Sunday, May 29, 2016

A New Family and a New Name

A few days ago we heard that some of the local Mabaan believers were organizing a special Sunday service with the Ingassana believers from both Gendrassa and Yusif Batil camps. It was a wonderful joint effort with Samaritan's Purse offering a vehicle to help transport people the long distance. They brought a tarp (as you see pictured above) to make an extended area for people to sit.

I want to share two of the highlights of our morning:

The pastor leading the service gave an opportunity for people to stand and share personal prayer requests. A young man who has just started coming to the Bible study in Batil the last 2 weeks stood up and explained that now that he's become a follower of Jesus and left Islam, his father and mother have kicked him out of their home. Instead of moving on with the service, one of the pastors encouraged him to come to the front and gave an invitation to any other new believers who were being persecuted or being rejected by their families because of their decisions to follow Jesus. A group of about 10 young men gathered at the front and then the rest of us circled around them, placing our hands on them and then we prayed fervent prayers over them - for courage, hope and perseverance. When the last Amen was said, most of us had tears running down our cheeks.

The other highlight for me was when a young man named Mohammad came forward and requested that we, the church, give him a new name. He no longer wants to be known as Mohammad. It didn't take long at all before we all decided on Emmanuel - God With Us. We made sure he knew what his name meant and then we all gave him a big round of applause - a new name for a new life.

After the service we gathered in a circle outside and though it was dreadfully hot we sang and danced until the sweat was dripping in the hot sand. People all over the neighborhood came to watch as Southern Sudanese from three different tribes, plus the crazy white people, danced and sang with giant smiles on their faces.

Just when I can't imagine being more amazed, God dazzles us again with how He's moving and working among refugees here in Mabaan county! God is constantly doing big things.

Nothing like holding a new baby

Meet Little Awadalla. He was born more than a month early after his mother walked a two day journey back to the refugee camp. Thankfully he was born healthy and is growing like a weed at 3 weeks old now. After my first two visits, somehow I had misunderstood that he was a girl so when I arrived for a visit yesterday with a gift of a darling little girl's outfit, I was embarrassed to realize she was a boy! Oh well! Hawa, his mother, was thrilled for the cute outfit and could care less that it was pink and flowered!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Can I Run and Not Grow Weary?

How Can I Run and Not Grow Weary?

I am weary this week. Several busy weeks, one after the other without a chance to catch up on some rest, and the result has been several days where I wish I could run and hide. My fatigue is coming out in many ways – how I respond to my fourth grader when he bursts into tears over a tough math problem, selfishness, frustration with my husband, and an overall annoyance with the world. I had hoped that I’d get over it after having a bad day but it’s turned into four hard days. This afternoon, as I stole a few minutes alone on my bed under the fan to catch my breath, I opened an old book on my Kindle called “Hope for the Weary Mom”. This is a book I’ve read and re-read at least three times. I turned to Chapter 5: “When you Want to Run and Hide.”
            On a day when I want to run away from everything I’m responsible for, this statement from the book hit me hard, “What happens when we run and hide from the calling He has placed on our lives as moms, is that we end up running and hiding from our source of strength – Jesus.” Matt 11:28 – Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
            Today I’ve been thinking: If only I could be back in my house in Irmo, SC I wouldn’t have to deal with all this… or If only I could get a week away… or If only I didn’t have to do school with the boys every day I wouldn’t be so stressed. But these if only’s are not what I really need right now. What I really need is more of Jesus.
            I know from experience that there is no way to survive being poured out all day unless I allow Him to pour into me first at the beginning of each day. So this morning I came to Him asking, “How am I going to make it?” And He reminded me that He understands. HE UNDERSTANDS! Jesus understands what it’s like to pour your life out. He knew what it was like to live among the poor, the sick, and the terribly needy. He knew what it was like to have people constantly coming to Him for something. He knew weariness. And He promises, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31.
            “Moms who put their trust in the Lord have the promise of new strength and hope that will soar like eagles in their hearts” (Ch. 5 Hope for the Weary Mom). I can’t dwell on how I feel right now. Instead, I choose to believe that He will give me new strength as I press on and keep going. 

