Friday, September 02, 2011

Marveling at the Timing of an All-Knowing God

This morning in our team devotions (when we all gather first thing in the morning to read from God's Word and pray together before spreading out to our various ministries for the day), Vicki shared from Psalm 46. A few months ago, in June - just before the South's Independence - I too had shared from Psalm 46 in a morning devotion. Why is that significant? you might ask... well on BOTH occasions, without our previous knowledge, only an hour or two after our devotion time fighting broke out in ares just north and east of us. BOTH times. Let me share Psalm 46 with you:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should shake
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

I would like to recount today's events so that you can praise with us, this God of Ours who sees, cares, intervenes, protects, and provides...

7:00-7:30 - team devotions
8:20 - phone call from James Hurun (my Mabaan Dad who is in Renk right now - to tell me that there was fighting in a place called Damazine - in the North, and north of Kurmuk which is about a 1/2 hour flight away from Doro).
8:30 - Nehemiah came to work and confirmed the above information. Vicki and I contacted our office in Nairobi to notify them, and that all was well in Doro.
8:30-9:30 - Christiane Checked email and an Antanov plane flew by (not over us, but close enough to hear it's unmistakable drone) and I updated my FB status with the Damazine News headline from the Sudan Tribune
9:40 - Nehemiah our compound manager came onto the compound looking for me to tell me that he'd just gotten off the phone with someone in Kurmuk who said that the Antanov had dropped bombs there.
9:50 - I contacted our director to give him this news and he then contacted our partners AIM Air to turn around a flight that had just picked up missionaries from 3 organizations in Kurmuk and Yabus to have them return and evacuate the rest of our Yabus personnel (Krumuk and Yabus are very close and often 'share' trouble when it comes).
10:00 - I am 1/2 way through my shower when the AIM Air flight flies overhead to land and re-fuel in Doro... I throw on some clothes and run to the air strip.
10:10 - I, unfortunately, am the first one to inform the people from Kurmuk that their area had been bomed MOMENTS after the flight took them out.
10:15-11:15 - a lot of phone calls and plans being made on the airstrip and discussions of the Lord's provisions. SUCH AS: our mobile networks here in our area have been so patchy and unreliable lately... but for the past 12 hours every text message sent by our friends in Kurmuk to their offices in Nairobi went and was replied to with NO problems - it's hard describe what a miracle this is. Also, they literally were in the air no more than 10 minutes before the Antanov flew over Kurmuk.
11:20 - Plane is unloaded of luggages and the pilots (and our team mate Ryan) fly BACK to Yabus to pick up 2 more SIM missionaries who were not planning on coming out today. We took the rest of our 'visitors' back to the compound to hydrate and feed them a little bit of food.
12:10 - the Plane returns to Doro to pick up original passengers and carry them safely on to Loki and then Nairobi. When the plane re-landed, we were informed that TEN MINUTES after the plane left Yabus the FIRST TIME a plane had flown over and sprayed (bullets) the airstrip. Our pilots were in contact with their base through the whole flight and were only ONE MINUTE on the ground in Yabus, to collect our 2 remaining SIM missionaries, before taking off again.
12:30 - a text back to our office in Nairobi to let our praying team mates there know that all were safe and headed their way, Praise the Lord.

**only a 1/2 hour later HUGE thunder heads rolled into the Doro/Yabus area and unloaded... which would have meant that plane would have been GROUNDED if the timing had been any different**

Another thing we are thankful for, is that, b/c of a bad infection I've had in my leg this past week, I've been here in Doro rather then in Gasmalla as I usually am. My being here today allowed me to be the one communicating with Nairobi, organizing things for our unexpected visitors, etc... allowing Vicki, our other base leadership member to carry on with her special ministry to our local 'Traditional Birth Attendants' that had been planned for today - and would have been delayed otherwise, with Vicki doing all of the above things that I was able to do in stead. Also, only just yesterday did we get more credit put on our Thuraya (Satelite phone) that we have on our base in order to communicate with Nairobi in case of emergencies... had Vicki not noticed we were out and had our office staff not acted quickly to get us more yesterday before our office closed, we would not have been able to communicate with Nairobi during this whole ordeal.

