Monday, November 30, 2015

3 Camps in 2 Days

One of the seekers in Yusif Batil

On Saturdays we go out to Yusif Batil Camp where we are chronologically teaching through some of the foundational Old Testament stories. This last Saturday we also got to pass out some solar powered Scripture Radios that play portions of Scripture in Arabic. This is a wonderful way for non-readers to hear the Word again and again.

This is what our drive looks like as we head about 35 minutes out of town to the further camps.

This is the new church in Kaya, furthest away. It was such a joy to worship the Lord together and encourage one another in the Word of God.

It is a wonderful gift that many of these new believers can read Arabic well so they are able to read the Scripture for themselves!

This young lady is the daughter of the Sultan. The Sultan is just how it sounds, he is the most powerful man in that camp! We visited the Sultan's home after church and shared a cup of tea and grieved with one of his older daughters who lost a four year old son last week.

On Sunday afternoon I go to Gendrassa for the Ladies Bible study. We used to meet on Thursdays but since more ladies are trying to find work and some are attending literacy courses on the weekday afternoons, we shifted our meeting to Sundays so more women can come.

And more women have definitely come!
Another blessing recently is that my teammate, Khambawi and a few of his colleagues from the Secondary School join us after our Bible study to teach these new believers Christian songs.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Wild Weekend

Lately, I've been finding myself in situations that are so new and different for me that I am eager to share it with you. Because I find so much joy in getting to live life in South Sudan, I wish I could share every detail with you, wish I could take you right along with me!
In my last blog post I shared how Thursday Bible study went in Gendrassa. None of it happened as I'd planned and yet I drove home that evening with peace and gratitude in my heart because I knew God had worked, He had spoken through His Word, and that was all that mattered.

On Saturday, Eli, the boys and I headed out to Yusif Batil camp, about a 10 minutes drive past Gendrassa. The new believers there have constructed a small place of shade - several poles stuck in the ground and a tarp over the top. It provides shade from the sun but boy is it hot! There was already a good sized group there when we arrived and they were eager to begin. We met a new fellow who spent 10 years in Uganda so he speaks English and is literate in English and Arabic. He used to be a muslim but learned about Jesus in Uganda and is a follower of Jesus now.  Apparently last week when we couldn't make it for Bible study because of car troubles on the way, he stepped up and taught the group who had gathered. Isn't that beautiful how God provided?

Our friends told us there was a big wedding taking place in the neighborhood so the women wouldn't be able to come because they were busy helping with wedding festivities. This week we studied Genesis 3 and after reading through it several times and some good questions and discussion, it was so neat to hear some of the men re-tell the chapter in their own words and in their own language.

Towards the end our study, Eli and I got a little distracted as the wedding party arrived with singing, chanting, and the blowing of cow horns. Soon after that, a group of men started dancing and then whipping each other! We were quite startled, as were our kids, until the men in our group explained that this is their culture and part of the celebration. I didn't have my camera but here is a picture I found on Google:

Soon several ladies that I've been getting to know out there came to get me and invited me to come meet the bride. I was ushered into a very crowded tukul (mud hut) where the bride was sitting and her friend/maid of honor sitting right next to her. They had very somber, serious looks on their faces. I greeted them and offered my congratulations and then all of us filed outside where a large group of women crowded around the bride and her friend as a special ritual was performed using oil and beads.

A man, who was a relative on the bride's side, dipped his fingers in a bowl of oil and then wiped it on the bride's forehead, neck, wrists, and ankles. Then the bride dipped her fingers in the oil and did the same process for her friend. It was fascinating. After the oil, friends and family of the bride gathered around with a large bowl of beads and started putting beads all over - around her head like a crown, on her arms and upper arms, around her waist, around her neck and even on her legs. She looked beautiful - how I wish I had a photo! Once the beads were all on, they began cheering and dancing and singing around her. It was incredible. Weddings in South Sudan are one of my favorite things!

