boys shook hands with the children as we walked out of the camp and waved goodbye. I was so so proud of them. I know it wasn’t fun for them. I know they had to sit and wait in the heat. But they didn’t complain. I’m so thankful God gave us these amazing boys. They truly do serve right alongside us and are such a key part of our ministry!

     My feet are dusty and I’m exhausted but my heart is so full. God has given me such a deep love for these people and I am already thinking about how and when I can get back to see them. I’m not sure what good I can be and how I can help but I do know just my presence with them on a hot dusty afternoon was enough today.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

First Few Days Back in Melut!

All 3 boys got a chance to pilot our plane!

The view of the passengers

Joshua in the car with the cargo on our drive home
(Check out the landscape!)

The boys happily playing in our front yard

Reunited with their special friend, Goich

Joshua wasn't sure how to act with our girl visitors :)

They have been waiting to get back to fishing for sooooo long!

Saturday morning fishing with their friend

This was our lunch today!

Most of these pictures are of the boys. Eli and I have spent the last few days going through the stuff that had been stored in our house since 2013, unpacking the things we brought with us, settling in, hosting many friends who have come to visit us, meetings with Principal Kur, and helping our teammate move to a new house. Yesterday the temperature in our house was registering on my oven thermometer! It said 113 - inside! The heat definitely pays a toll and we are all ready for bed by 8! But we are so so happy to be home in Melut and have a deep sense of being exactly where we belong!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Kenya Chapter Closing: New Chapter Opening!

A morning with family!
 We have now been in Kenya for 6 weeks. It's crazy to think that up to a few days ago, we weren't sure of our next move. But as we are learning, trusting the Lord day by day, at some point He allows us to turn and look back and we see His loving hand of care, provision, protection and faithfulness.

We now have a confirmed flight into Melut, South Sudan for April 7 so we fly in only 4 days. We are beyond excited and eager to get back, reconnect with friends we haven't seen in such a long while and get settled back into life on the Nile.

Before we close this chapter though, I want to pause and acknowledge the special blessings God has sprinkled amidst a very trying time for us as we waited on the Lord for the next step. During our time in Nairobi, Kenya we have been able to connect with many special people who happened to be "passing through" at the same time. A few days ago we got to spend a morning with Eli's brother Jason and his family who were passing through on their way to a conference in another part of Kenya. I made sure to catch up on my hugs and kisses on my sweet nieces!

We also had many opportunities to spend time with our dear friends the Clermont family who serve in Chad. Our paths have rarely crossed since our days of attending seminary together so the whole month of March with them was such an encouragement and blessing. We had 2 sleepovers, several pizza parties, and lots of fun in the pool!

Even though Eli was gone for several weeks of March in South Sudan on two different trips, we were thankful for some special family times as we prepared for Easter. No, it's not that hot in Kenya - the boys were shirtless so as to preserve their shirts from the dye!

More special friends who passed through!

There were many other special times I will cherish: a week with our teammates before they headed on their home assignment, a movie date with a sweet friend, meeting new Sudanese friends, and time praying and fellowshipping with our team here in Nairobi.

Melut Team 2015
So, bright and early on Tuesday morning, the 7th of April, this group of six that are pictured above will be boarding a small Cessna Caravan and traveling all the way to our small town of Melut in South Sudan. Please pray for our protection as we travel, for our adjustments to the heat, and for our team as we settle back into a new way of life. Pray that God will use us for His glory and for His Kingdom work.