With all this being said, and the evidence of the Lord's Goodness to us and in our circumstances here, we still recognize that for so many of the Sudanese people living in Damazine, Kurmuk, and Yabus the situation feels very different... No airlift is coming for them, they are hiding in the bushes with no belongings and are worried about their children and what has become of their homes. Somehow, the Lord is NO LESS GOOD in their situations, yet it is different. Please join us in the 'prayer battle' for these countries and for the lives of the Sudanese, and South Sudanese in these areas. Please also pray for our friends who are thankful for their safely yet having to deal with the guilt of being safe while people they love are hiding in the bushes... I have no wisdom to give them, no way of understanding even... but I do know "The Lord of hosts is WITH US, the God of Jacob is our STRONGHOLD".

Monday, July 11, 2011

Announcing the New Republic of South Sudan!!

After decades of fighting for freedom the citizens of South Sudan PROUDLY stand together with heads held high and hearts full of hope as this past Saturday - July 9th, 2011 - they watched, in unity, the 'old' country flag of Sudan be removed from it's perch on the pole and their new country's flag - the flag which started as a symbol of a 'rebel uprising' - was hoisted high and given it's new position of authority over this now independent nation: the Republic of South Sudan!

It's been an extremely exciting weekend here in Doro as we, along with around 50 thousand Mabaan friends, and a smattering of those from other tribes as well gathered in our town 'square' (the football field) to dance and sing and celebrate the birth of the new country!

The 'buzz' in the air was contagious and not one heart was left un-stirred as friends and 'family' danced and cried for joy as the memories of their loved ones long gone, either in death or displacement to far off countries are no longer 'in vain'... what was fought with blood, sweat, and tears, is STILL (3 days later) being reaped in South Sudan with sounds of JOY...

The New South Sudan is in great need of your ongoing prayers, as in so many ways, we've only reached the base of the mountain... Building up a brand new country with strong foundations and lack of corruption is extremely difficult, and the challenges facing South Sudan at this time are enormous. We are so excited, humanly speaking, for this monumental occasion, yet we know that the people of South Sudan can REALLY only experience TRUE FREEDOM and have TRUE HOPE through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Join us in praying for the leaders of this New Nation and for the Church in this Nation... that the foundations being build here would be in the LORD and that the people's hope and trust would not be miss-placed or miss-guided... Pray that the Believers here in this country would themselves know and understand Jesus more and more, and in so doing, turn others toward the true Savior of their Land.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Tears Don't Translate

Sunday morning I woke up from a deep but short sleep in my new mud & grass house in Gasmalla... The day was new and full of promise and the village outside was alive and bustling.

I had not gotten much more accomplished than getting dressed, eating a little breakfast, and washing my face before I saw my friend Baria headed pointedly toward my house with something in hand... I re-arranged my chair and stool and when she came in I told her to sit – happy, because this was her first visit to my new little house! But, there was something wrong, I could see it on her face – she was serious and had come for something specific... in her hand she was holding the pictures I had given out yesterday from those I had gotten developed during my last time in Nairobi...

I knew almost instantly what was wrong.

“Katta” she started... “I have come to speak with you about these pictures... There is a problem. Look at this picture, is it good?” I remained silent because in my mind, it was a very wonderful picture – of her son and another little boy – the clarity of the photo and their smiles make it actually one of my very favorite that I’ve taken recently... but I knew she was not thinking the same as me. “Katta, look at Samson’s nose... why did you take this picture – it looks like he has no mother. It makes my heart very angry because everyone saw this picture and laughed... to Mabaan, it looks like he has no mother that cares for him, if he’s running around with a runny nose...” My heart was breaking... “ Oh Baria” I said, “people don’t think that... I’m so sorry, you are a wonderful mother.” “Katta this made me angry and I wanted to come and talk to you about it, because you are part of us. When the children come and want you to take their picture and you see this, please, tell them to wipe their noses! When people from your country see this picture they will laugh – what will they think of us?” “Oh Baria, children are like this all over the world – people in my country will not laugh... but you are right. I did not think, when I took this picture. Please forgive me, next time I will do better.”