The next day was Sunday and we decided to drive out to Gendrassa again to join them for Sunday morning worship. It was so neat to see this baby church conduct their service in their own way. After a time of greeting and fellowship after the service we headed home and brought my friend Manahil with us. She is going to take part in Eli's seminar this week on how to study the Bible and then teach it to oral learners. We organized a place for her to stay here in Doro so she wouldn't have to commute the distance every day. So she spent the day with us here at our house, along with a few other friends who came to visit in the afternoon. I decided to go all out and made juice, tea and then made coffee the Sudanese way - roasting the beans, pounding/grinding and then serving it with ginger in little Arabic coffee cups.

Enjoying coffee with the ladies

Eli and the men sat under our giant Baobab tree and played Uno while they drank coffee 

The cherry on the top of the whole evening was that we had a friend come for dinner, all the way from Burundi! You heard right! Our dinner guest was Dr. John Cropsey, a teammate of Eli's two brothers who work in Burundi. John is here in Doro for the week trying to do 500 cataract surgeries! It was so neat to have him here at our house for dinner, knowing that in a month, it will be reversed and we will be there in Burundi with them! (Yes, we are going to Burundi for Christmas for a big Fader Christmas!)

Dinner outside
So that was our weekend. 
Monday morning, bright and early, Eli began his Discipleship Seminar but I decided to take Monday and Tuesday off from home school and use the beginning of this week as my "weekend". 

Needless to say, we feel ridiculously tired every night and can hardly keep our eyes open past the kids' bedtime!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Gotta roll with it

I wanted to update you praying friends about Bible study with the ladies in Gendrassa yesterday. I was sure in a pickle on Wednesday night. Wednesday afternoon both of my options for getting out to Gendrassa fell through so when I went to bed that night, I had no idea how I was going to get out there. In a matter of ten minutes Thursday morning, after a few text messages, one of my teammates offered to go with me and drive and then I heard from Hadiya that she could come translate! I was so delighted.

So Thursday afternoon Ruth and I headed out to Gendrassa together. We arrived at the little church right at 2 but ended up having to wait for about 20 minutes before anyone showed up. Hadiya never came but Maha, one of the ladies who is really shining as a leader, has basically started teaching the classes. She is hearing these passages of God's Word for the first time but since she reads Arabic beautifully, we just keep returning to the text and what it says. She summarizes and re-words the verses into simpler Arabic and also their native language. I am so proud of her.

This is definitely way different than any Bible study or teaching I've ever done. I am constantly feeling stretched and challenged and yet I am convinced that this is what God wants me to be involved in right now. I returned from Gendrassa on Thursday, again in awe of God and how He works things out according to His plan, not mine. I wish I was more flexible. In this context, I'm being forced to learn how to flex and "roll with it".

On a different note, we were excited to receive new equipment on a plane on Thursday for our team to set up new internet. A technician came with the stuff and Eli was helping to build a tower for the new satellite dish. Sadly, Thursday night a thief came to the compound and stole some of the new equipment! We were so disappointed. Somehow someone knew the equipment had arrived and knew where to find it and stole it in the night! Eli had to go to town to file a report with the police and we are praying that the thieves will realize they can't use the equipment and return it.

As I shared in my previous post, we've experienced a rough patch lately. Seems like one thing falls apart after another. Yesterday I found myself not even knowing how to respond when Eli got a call saying a quad bike broke down and needed help. Or when staph infection continues to spread through our family. Or when the phone rang at 7 am on Saturday morning...

I know we must press on and fix our eyes on Jesus. Can't let ourselves get bogged down with what is going on around us. Gotta remember why we're here. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It's been quite the week and something keeps urging me to share it with you.
A week ago Isaac started a fever, sore throat and headache. Joshua started complaining of tummy troubles and Evan had a runny nose and cough. Around the same time, I noticed a bug bite on my thumb and as it continued to get worse, I realized it must have been some kind of spider bite. It got so red, swollen and infected that I ended up having to go on antibiotics just to get it to start calming down!

Meanwhile Eli and I were still trying to stay committed to teaching out in the camps on Thursday and Saturday. On Thursday our teammate (who is also a nurse) agreed to stay with the kids so Eli and I could go out to Gendrassa. On Saturday I had to stay home and sadly as Eli and a group of folks were going out for Bible studies in 2 different Ingassana camps, they experienced car troubles. One Bible study took place that day but Eli had to come back to get another vehicle to tow the "sick" truck so he never made it out to the other camp. That was disappointing.

