Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Sunday in Doro

Uduk church service
 Every Sunday since we arrived in Doro, we have visited a different church. Sometimes we don't know a single person in that church, other times, we're visiting a friend's church. Today we went to the church where one of our students from Gideon Theological College is pastoring. I wish I had taken a picture of him while he was preaching but I was so absorbed with his beautiful sermon from Philippians 4 about pressing on toward the goal.

After the sermon, 3 new babies and a toddler were dedicated to the Lord.

The woman in the purple shirt sat by me and translated from Uduk to Arabic for me through the whole service. I can't explain it but I fell in love with her immediately. I could tell she had a beautiful heart for the Lord. After the service I talked with her for a bit and met one of her friends (in the picture). It was so neat to hear that both of these ladies knew some of our earlier missionaries from the 1960's and they are called the mothers of the church because they were some of the first ones in the Chali church. Chali is an area in Sudan where this group of the Uduk tribe are originally from. They have to live in Doro because their area is continually being bombed by the north.

Priscilla is my sweet little friend from Melut. I've always enjoyed cuddling her on my lap (though she's getting big now!)

Isaac loves his Sudanese tea (shai)

Having tea with Miriam
 Miriam is married to Yoel who preached such a lovely sermon this morning.  They were with us in Melut for 2 years and now are continuing in ministry.

Baby Samuel with an auntie
 Then this afternoon, neighbor friends came to tell me that my new friend Haua who gave birth about a week ago, was having a special celebration for her baby boy. I was delighted to be invited. I took a large bag of milk powder as a gift (milk is precious) and enjoyed some time trying to hear the Mabaan conversation, drinking tea and coffee, and holding a few babies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Legacy of Grace

Acts 20:24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

On August 23, 1940 Dr. Robert Grieve and his wife Claire were killed by 2 Italian bombers in Doro, South Sudan.  Their teammates, Kenneth and Blanche Oglesby, were injured.  Zilla Walsh was not hurt.  These men and women served as SIM Missionaries among the Maban tribe and worked at a mission clinic.  The bodies of the Grieve couple were buried in Doro.  Blanche Oglesby died within a year and her remains were brought to Doro and buried there.  Kenneth Oglesby carried on the ministry started by this first team to the Maban people.    

As Kenneth returned to bury his wife's remains and continue his ministry, he quoted Acts 20:24.  His desire was to finish the course and the ministry which he received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.  

We have unknowingly stepped into a place steeped with rich history.  I have just learned the details of this story over the past few days and today we went to the grave sites of these missionary heroes to clean around them and to remember their sacrifice.

Also buried in this small cemetery is the body of Dr. David Masters.  He passed away in April, 2008 while serving as a missionary doctor with SIM in Doro. 

SIM Missionaries and Maban children around the grave site of Dr. and Mrs. Grieve 

It takes a deeply committed person to utter the words of Paul from Acts 20:24 and we are humbled to be serving in Doro with such wonderful people.  We have enjoyed worshiping with the Maban churches here, testimony and fruit of the labor of the Grieves, Oglesbys, Zilla Walsh, Dr. Masters and his wife and so many more.    

We also want to testify with our lives of the good news of the grace of God.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Our Doro Home

The Kitchen
 This is a tour of our house in pictures. This house has been such a wonderful provision from the Lord. It was built by a lovely missionary family who won't be able to return for a few years, so in the meantime, they are graciously allowing us to live in it. The furnishings were already here when we arrived which was a huge blessing for us!

The main living area
 It is a nice large house with plenty of windows for the breeze to blow through. We use the main open area for our dining room and living room.

Our bedroom

The boys' room

We feel very much at home here already. A few days before we arrived the kids and I planted a small veggie patch and those plants are coming up and we even planted flowers along the front and side of the house. I'm realizing that since we move "homes" so often I jump all in right away, doing everything I can to make the new place home. Now we can sit back and enjoy this new place God brought us to.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Solar Cooking

The boys brought me a surprise! 
A few days ago Eli and the boys surprised me by bringing over a solar oven from the other compound where no one was using it. As you can see, it's not your typical oven and I thought they were bringing me a giant satellite dish for internet (which would have also been a nice gift). Anyway, as you can imagine, it took some experimenting to see how exactly this contraption works. In the picture below, you can see that in the middle of the "shiny dish" is a metal rack. I simply put what I want to cook on that rack in a black dish and so far things have taken the same amount of cooking time in a regular oven!

First I tried boiling water. I put a pot of water on at 4:40 pm, in the late afternoon sun, and 20 minutes later it was boiling! The next day I tried zucchini bread and it turned out beautifully, taking the same amount of time it would have taken in a regular oven. Since I was on a roll, the next day I tried a chocolate zucchini cake! Again, it turned out deliciously! Today I've got a pot of beans in the solar oven and we'll see how that works.