After this interaction I sat in my little house, tears streaming down my face... but not for the reason you might think. Sure, my heart was heavy because I’d caused my friend pain and a restless night, sure I was ashamed and wondering if everyone in the village thought I had done something wrong by taking this picture... But mostly my heart was blessed. Moments like this I swear it’s like someone has ‘stirred up’ the nearby pot of Eternity and it’s fragrance is released on the wind for a few seconds... you get a glimpse of what is yet to come b/c moments like this I am sure bless the Lord’s heart when His children work out what it means to follow Him well... I do not know if the reasons in Baria’s heart for coming to me were out of Biblical motivation – probably not (since Scripture is not well known to her or any of the women yet), but the truth of it is, what she did was entirely Biblical, and such a blessing to my heart. To think that our relationship was strong enough that she would choose to come to me, to confront me even, and to do it just the two of us (she didn’t bring anyone to translate) made me so proud and humbled me completely. I so love these women – well the whole village really – but they are just so special, and I would hate to do anything to hurt them... But how beautiful is it, truly, when something unfortunate and accidental does occur , that someone can come directly to you and deal with it... Oh, what a blessing to my heart – would that this would happen in all cultures, in all churches, amongst us all in the Body of Christ.

I sat there contemplating all these things and feeling the depth of the immense privilege it is to live and serve the Lord among these people, tears coursing down my face, and I realized that Ama – my Mabaan mom, was now headed pointedly toward my house... and she wasn’t smiling either... Oh oh...

I wiped my face quickly because I knew that she’d be worried if she saw tears and welcomed my second visitor of the morning! Ama had no more than sat down before spouting, “Katta Baria is not good – she should not have come to you like that... You have done nothing wrong. What did she say to you?” I told Ama that I thought Baria’s words were very good – I told her what she said, and then asked her why it was bad that she came to me? “Katta the children come to you all the time for you to take their picture... they’re always dirty and have runny noses... what are you supposed to do, sent them home to get clean before you take their picture!? Baria should not be upset with you... children are like this and your pictures are good...” At this point – my already mushy heart started feeling especially tender towards this women, who, in all honestly I don’t often connect with, was coming to my defence and being very protective of me... tears were threatening (yet again) and I was desperately trying to keep them at bay... “Katta you are here with us under me, and under James – I am your mother, and he your father... if you did something not good we would tell you. She cannot come to you like this – you are part of us. Do not worry Katta, James is coming home tonight (he was on trip to a village church a 6 hour walk away) and we’ll fix this then... Katta – don’t cry! You can’t cry like this... See? Her words were not good – you are crying – ahhhhh, Katta.” As you can tell, the tap was already on, and I couldn’t stop it. :) The other thing I couldn’t do was explain that I was actually crying because I was feeling so entirely loved and cared for that my heart was overflowing... I was a little hurting because I was causing the village grief and tension, but mostly I was just mushy – but I couldn’t explain it! I just kept saying, “Ama, I’m ok – her words were not bad, they were true... really I’m ok, don’t worry about my tears, I’m fine.”

Ama left with a rather distraught look on her face and marched over to my neighbour's house, Tia and Yohanna – who were working outside... from inside my house I could sense what was about to occur and started giggling because I knew that the whole scenario was unavoidable at this point.... “Baria went to Katta and said bad words and now she is crying inside her house!” Oh no... :)

I wiped off my face with a cold cloth and tried to remove the evidence before more drama evolved and decided to go sit outside and read my Bible so people wouldn’t think I was in a heap in my house! But Ama re-appeared... “Katta, give me your bucket and let me go fetch you water for a bath...” “No, Ama, I’m ok – I just showered last night, I’m clean!” “Ah, Katta, your crying and my heart is not feeling good because of it” – I had never seen this look on Ama’s face before... she didn’t know what to do with me and her first reaction was to serve me and try to make the whole situation better... I had so much love in my heart for this lady at this moment – I had no idea she cared so much... she is not an easy lady to read...

