Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dating in Doro

Dining in the great outdoors
   It is not common for a man and woman to do anything alone here. When two of our sweet teammates invited our kids to come over for dinner and games last night, Eli asked if he could take me out for dinner on a date. That was very thoughtful of him, however, dining out here in Doro means a very different thing than you might be imagining in your mind. It might mean we have one thing to choose from on the menu (since South Sudan is experience high inflation, people can't afford to keep their businesses open.) There is also the chance while on a dinner date in the market that others might join you for your meal. Needless to say, I chose to make an easy meal for the two of us to enjoy at home. We set up a table outside with a tablecloth, flowers and a cold drink and solar lights for ambiance once the sun set.
    It was so lovely to pause in the busyness of our first month back in Doro since Christmas, to talk and eat pudding under the stars. Moments like our date (only 2 weeks after Valentine's day) are what can really recharge and refresh us in our day to day lives here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Week by Week

     Though there are things that happen every day that we don't expect and life can feel overwhelming at times, we have many moments in our days where our hearts are full to overflowing because we have the honor of seeing God move in incredible ways here in South Sudan. On those days, though I'm tired, sweaty and nastily covered in dust, I am deeply satisfied and thankful for where we get to live and what adventures fill our days. I've been thinking it would be helpful to share what a typical day is like for us. So here it goes, let me try.

Our Classroom
  Our day starts before the sun comes up with our time with Jesus. By 8:30 the boys and I start homeschool and Eli is usually doing computer work in his "office", our extra bedroom, or running around meeting with teammates or local pastors. If I had to estimate, I'd guess I serve about 5 liters of cold juice on my porch to guests every day. We have a revolving door since many people come to talk with Eli regarding Theological Training by Extension and discipleship. Some days I call a recess so I can stop and serve juice and tea to guests on our porch and then the boys and I resume school. We are usually done with almost every thing on our schedule by 12:30 and then we head to lunch club. Lunch club is a wonderful thing our team invented where you  pay something per day and you have your lunch cooked for you! We have participated in lunch club ever since we arrived in Doro last year because then I don't have to interupt school to cook lunch.

Serving friends on our porch

     After lunch we come back home and the boys have an hour and a half of silent reading and Eli and I try to catch our breath as well with a cold drink and maybe catching up on emails and doing computer stuff. In the afternoons Eli is running around again with many meetings with people and sometimes trips out into the camps and I like to go visit with my neighbors and enjoy a cup of coffee in the shade. I also like to check in on teammates on the different compounds to see how they're doing. The boys are usually playing with their friends. Some of their favorite spots are up in trees, in the sand pit near our house, and at their friends' house among the pigs, goats, cows and chickens. Last week our boys received their first gift of a rooster. He is a bare necked colorful chicken with the new name Gamecock - in honor of the South Carolina Gamecocks. :)
    This is a typical day from Tuesday-Saturday. On Saturday afternoons we head out to Yusif Batil camp at 1 pm and spend most of the weekend out there teaching our Bible class with our Ingassana brothers and sisters. We are cruising through the Old Testament stories and it is exhilarating seeing how quickly and passionately they are grasping new truths and holding on to it. On Sundays we drive back out to the Ingassana camps and worship with them. Usually we end up visiting after church and not getting home until 3-4 in the afternoon.
A full church on Sunday morning

Singing their praises
     Needless to say, after weeks like this, we are ready for a break come Monday.We have been taking a Sabbath on Mondays- trying to do things as a family and rest and refresh in ways that fill us up for the following week. 
   We are thankful that we've had good health as a family during this first month back. One of the challenging things in this season of the year is that it is so hot which makes everything a little harder. Last night our thermometer said our house was 98 degrees F at 9 pm! I'm trying to be creative as the heat makes us cranky in school to pause and make a cold drink for the kids or play a quick game of water balloons for PE.
Their water balloon was a lot of entertainment for our neighbors!