To get my cake out of the "oven" I have to wear sunglasses because the sun's reflection is so strong!
So, yes, I have to be a little more creative here in order to bake for my family but these tasty treats cooked by the sun are so worth it!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Very full days but our hearts are full to overflowing too!

Delicious food made sweeter by the friends we ate with
 This was a very full weekend and we are tired out but our hearts are full. On Saturday we were invited out to a village called Dangagi, a 30-minute drive from Doro. We went to this village back in 2013 for the funeral of our Principal, Philip Eisa, and as Eli has been trying to meet the local Mabaan church leaders, our family was invited out for a small celebration in their village. It was a lovely time to get to know these strong men and women of the faith and to hear the history of Christianity and discipleship happening in this more remote place.

Marko, GTC grad on Eli's left and 2 local Mabaan pastors
 We reunited with our good friend, Marko, who graduated from GTC in 2013. It was wonderful to hear about the things He's doing now. He is head teacher of the school in his village and also an evangelist in the church.

   Then today we decided we wanted to go visit the Uduk church where so many of our Yabus friends attend. It has been 5 years since we worked and lived in Yabus and so it was wonderful to see so many friends and meet new children who have been added to their families. The church was a large grass-roofed structure with no walls but packed full of people. It was Baby Dedication Sunday and 7 new babies were dedicated to the Lord.
Uduk baby dedication - 7 babies dedicated!
 After church the men went off in one direction, the boys went off to play with friends and I was ushered into a small, very hot hut where all the mamas and new babies were. We drank a LOT of wonderful Sudanese coffee and tea. As you can see in the picture below, we were sweating like crazy but that didn't stop us from enjoying our coffee and fellowship together.
Good coffee makes you sweat :)

After eating and taking many pictures of the babies, we started our long walk home. I was thankful again for our three boys and what troopers they are to spend the whole day out in the camp in very hot, humid weather.

Exciting Times!

Blog: August 14, 2015
Not by Might
I want to share a very exciting thing that I got to be a part of yesterday. Before we even arrived in Doro, we heard about a certain people group that has been hostile to the gospel and to missionaries for decades, but is now placing their faith in Jesus. This people group have had to flee from their homeland which is further north of us due to unrest and fighting. Here they’ve had the opportunity to hear about Jesus and how much He loves them. A small group of new believers is growing out in a camp, a short drive from where we live. Yesterday I tagged along with one of my teammates and a Sudanese woman believer to go meet some of the women of this new baby church.

My teammate told them we’d come at 2 pm and there was already a group of about 8 women waiting in the small church building when we arrived. The “church building” was a small rectangular structure built with brambles and branches. It was a humble shelter but the women inside were the treasure. I could see right from the start that they had new life and new joy – you could see it in their eyes and all over their faces. They were so excited to see us and fellowship with us. My teammate began by sharing her testimony and the other woman and I shared ours briefly. All this was done in Arabic since this tribe is from the north and are familiar with Arabic. We then asked if some of them would share their stories of how Jesus is changing their lives. One lady shared that she is now learning how to forgive others. Another woman excitedly told us that she wants to learn as much as she can from God’s Word so that she can teach her children and raise them in the truth.

They hung on our every word as my teammate taught a short lesson using large colorful pictures. Then our Sudanese sister taught them a few Arabic songs and we prayed together. None of us wanted our time together to end but we needed to get back to our side of town. We all shared hugs and warm handshakes and agreed to meet back together next week on the same day at the same time.

As I sat there amidst these beautiful women with their gorgeous, eager faces taking in every word they heard, I couldn’t believe that I had the privilege to witness this incredible happening. After decades of missionaries trying to reach this group, many years of toil and tears, through great suffering that these people have gone through, they are finally coming to know Jesus as their Savior!
These women want more teaching, they want to learn what the Word of God says about God, about how we should live our lives and about the Hope that He gives. I feel ill-equipped, incapable. My Arabic is not where it should be to correctly teach from the Bible. So I wonder, “Lord, what is my part? How can I join you in this great work?”

This morning the Lord encouraged me as I read in Judges, the story of Gideon. He had many questions for the angel of the Lord who came to give him instructions in what to do. And when he questioned the angel, the messenger didn’t answer his questions. Instead he said, “Go in the strength you have. I am sending you.” This morning as I looked out at the early sunshine in the trees, in this beautiful spot in South Sudan, I felt the Holy Spirit saying, “Bethany, go in the strength I give you. I’m sending you.” I don’t have to have it all together. He can and will use me as I surrender to Him and do what He’s asking me to do.