So, I perched myself on my little Mabaan stool just outside my house door, took a deep breath to clear my head and opened up my Bible... Within seconds my good friend Joseph had walked over from his house and sad down... “Katta, I heard you were upset, what did Baria say...?” (Joseph is one of our CHW’s working with the Water Project, speaks English, and is very much like a brother to me here in Sudan). Joseph and I weren’t talking long before two of my uncles, the church elders, were on their way over... Joseph gave up his seat for Daaud, and Yohanna plunked himself down on the dirt (this in itself was an act or demonstration of love because unless there is a mat or unless they are in their fields working – I’ve never seen a man sit straight on the ground – clearly Yohanna thought this situation serious enough to not worry about a chair at all). Daaud started “Katta, Baria came to you, and we are not happy – what did she say?” I endeavoured to explain yet again that her words were not bad and that I was very happy she had come to me with the problem... “but Katta, for us, she should not have done this thing... you bring wonderful pictures to us – you take them of our children, go to Nairobi and spend money to bring them back to us... this is a good thing... she is upset because we laughed at the picture – the fault is not yours but ours. Katta, we don’t want you feeling bad like this, you’ve done nothing wrong. We want you to sit well among us...” I just couldn’t handle all the love and affection – of course, tears spilled over yet again (Katta get a grip!!!)...

I managed to keep myself together through church (it was just one of those days that a good song could have set me crying again and then I’d have the whole church worried!!), and by the afternoon was convinced that my tears had dried up (probably had something to do with the 110F degree weather and my dehydration level :) ). I was sitting under a tree with Ama (who was washing clothes) and Falita, when Baria came over and brought all the fixin’s for making coffee... I was wondering if she felt the need to give out a peace offering since clearly most of the village had disagreed with her and was miffed... I made the conscious decision to move my stool over and start helping Baria with the coffee making process... once the beans were roasted and cooled, I picked up the pestle and mortar and started to grind the beans. Baria and I continued to make coffee together for all the ladies, and it was lovely. I wanted everyone to see (by now surely EVERYONE knew what had happened in the morning – for NOTHING is a secret in the village :)) that Baria and I were ok – our relationship had not been affected – she had forgiven me for causing her heart grief, and I was not upset or hurting because she came to me and expressed herself. I have no idea if any of the ladies noticed or if they realized that I was trying to make a point, and was being intentional at reaching out and bridging the gap... But I pray they could smell that sweet aroma of Eternity being stirred up for a brief moment, as the Kingdom of Heaven grew in my heart, and I pray, in their hearts as well...

... but in case you ever wondered... tears do not translate :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blind... but still seeing

I have a friend named Saphia. Saphia is blind, and has been for a long time. I met Saphia WAY back at the beginning when I started living in Gasmalla. She is old (for rural Africa), in her 60’s, and is the aunt of my Mabaan Dad, James... which technically makes her my great aunt.

I have had many humorous interactions with Saphia over the 2+ years that I have known her... one of my favourites being a day I came to visit her before I left for my usual two weeks in Nairobi. She’d asked if I brought her coffee and sugar, which of course I hadn’t, and we were laughing at that while I was trying to explain to her that I would be gone for 2 weeks, and then would be coming back. “Where are you going? To your country?” “No, no, just to Nairobi, I’ll be back soon” “oh Good!!”, she said while her hands moved over my shoulders as if looking for something... Soon she found what she was looking for, as she tucked a finger under my shirt collar, pulled back, and then released what her unseeing eyes had sought. Ouch. Saphia had found my bra strap, and exclaimed “Katta!! I want one of THOSE!! When you come back from Nairobi bring me one of those!!” :) How can you not love someone like Saphia?

The other day I was over across the river for a wedding; I’d walked over with a number of our Gasmalla church ladies. The wedding was for a young man, a relative of James and Ama’s, who is a soldier and well known in the community. There must have been over 400 people gathered for this celebration. We, being ‘church people’, were tucked off to the side – rather separate from the actual celebration, which includes copious amounts of locally brewed wine, and much dancing of the women – most of whom have greatly enjoyed the wine! This wedding also had a number of soldiers in attendance, and as usual, there were groups gathered and scattered under various trees throughout the whole village; segmented by age, station, gender, etc... We must of have been the ‘church group’ (felt a little like my high school days). I’m still trying to decipher how ‘we’ feel about such social events, and if we are separate by choice, or by accident, or by conviction... the jury is still out. At any rate, another topic for another day!