* The Book I mentioned: Hope for the Weary Mom by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin

Saturday, May 21, 2016

One Year Rememberance

Playing Uno in the UN Bunker in Melut, May 19, 2015

May 19, 2015, one year ago, was the day we had to quickly evacuate from our home in Melut, South Sudan. We had only just arrived 6 weeks earlier and were serving alongside our teammate, Claire, and South Sudanese Principal, Kur Deng, hoping to get the Bible College up and running with a whole new group of students. We were so excited to be back after a whole year back in the States praying about whether Melut would be stable enough for our family and if the college would be able to open again, even after war breaking out at the end of 2013. I remember those days clearly, even though they are a year away now. Those days were filled with - HOPE & ANTICIPATION.

I also vividly remember our emotions as we sat in our SIM guesthouse in Nairobi, Kenya wondering what was next for our family. We though we'd heard so clearly from the Lord to go back to Melut. We though God had BIG things in store for Gideon Theological College. And the truth is He did and still does. Eli and I know without a doubt that God clearly led us back to Melut for those precious 6 weeks to reconnect with friends, live in our home, even reunite with our silly, wild cat, Q-tip! But then He had other things in store. A year in Doro that we never could have imagined!

Looking back over the past year of our life, I am full of such powerful emotions, I can hardly stand it. I am in awe of our God, who nursed our wounds as we grieved over leaving Melut and our friends there, who took hold of our hands, weak as they were, and led us to Doro. Who provided a perfect house for the five of us and surrounded us with a wonderful team. And then - on top of everything else - showed us a whole new adventure He had for us - discipling seekers and new believers among the Ingassana tribe in three camps outside of Doro. Has had provided again and again. blowing us away with His generosity and perfect timing and causing our faith to grow in leaps and bounds. We are still very humbled by our ordinary selves and the fact that He is calling us to some BIG things, but we try to take one day at a time, grabbing hold of the Grace He gives us each day for what He's placed before us.

Friends, our God is Great. I have no words to express how thankful and in awe I am of our God. His mercies endure forever. Great is His Faithfulness!

Wedding Week

Teammates ready for the henna party

This blog post is a week late because our internet hasn't been working on our compound. Not only that, but life hasn't seemed to stand still for a single second to let me catch my breath. I so want to share about our week of wedding fun last week so here are a few pictures to help.

"Uncle" Yassir with Evan and Josh
 On Wednesday afternoon we were invited to the henna party. This special gathering meant the groom was being "groomed" for his wedding day - beginning with henna dye on his feet and hands. He had to sit for several hours, having the henna applied and then allowing it to dry.

While the groom was getting henna applied, friends of the groom celebrated with singing, drumming and dancing. Yes, even I joined in!

Joshua was the only Fader boy brave enough to get henna done. He got it on his left hand.

There was another henna party on Thursday and then on Friday we were invited to go out to Gendrassa camp where the bride is from, to feast with her family. We filled several cars with people from the groom's side of the family to drive out to the camp. In the photo above, we walked to the bride's family's house singing.

With the beautiful bride, Asha

A crowd sang and drummed as we escorted the groom to the church

Saturday was the wedding day and Yassir and Asha got to be the first couple to be married in the Gendrassa church. The ceremony was a beautiful testimony of each of their faith in Jesus and their desire to begin their marriage, committing it to Christ.

The bride wore a western style white wedding dress
 After escorting the groom to the church, a crowd of friends and family then walked to the bride's house to collect her and escort her to the church. In this picture, notice the bride's younger sister in red, wiping the tears from her face. There were a few tears, even from the bride, as this "leaving home" was indeed a final step of leaving her family. After the wedding, Asha left Gendrassa to move back to Doro (30 min drive away) to liver her with her new husband.

Following the Bride
 The bride got a ride in the car while the rest of us followed behind, still singing and celebrating.

Wedding Feast

After a beautiful ceremony and packing up the bride's belongings, we headed back to Doro with cars packed with people for the 2nd part of the wedding day - the after party at the bride and groom's new home. We ate a big feast of rice, macaroni, many meat dishes and their favorite, kisra, made of sorghum.
Teammates dressed up for the wedding
Needless to say, we were exhausted when we finally arrived home on Saturday at 6 pm after 9 hours of partying and celebrating! It was a day we won't soon forget and we pray the marriage of Yassir and Asha will be a light in the community here.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

What is Mother's Day like for a missionary mom in South Sudan?