It’s a little scary as I step forward but with your prayers and with the Lord in me and working through me, I know HE IS ABLE.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

We're here!

Our new home
 We are unpacked and feeling so comfortable in our new home here in Doro. We are so grateful to have a place to call home. The boys are happily getting used to their new surroundings.

The guards on our compound have some chickens and Joshua loves watching them eat and helping the lost chicks find their mamas. The boys are even starting to name them.

 I have been so proud of our kids. Despite culture and language differences, Isaac, Evan and Josh have been taking the soccer ball out every day to play and make friends.

Yesterday we went to the river for a swim and as you can see we had quite the audience!

The boys and their soccer friends

And now I'm going to copy and paste an email I wrote to my family about our first days here:

There is so much I want to share about our new life here. I have been amazed at the ease of unpacking and getting the house to a functional state. And honestly, I’ve been amazed by the boys and how beautifully they’re adapting! Isaac especially started taking initiative a few days ago, he takes the soccer ball out to a clearing and plays soccer with a group of about 12 boys. Yesterday Evan warmed up to the idea and today Joshua joined! After playing soccer for about an hour yesterday afternoon, Isaac and Evan came home sweating and red-faced and asked if we could walk down to the river with their friends. Sara, a new teammate was here visiting and she said she’d enjoy going to the river so we walked, along with the boys’ soccer friends. It took about 30 minutes to get there but then they had a blast swimming! The water was brown, like chocolate milk and did not appeal to me at all, but our three jumped in right away and soon other kids were splashing around too. On the way home, the boys joked and some of them even held hands with Isaac and put their arms around them. I know making new friends with people of a different culture and language is hard and totally out of their comfort zone but they’re doing it and I am so so proud of them.
   Joshua is excited about all the different kinds of birds we see here. We got the bird book out and he’s spotted some cool turaccos and hornbills. I’m attaching a photo of Josh watching the chickens being fed. There is a rooster and several hens and their chicks on our compound that belong to the guards and Josh has enjoyed watching them, feeding them, and helping lost chicks reunite with their mamas. So far the rooster has been named Barney and by the end of the week maybe even the chicks will have names. J
   We really like the guards. There are four total, usually two here at a time. There are two sons and their fathers. The older fathers have several wives and they come to visit almost every day so I’m trying to learn names and learn who goes with who. It’s kind of challenging. But the boys are getting to know them as “Ami” which is their language for “uncle”. Yesterday the boys and I planted a veggie patch and our “uncles” were very interested in these strange seeds we were planting and asked to have the leftovers. They have already planted maize, groundnuts and okra in different sunny areas of the compound.
   I can’t remember if I told you this already but one major blessing during this first week has been the Lunch Club. SIM has Compound A (the original compound where some missionaries live and where the main meeting/dining hall is.) Then there is Compound B where the rest of the team lives and on that compound there is also the water project office and a small Bookshop that a teammate has opened recently. Behind both of those compounds, another few minutes’ walk is our compound. We are on a compound which is right next to the SIM/SIC secondary school that moved from Yabus. Sorry that might be more details than you wanted but just wanted to give you an idea that we’re not all together on one big compound. So back to the lunch club. The Lunch club is available to any SIM missionaries who want to be a part of it. For $1 a day, you get lunch cooked for you, Mon-Fri! For now, we have joined the lunch club which is going to be great next week once I start school with the boys. We can focus on school all morning and I won’t have to stop to start lunch. We can just go through until 12:30 and then walk down to compound A to eat. It got a little tricky yesterday when some friends came to visit right at lunch time and I knew it would be right to feed them so the boys and Eli ate with our guests (but didn’t eat much) and then we went over to compound A and filled up the rest of the way at lunch club. J
   Eli and I are amazed that every time we go out, especially to the nearby Doro market, we run into people we know from Yabus days (so from five years back!) I always keep my eyes open and of course when  I see a familiar face, then I have to try to remember the name! J But it’s definitely fun being reunited with so many dear people. We are also making new friends. Eli is so good about getting out and walking around. He’s also been “shadowing” some of our teammates and hearing what they do and learning about the tribes and community and needs here. Today he went with Bubba (we studied Arabic together in Khartoum) to the Ingessena camp. This morning I went along with a teammate to visit a friend of hers who has a little 2 month old who was born with quite a few complications. One of the major complications is that he has cleft lip and cleft pallet so they have to feed him through an NG tube and also with a special bottle brought from the States that the mom uses to feed her expressed milk. It’s been a very hard few months for this new mama as she struggles to feed her little one. He also has a heart defect. We spent a few hours taking turns holding him, feeding him, and encouraging the mother to keep doing what she’s doing. On our way home, we were invited to stop and drink coffee with a group of women so we did. It is so great to be back in this culture.
   I’m finding that the days are very full and physically draining. I think especially since everything is so new, it takes a lot of energy out of us. Last night after getting the boys into bed, I took my bucket bath and then came to bed with the laptop, hoping to download pictures, write emails, catch up with Eli. Eli and I did share about our days but somehow in the midst of it, I fell asleep! I know these first weeks will be the most busy as we try to figure out how to do life, as we meet up with so many friends (which means more visitors than usual) and as we learn where everything is. The market is only a 10 min walk away so I’ve been going almost every day. I’m soooo thrilled that if I need anything, it is close enough to run over. I want to show Isaac and Evan around the market so that soon I can send them on their bikes if I just need one or two things when I’m in a pinch.
   Tomorrow we’re going to attend the SIC Doro church which is right here in neighborhood. We want to greet the church and let them know who we are and why we’re here and then other weeks we might start visiting the different churches in the camps. There is really soooo much going on ministry wise in this place that it’s hard to keep everything straight but we know it will all come in time.
    Today is Saturday and German came again. He’s been hanging out with Isaac riding bikes and the two of them have been helping Eli fix a motorcycle that one of our teammates basically gave to Eli. He’s thrilled about it though it needs some TLC after being in storage for so long and Eli will need to figure out how to get it registered and get the needed papers so he can drive it around. It will be wonderful when he needs to get around to all the different camps. Some are quite far. This motorcycle is just one of sooooo many ways that God has provided so abundantly and beyond what we could have expected. Seriously, it’s quite overwhelming how God has been so present, so near, and so totally involved in all the details, big and small. We are humbled and always thanking Him for everything.
   One other funny tidbit I wanted to share is my cooking. You know how when you move somewhere new you have to learn how and what to cook there. Well, okra is in abundance here and this is definitely its season so I’ve been cooking a lot with it. Last night we had okra in our spaghetti sauce and the night before we had okra fried rice. Both were a huge hit with the family and again I’m amazed at my boys and that they can even get excited about okra. Today when Isaac saw that I bought more okra at the market he said, “Good! You can never have too much okra!” What a kid!
    Well, this is getting so long. Since we don’t email every day, it seems I have so much I want to share. For now the internet set up is that we walk down to one of the SIM compounds for internet. It’s been working well, it just means it doesn’t always happen every day. 