Anyway! We were sitting and enjoying tea and a little girl appeared and sat with us for a while. But, she kept starting at me – not being entirely sure why, I just smiled back and tried to ignore her. Eventually, she found her voice and said, “S-a-p-h-i-a...” She said it so slowly that I thought she was trying to tell me her name, so I said, “oh! Your name if Saphia?” “No, Saphia greets you!” By now, a few of the ladies had realized this little girl was trying to communicate with me and, leaving their conversation, turned to hear what she was saying... “Ah Saphia! Your friend, Katta!” I guess Saphia was AT the wedding, and somehow heard that I was there (news travels fast through 400 people when an unexpected khawaja shows up at a wedding!) and she’d sent this little mite to greet me on her behalf... so sweet!

So Rahilla, one of my Gasmalla ladies said she’d take me over to greet Saphia myself – so off we went! We worked our way through crowds of dancers, drinkers, and children and finally found Saphia sitting under a tree. “Saphia!! It’s me Katta! How are you?” “AHHHHH!! Katta!!!” What followed was a rather loud and exciting set of interactions between us with multiple hugs thrown in. No sooner did we have our greeting out of the way than Saphia looped my arm around her neck and declared, for the 50+ people watching our scene, “We’re going dancing!!” So, off we trotted – Saphia singing out a tune I didn’t know, with us shuffling our feet to the same rhythm, and slowly but surely working our way down the path, to the delight and entertainment of many wedding guests... there goes a khawaja dancing with a blind lady!! Something memorable indeed.

When we worked our way back to the bed she’d been sitting on, we collapsed, giggling – both, I’m sure, for quite different reasons :) Then, turning her body towards me, her eyes drifting off somewhere over my right shoulder, she says to me with a big smile on her face, “Ah Katta! ‘Ya ningu bongiti!” (literally: Katta, my eyes are exhausted for you!)

*I need to insert, at this point in the story, an explanation of this Mabaan phrase. When a Mabaan wants to say that you are missed, or will be missed, or were missed, the way they express it is this; ‘my eyes are exhausted or ‘out of breath’ for you!’ The meaning being, that their eyes were so busy searching the horizon for your return that they are winded from the work of looking for you! Thus, you are missed! Is that not just the most wonderful way to say that!?*

So, as Saphia says to me, ‘Katta my eyes have been exhausted for you!,’ the irony of that phrase against her physical situation hit me like a ton of bricks. My thought was, Saphia, your eyes are exhausted for more than just ME... it’s been YEARS since you’ve seen anything! Of course the phase of saying you’ve missed someone would be the same, whether you can physically see or not, but it struck me full force that this blind women would say how tired her eyes had been, implying that they also were no longer tired b/c now she’d ‘seen’ me...

I recovered from my attempt to adjust my brain to this linguistic reality, and was able to reply that my eyes also have been exhausted for her, but felt a twinge of ... was it guilt?... that my eyes are healthy and seeing.

I’ve been mulling over all this for the past few days, and then just this morning I starting thinking about the spiritual analogies found here, with my dear friend Saphia...

No matter who we are in this world – no matter what our color, gender, status, or belief – we are all in search of something... in fact, when you get right down to it, we’re all in search of the same something. Because we were created in the Image of the One who created us, I believe we are all longing for our reunion with Him... because our soul knows, that only then, will we be fully Whole, fully ‘realized’, even by ourselves... because apart from Him, something is always missing...

Whether or not we’d like to admit it, our eyes are totally winded because of this Something we are looking for... Sure we can distract ourselves for a while, but usually, when we’re alone, looking out over the ocean, or a field, or a landscape full of mountains, we recognize that cry within our hearts... that familiar one we try to ignore because we’re not quite sure what to do with it... that ‘looking’ for Something more... SomeOne...

Even as a Christian, as someone trying to fashion my life and person after Jesus, this ‘looking’ is in me too... but I know it to be a ‘looking’ for more of HIM. Though I know the Truth, and am assured that I will one sweet day be with HIM, here on this earth, that knowledge alone is not entirely satisfying, because still my eyes – both physical and spiritual, long to SEE His face, to be 100% in His Presence.

For Saphia, even in her blindness, she can ‘see’ – her longing to ‘see’ me was satisfied by just being with me... it was satisfied, but not complete, for she didn’t truly see me.