On Sunday we'd been looking forward to joining the 1st church service in a brand new church in the furthest Ingassana camp. But Sunday morning the kids were still sick so I stayed home with them and Eli took the motorcycle out for the special church service. I was disappointed I missed it but thankful Eli could go.

Tuesday is the day Eli goes out to Kaya, the furthest camp, and again, he showed up to drive the pickup out and discovered it had a flat tire. Thankfully he was able to fix it but it delayed him an hour and a half. As I type this, it doesn't sound like much, but to be honest it's been pretty discouraging for us. It feels like there have been so many "road blocks" and complications as we try to persevere in going out to teach the Bible in the camps. We recognize we are on the front lines and Satan isn't happy about people hearing about Jesus and turning to Him. He is going to do everything he can to try to stop us. And he is.
Will you please pray for us? We are feeling worn and discouraged. Poor Eli is very tired and his body is wearing down. This coming week he will start a 2 week Discipleship seminar and he will be teaching all day, five days a week for two weeks. So the intensity is about to go up another notch. We can't do it without the Lord's special strength and power. Your prayers fuel us.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Reflecting & Remembering

I love reflecting because it is always so encouraging to remember God's faithfulness and how He's so lovingly cared for and guided us. Many times in the Scriptures, God's people were exhorted to "remember",  to look back and recall how God had been present and real in their lives. Last Thursday I spent my early morning quiet time reflecting and I'm so thankful I did because  Thursday ended up being a very challenging day. I needed to keep reminding myself to remember.

One year ago, this month, we were still in the States on our home assignment praying about what God had next for our family. In November, we believed God was confirming to us to continue in South Sudan despite the unrest and lack of peace and stability. I am thankful I have a bench mark to look back to. God gave Eli and I such peace one year ago and He continues to grant us that same peace "that passes all understanding". Though we didn't know exactly what we were coming back to, we knew He wanted us back.

In February 2015 we flew back to Kenya, not knowing the next step but by March, after Eli's quick trip in to Melut, God opened the way for us to return to our home and ministry there. We spent 6 wonderful weeks in Melut, re-connecting with old friends and making new ones and opening up new classes on the college campus. These are sweet memories we will hold onto.

June and July were hard months because we had to leave South Sudan and wait things out in Kenya, again not knowing what was next. We knew our hearts needed some time to heal from our losses in Melut before we were ready to see what might be next. Though it was a difficult season, God was so near and comforted us through friends and family near and far, and through the hardships, our marriage and family seemed to grow even stronger.

On August 4th we arrived in Doro, full of excitement and anticipation and so very thankful that God had returned us to this wonderful country that has captured our hearts. Tomorrow will mark 3 months in Doro and we are amazed how at home we feel! One value that Eli and I pray for in each season of our lives and in every place that He carries us  is to bloom where we're planted. We believe we are blooming again. We might be a different color blossom, growing in different soil, but we are blooming and we pray we are giving off a beautiful scent of Jesus to those around us.

Flowers blooming outside our new home
Eli and I spend many evenings after the boys are in bed, talking about our new life here and how different it is from our life in Melut - though we are still in the same country! We now live amongst many many internally displaced people and are meeting people from tribes we've never even heard of before!

Another surprise is how God has seemed to "plop" us into a new and very exciting ministry of getting to teach the Bible to a tribe that has been very closed to the gospel in the past. This is not something we were expecting to be a part of when we decided to join the team here in Doro, but we have been so humbled and thankful to the Lord for how He's allowing us to be a part of it. We are adjusting from teaching in the front of a classroom (our ministry at Gideon Theological College) to sitting in the shade of a tree, teaching the Bible from the very beginning to people who have never heard it before. It is very exciting!

Teaching from Genesis 3
We all have a history. We all have beautiful testimonies to reflect on. I hope my reflecting will encourage you to do the same. And now, we must press on. We are all in the midst of a "story" that we'll look back on in a few months or a few years and be amazed and encouraged by God's faithfulness during this time. So keep that in mind.