As I said in the beginning, our life might look like a fun adventure, and that it is, but it's also difficult and straining at times. Will you please pause and pray for our family as we seek to thrive here as a family - in this incredible place God has called us to?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Body of Christ

Eli teaching Sunday school

Reuniting with special friends
           I want to preface my story today by saying this story is much bigger and greater than the small part that I know. But the part of the story I know and have taken part in is so beautiful and encouraging that I want to share it with the world.
            As many of you know already, Eli and I have had the immense joy of teaching the Bible and discipling new believers among a Sudanese tribe called the Ingassana. They are originally from an area north of us but due to war have fled to our county and are hungry to learn the Truth about Jesus. We spent our first four months in Doro last year, with a small team of missionaries and Sudanese believers, going out to three different Ingassana camps each week to teach them God’s Story from the beginning. In December when we planned to leave South Sudan for almost 2 months because of Christmas vacation and a conference we attended in Kenya, we believed that God would provide others from the Body of Christ to teach and encourage these baby churches. This weekend we saw just how GREAT our God is and the beautiful ministry He carried on in our absence.
            One of the groups of new believers in a camp called Yusif Batil were so desperate to continue learning the Bible that they wrote a letter to the Mabaan SIC (Sudan Interior Church), requesting they send people to teach them the Bible and to encourage their small group of new Christ followers. The Mabaan church (host tribe of all the refugees) responded by not only sending one or two people, but they met together and wrote up a schedule so that every Sunday a group of Mabaan believers would go out to encourage the church in Batil.
            This morning our first stop was in Gendrassa where we joined a small group for Sunday school. Eli was asked to share a lesson and he told the story of Noah and tied in the gospel saying just like the people of that day could not save themselves in the flood, there is no way we can be saved except through Jesus. Children who had gathered outside the church to get a glimpse of these strange white people and their children came in and listened.

Driving from one refugee camp to another

            From there we decided to drive a little further to Batil to greet the church there. Well, we arrived to quite the celebration! Not only had a few pastors come from the Mabaan church, but they brought their wives, children and the youth choir! The youth choir sang and danced and I could not hold back my tears of joy as I noticed the church was full to overflowing and neighbors and passersby had stopped to see what was going on. The choir sang in Arabic, the language they share in common, teaching this young church new hymns and choruses. Later we found out the head count was 125 which is incredible since our little Bible study is usually a group of less than 20 men and women.
The Mabaan youth choir
 Several got up to speak in front of the church. The leader of the Batil church stood and thanked everyone for coming and for their encouragement. We had also brought a young man who leads the Gendrassa church with us and he got up and gave a brief testimony. My favorite story told was by a man named Barnaba.  Barnaba is actually a Mabaan man but he lives in Yusif Batil camp as a policeman. The new Christians in Batil had originally built a small shade structure for their church in another location about 300 meters away. But right before Christmas some people in the community who were not happy about people turning to Jesus came and destroyed the church structure. This Mabaan policeman, Barnaba, told the new believers they could build a new structure right next to his barracks where he could guard it and keep an eye on it. And so they did. This morning Baranaba shared that he’d walked away from the Lord and hadn’t gone to church for 6 years but Jesus has called him back through this little tiny church plant. He was very instrumental in calling the Mabaan church members out to encourage the Ingassana.
            As I witnessed these two tribes who have been quite hostile towards each other in the last couple of years, worshipping together and expressing their love for one another, I realized that the spark that began with the Ingassana recently is now being fanned into quite the flame! Not only that, but we’re seeing revival in the hearts of these more mature Christians who needed to be reminded of their “first love”, the excitement and joy they had when they first came to Christ.

            Today was a good reminder that God doesn’t need me out there in the camps. He is shining His Truth into peoples’ hearts and using whom He chooses. It gives me such peace that it’s not up to us. God’s got this. And one day we will experience something similar to John in the book of Revelation chapter 7 when we all come to worship our King with every tribe and tongue and nation!

Pastors Andrew and Bulus from Mabaan

New believers joyfully welcomed & thanked everyone for coming to worship with them.
Neighborhood children came to see what was happening at the new church

Praise the Lord that most of the men are literate in Arabic!