This IS the message of the Gospel is it not? – that God came down to us, to step into that gap that lays between Him and us, because of our sin, for the purpose of re-uniting us to Himself. Because of our human limitations and the ongoing reality of our sin – though it’s been dealt with – we are unable to fully be present with Him here on this earth, and so, even as Believers, our hearts long to be present with Him completely... Being finally complete ourselves; understanding fully His love for us, His forgiveness of us, understanding HIM, and being utterly swept up in amazement of Who our God is... THIS is the Gospel; that this reunion has been made possible, by the One who made us...

One day, Saphia will fully see. One day I will fully see.

Until that day... ‘Ya ningu bonge Yaccuti.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Sense of Something Greater

Ok, so MONTHS ago I told you I would fill you in on how our Thomaji Outreaches got started every Wednesday... Below you will find the very long, but very worthwhile story explaining it all :) Please read it, as it was the thing that kept me going for 8 months in the clinic, and something I STILL feel was the start of something still to come... simply, just one of those things were you get a sense that you're a part of something much greater than what you know in that moment...

(this is the email I sent to a select few right when it all happened... with a few edits here and there :P )

Hey to all my loves ones :) February 11th, 2010

Today was one of those days where, while showering off the layers of salt and dirt from myself, a smile creeps onto my face and I ask myself, in all seriousness, does ANYONE on this earth live as an amazing life as I am getting to out here...?! Now, I realize that 'amazing' is totally subjective and that bicycling 4 hours in on very bumpy bush paths, getting cuts and scrapes, and hiking your skirt up so you can cross a river, while gradually getting more and more dehydrated, isn't everyone's idea of an awesome day, but it's pretty much tops for me - these reasons plus many more meaningful ones :)

So, to fill you in - while I am working in the clinic these next number of months, I am, by the sheer Grace and Sovereignty of God, getting to do some of those things that I've been dreaming about, at the village level... There is so much to this story, but for now all you need to know is that every Wednesday I get to take 2 of our CHW's from the clinic and travel out to a village far away (a huge village... 4000ppl, on the other side of the river across from Gasmala) called Thomaji. Our purpose in going is to do Growth monitoring of children under 5, and pregnancy screening - for starters anyway. I had been over to Thomaji a few times in the last year and the needs on that side of the river are a stark contrast to what seems like almost 'urban' Doro in comparison (this place really does have 'the ends of the earth' within it's boarders!) Anyway, so a few weeks ago when Sandy and I started taking about this Wednesday outreach thing, the first village that came to mind was Thomaji...

So, today we went out there for the first time - I contacted the wonderful Pastor Daniel out there to have him gather all the chiefs and leaders b/c we wanted to discuss health things with them. I've been dwelling extra on this for a whole week - feeling extremely insignificant, crazy intimidated, and ridiculously honored to have this opportunity. I mean seriously, who gets to sit in a meeting with like 10 elders of a crazy rural village in SUDAN and make plans with them about improving the lives of their villagers!? Why doesn't EVERONE want this 'job' :)? I hardly slept last night b/c I was so amped and going over and over our conversation (in advance)... trying to think about what they would think of our proposed outreach, what their possible qualms might be, everything...

The Lord is so good. Seriously, He was preparing me for this meeting today. I had this odd feeling I couldn't put my finger on - not just nerves, but that somehow this meeting wouldn't be as straightforward, 'gee that sounds great thanks for coming!' as one might like or expect, given our context... Anyway, while I was prep-ing yesterday I felt strongly that I need to communicate that We (the clinic/SIM) care a lot for their villages and people, and that even though they are so far away from the clinic, we want to help them have and attain good health (among other things!) I soon found out why the Lord had me lead off with that assurance of our hearts for them...

So, it turns out that the people of Thomaji essentially feel "forgotten". You see, they live a good 2-4 hours way from Doro (clinic) and Bunj (market) (it's a huge hunk of land, Thomaji), and all the NGO's and people that have come to help the Mabaan people, none of them cross the river... Thomaji has seen very very little movement in the progression of their lives since returning from the war. They have almost given up and are now very skeptical of anyone who says they want to help... Apparently many have come to say that they would help, but they never come back and nothing changes, no improvements are made. This one, very ballsy chief (who I REALLY like), looked right at me and said, "Really, even though you've come all this way to meet with us, I am thinking that you've only come to exchange words, you aren't actually going to help us or give us medications..." Woof. Ok Lord, so how the heck do I give an answer that doesn't promise something I can't keep, but still instills hope without sounding false and empty?? *deep breath!*