Thank you for all your prayers! We are definitely sensing God answering your prayers.
    With love,
              Eli, Bethany and the boys

Sunday, August 02, 2015

You Make Me Brave

I recently started this new Bible study by Priscilla Shirer focusing on the story of Gideon in the book of Judges. It has been perfect during this season of my life when my weakness seems to be magnified. This morning, only 2 days before we begin a whole new chapter of our lives in a new place in South Sudan, my Loving Father met me so personally and powerfully to encourage me in my weakness and to inspire me to be BRAVE as we move forward.

My time with the Lord this morning started with these beautiful words from Jesus Calling:
"Trust me in the depths of your being. It is there that I live in constant communion with you. When you feel flustered and frazzled on the outside, don't get upset with yourself. You are only human and the swirl of events around you will sometimes feel overwhelming. Just remember that I am with you and within you."

Then in my Gideon Bible study I was challenged to answer the question: As Gideon and the Israelites were intimidated by the their enemies' iron chariots (or battle strength) what are the "iron chariots" of intimidation that keep me from moving forward in complete obedience? I pondered this for a while. And then I realized that the thing that intimidates me most about moving forward, serving God with EVERYTHING, is my awareness of my own weakness and limitations. I know what it feels like to give my all and get burned out in Sudan, so I'm always afraid of doing that again. So now I try to protect myself and in the guise of "staying healthy and balanced" I wonder sometimes if I miss out on something the Lord really wants me to do! Israel chose comfort instead of commitment to the One who had led and sustained them. God said He would continue doing it if they would actively trust Him for total victory.

The new question I'm asking myself is: What comforts or perceived sense of security would I need to give up to fully obey God's instructions? When you think of our family in the next weeks as we transition into a new place of ministry, will you please pray for Eli and I to to find that beautiful balance where we know we are fully obeying and fulfilling what God has called us to Doro to do, but in a way that our family, marriage, and our own personal lives can continue to thrive. This is my prayer this morning. And in yet another beautiful way, the Lord encouraged my heart this morning with this song called, "You Make Me Brave".  You can listen to it in the link below but here are some of the words:

I have heard you calling my name
I have heard the song of love that you sing
So I will let you draw me out beyond the shores into your grace

And Your love, in wave after wave, crashes over me
For you are for us, you are not against us
Champion of Heaven, you made a way for all to enter in,

You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
No fear can hinder now the promises you make.