Special cards from my boys
 I woke up this morning to the sound of my three boys singing, "Happy Mother's Day to You" as they paraded into my bedroom, each carrying a specially made card they'd slaved over this morning. Behind them Eli carried a piping hot cup of coffee. What a way to wake up to my 12th Mother's Day. As I got dressed I started thinking about what I should make for breakfast but to my delight I found out that Isaac had already made a run to market on his bike and bought zalabia for breakfast. Zalabia are a local fried doughnut we can get here that taste very good dipped in cinnamon sugar or covered in Nutella. So far it was turning out to be a very special Mother's Day indeed. #1 Waking up to my children singing and handing me cards made with love and #2 a breakfast I didn't have to cook!~

Ironically I was the only woman in our little church in Yusif Batil camp for most of the service. But it was a special time of worshipping with the believers there and teaching them a few new songs.

A tasty Ethiopian feast with our friends
 On our way back to Doro we stopped in Bunj to eat at one of our favorite restaurants that serves Ethiopian food. We had four friends with us so we invited them to join us. The food was so good we had all broken out in a sweat by the end.

As we arrived home a cooler breeze was blowing in and the sky looked like rain was coming. We all settled down for a lovely Sunday afternoon nap.

Today, I began to reflect on what it has been like being a mother in South Sudan. Life as a mother, had we stayed in our home in South Carolina would have probably looked so much different. It too would have been sweet along with its challenges of its own but I wouldn't trade being a missionary mom for anything! Since the time I was potty training my boys, they have heard several other languages spoken, eaten foods most kids their age wouldn't touch, flown on countless types of airplanes and been treated for crazy diseases. No matter where I go in South Sudan, when people ask me, "Are these children yours?" and I answer, "Yes", I most often get the response, "Mash-Allah" meaning going with God. It's used to acknowledge when something is really good. Yes, being mom to these three amazing boys is REALLY GOOD. I am proud to be their mama. Proud to be raising them in this crazy and beautiful country of South Sudan. And today as I celebrate and thank the Lord for allowing me to be the mama of these three gifts, my prayer is that God is using their childhood growing up in this faraway place to prime them for a life of serving the Lord in faraway places where the name of Jesus has not yet been heard.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Cultural Experience of the Month!

The Nuban women arrive at the bride's house singing and drumming

One of our good friends is from the Nuba tribe. He is a gifted evangelist and teacher and has been part of our team that goes out to the Ingassana camps each week to teach the Bible to the new believers out there. He is engaged to be married to one of the young Ingassana ladies in the church. With the wedding only days away, today was the special occasion where the women on the groom's side of the family deliver all the bride's special gifts to her home. The gifts are not only for the bride but for her family as well - wedding clothes for her parents and grandparents, food, drink, many new clothes, shoes and accessories for the bride, etc.

The procession - friends of the grooms

When we arrived at the bride's house everyone unloaded the food and gifts and paraded into her compound. An interesting fact is that we did not see the bride this entire day. She had to hide at the neighbor's house and was not supposed to show her face.

Her sisters served the guests drinks and her cousin and auntie are the ones who looked through the gifts and decided whether it was all enough.

Kilos of wheat flour

Once inside the compound the ladies danced in a circle with the bride's gifts for a certain number of times.

My teammate Ruth and a good friend, Joy

The gifts were placed on a mat in the center

Felt like there were women everywhere!

My teammate Cathy, enjoying some shade on a very hot afternoon

Getting my baby fix

Cathy with the bride's older sister

The bride's cousin and auntie then unpacked the gifts one by one, inspecting each thing and sometimes holding it up to show everyone else.

Sealed deal!
Finally after a few tense moments of waiting to hear if the gifts were enough, the bride's family agreed that it was and the groom's friends and relatives broke into singing and dancing. This was definitely not the type of bridal shower I'm used to but it was so much fun!

Nuer Worship

The Nuer Youth Choir

On Sunday we were invited to worship with the Nuer tribe at their church set up right outside the military camp. Since there were 115 people and the church looked like it could hold 30, our service was held outside under several large Baobab trees.

Their songs were so meaningful and heartfelt. 

Monday, May 02, 2016


We got a special delivery last week: 3 sweet, starving little kittens. One of our guards brought them as a gift for the boys, one for each of them. They have been a sweet addition to our already crazy household.

Trying to teach school with a kitty on my lap
 The main draw back of having three baby kittens in our family now is that they're so cute they've become quite the distraction during home school. They hear us all back in the school room and come meowing, begging for attention, climbing all over the boys and choosing to nap on their books!