Part of our goal in going out there today was to find out from them what concerns they have for their people - what are their issues as they see them? So, in order to get discussion going we told this story about a village that was pretty much over-run with lions. These lions would come into the village every night, wounding and killing people. Many had died. So the villagers tried to figure out what they could do to solve the problem of the lions... Well, they would build a hospital so that those wounded would get treatment... they did that, but the lions kept attacking - so that wasn't the solution... So, next they built a huge fence around their village - so tall that the lions couldn't jump or climb over it and they put big heavy doors at the entrance that the people would go in and out off.... and that solved the problem of attacks during the night, but this one lady, when she took her two children out to her field was attacked and the lions ran off with her little baby... The problem of the lions was still there... what would they do? The village decided that they need to train some of their young men to hunt and kill the lions. So, when they were ready the men left to track down the lions... two of the men died and a few were wounded, but eventually the men came back victorious b/c they had killed the last lion. This was how they solved the problem of lions...

-So, following a more elaborate telling of that story, we asked these leaders what their "lions" are - what were their big issues that needed attacking b/c they were hurting their people...? This was a huge discussion and there's no way I can tell you all that they said, but, they did say some predictable things like "we need more clean water - our people are drinking from the river" (you should see this river, it's like chocolate milk), "we need a clinic - this is our first priority" (of course it is, and they are absolutely right, they DO need a clinic), etc... But, one of the most heart wrenching responses was from a man who addressed me by name when we came to join the meeting (I have no idea how he knows me, I don't recall his face, but that probably made his words tug at my heart even more). He said, "Katta, we thank you for coming, it's good really. And I like this story about lions very much - it is very applicable for us as we have many lions. But, we will be killed completely by our lions - they are too many, and we have no way to fight them. Our Lions are going to kill us before we can kill them." Holy moly - are YOU crying b/c I sure was... (and dang I was trying not too!) How in the face of that hopelessness can I offer our little "under 5 clinics" every Wednesday and think that they should be excited about it...? I felt like I was sitting before a man who was absolutely starving and I hand him one little peanut and then look eagerly at his face waiting for his gratitude. Seriously. Get real.

But, as we know, SO much, the Lord is SO good, and He gave me, multiple times, just the right (I think) words to respond to them. It's SO hard, man, I can hardly explain it to you, to offer what, in their eyes seems like so little... but it WILL make a difference and it IS a start. I told them that I agree with them, they do need a clinic... and as we know things like that take much time... but, I assured them we were on that road with them... this (monitoring the children) is the first step. I said, "when you want to build a house, before you can build upwards, you need to first dig holes in the ground - you go down before you go up..." Such is it with this - even though their ultimate goal is a clinic, these are the first steps... Amazingly, they seemed ok with this. Even though my ballsy opinionated Chief said "I still think you won't show up next week... but it's a good idea" :) He also asked, rather forcefully, "We are all sick, why are you starting with the children!? What about us!?" ... To which I took a deep breath, prayed, and said... "if we don't start with the children but start with you, there will be no one alive in Thomaji tomorrow... We need to start with the children to make sure that Thomaji people are still living here in years to come. If we start with the adults only, you will all die" (man, it sounds really sinister all typed out, but it wasn't said like that... the Lord put the words in my mouth so well that Daniel could hardly wait to do the translation - and it made my cynical ballsy chief laugh :) Then he said, "ok, ok... start with the children" :)

So... NOW do you think I had an awesome day?? There is SO much more I could tell you - but, I have a splitting headache and my bed is calling my name! But PLEASE... PLEASE keep praying for us every Wednesday... I feel like we are walking a very fine line in order to gain the trust of some of these men. I need SO much Wisdom from the Lord and Discernment of the Spirit on what and when to say things. I also need SO much energy to do this - it's REALLY far from Doro and the work out there is going to be incredibly exhausting (plus the weight of responsibility for the 2 CHW's I take out there). BUT, I AM CONFIDENT OF THIS... the Lord is ALL OVER IT.. it was HIS idea, and HE has NOT forgotten these people (as I told them repeatedly today). HE will give us what we need to accomplish what HE has set out to do - and amazingly enough, He's letting us be apart of it... is there seriously anything better in this whole world then knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord is working and wanting you to join in?? Woof! :)

Ok you guys... I love you - thanks SO much for praying about today - and thanks in advance for praying about EVERY Wednesday! :) I'll try to keep you posted. I'm really excited about visiting that one Chief's village - that will be two weeks from now :) hehe... over time, I pray he trusts us... but more than that, I pray he learns to put is trust in Jesus. Pray for us, pray for them. Thanks you guys. Feel free to pass this email along to others.

An exhausted but very contented, Chris xoxo

**It's important for you to know that this Chief and I are now very good friends :) His name is Binge Loude, and when we arrived in his village for our first week, he came over to our group to greet us, looked right at me & stuck out his hand... "You CAME"... "Yes, we CAME". This exchange IS part of a typical Mabaan greeting, but for both of us this day, it had a double meaning :) Please continue to pray for this man... I'm anxious to have more stories to post about him in the future :)

****Congratulations... you made it to the end****

Friday, December 31, 2010

farwell to another year

Well... I cheated and am posting this much beyond when the date claims! (my OCD wins again... I wanted one more post in 2010!!)

I realize how desperately far behind I am in my blogging... I`m so sorry. But, thank you for continuing to come here and check to see if I`ve posted anything new... your faithfulness blesses me :)

I will attempt to post today, the video I have played for churches and friends all across Canada. It is a great collage of pictures from my first two years of living and ministering in Sudan - from my time of Language learning, to working in the clinic - it`s all there... briefly :)

There are so many things I wish I`d written about over the past few months... some of which I will try to do during the next few weeks, as some stories and things just really need to be recorded on something permanent... until I write my book that is :P just kidding. Sitting here right now and looking back, I find it rather fascinating how much I just couldn`t bring myself to blog or post pictures on Facebook just after I left Sudan. Somehow posting about it would have forced me to re-live the pain of leaving, and I just couldn`t bring myself to do it. But, sitting back on this continent again, with my people just a little bit closer, geographically, and talk in the air of when we`ll be able to return to Sudan... my thoughts constantly travel back to my final days there... and there is so much for you to hear about.

I`ll do my best! But, in the mean time - enjoy these beautiful faces!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

By Faith

It's no accident that this morning's message in Gasmalla, was on Hebrews 11... the Hall of Faith chapter. Although I could follow along with the Scripture reading, and SOME of what Yohanna said, his point was this... "By Faith all these lived and served God... and this is the sort of Faith that God wants from us..." I have to say, I didn't think too much about this message after the service, but carried on to have a great time with my lovely friends out there...

Then this evening, during our Khawaja Sunday service at the compound - it was no accident - that Rob chose to take us on a 'path of remembrance' for those missionaries who served and died here in the 40's...

By Faith, two couples and one single nurse started out to this isolated land on donkey back, to bring the Gospel to the Mabaan people. By Faith they served here for 3 years (or less for a few), learning language and falling in love with the people. By Faith they stayed although danger was not far off. By Faith they looked danger in the face, and By Faith, the Lord chose to allow that danger to take their lives. By Faith the team of four remaining, buried one of their own on August 23rd, and then his wife the next morning. By Faith the rest stayed on, continuing to give of themselves and serve the Lord their God, by serving His people.

By Faith, all these served and pressed on, believing their labors were not in vain... And, it's with this cloud of witnesses who've gone before that there are those today, who By Faith, continue to serve the Lord by serving His people here in Mabaan. Because of the Faith of those who've gone before, we have the opportunity to have Faith and Vision for today - because of the seeds these Faithful planted, we continue to sow and reap today.

By Faith (some days more than others) we serve here now, choosing to believe that our labor is not in vain (some days this is easier to believe than others)... and By Faith we believe that the Lord, knowing the 'big picture' knows what this tilled ground will look like another 70 years from now. Will the memorial cemetery, where these Faithful lay, have more added? Will this country see yet another war and more destruction? Will the Mabaan church continue to struggle or will it flourish? Will one day... the cloud of witnesses be added too with Faithful from within the Mabaan who go out to serve By Faith, to bring the Gospel to another tribe who has yet to hear?

By Faith we believe. By Faith we walk forward. By Faith we serve. By Faith alone we bring Him Glory.