Friday, December 18, 2009


"Blessed Creator,
Thou hast promised thy beloved sleep;
Give me restoring rest needful for tomorrow's toil.
Let thy Spirit make my time of repose a blessed temple of his holy presence."
~ Valley of Vision

Since I arrived in Sudan, I have had at least three bouts of sleeplessness, the first being the worst by far. I now find myself again unable to sleep through the night, and when I do sleep, I do not wake up feeling restored. To be sure there a lot of things that can interrupt my sleep on any given night in Mundri including a dance party in town, Chai barking, critters scurrying around in the tent, roosters, a motorcycle revving its engine, or the wind blowing the tent around. I have found that once my sleep is interrupted a few nights in a row, I have a lot of trouble returning to a normal sleep pattern. I know that there are many possible causes for my sleeplessness including the work of the enemy. If there is something that I am not aware of that is stressing me out or making me anxious, I am too tired to discern anything that might be related to my sleeplessness.

Please pray that I would sleep in a deep restorative way. Pray that I would have good times with God this weekend and that God would prepare my heart for Christmas. As many people on the team have already prayed these weeks, please pray that we would all be changed by reality of God with us this Christmas season especially as many of us are longing to be with friends and family across the ocean.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why do raisins dance? (Physics class reflections)

The first term at Mundri Secondary School is now complete. There will only be two terms this year instead of the usual three terms because of the teachers strike at the beginning of the school year. My class has moved through the introduction to physics and has started learning the equations of linear motion.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching physics this term. The teaching part was difficult for me, but I really had fun with the physics. Although I have tutored before and even worked as a TA (teaching assistant) in college, I have never taught a class for a full school year. There were many moments when I was standing at the chalk board at a complete loss for any other way to explain a concept that none of the students were understanding. Physics is a difficult subject for most students, and the students in my class have the added challenge of understanding my English which is very different from the English they are used to hearing.

As with most times when I have done something outside of my comfort zone, teaching has been a means for God to show me the ugliness in my own heart, especially my impatience. It has also been an opportunity to trust that God is working even when I can't always see the evidence.

A few weeks ago I was able to invite all the girls from my class over to our compound for an afternoon of science demonstrations, conversation, and popcorn. I loved seeing them observe carefully and ask themselves why the raisins "dance" or the pepper "runs away" from my hand. With a smaller group I was able to have fun with science and ask questions in a way that would be difficult to manage alone in a class of almost 60 students.

Now that the term is over and I have graded all the exams, I suspect that most of the students have learned more math and English in my class than they have physics, which is fine with me. There are few students who have worked hard, asked questions, and learned the basics of physics. I am very proud of those students. I also saw from the exams that I am going to have to review the equations of linear motion from the beginning when the next term starts in January.

After I gave the final exam for this term, I asked all the students to write about their goals for their future. I would like to share a few of their answers with you.

"My goal is to be an engineering worker according to God's will if I may stay alive from now and future. I always practice some work like connection of electricity in my house, sometimes I cut some trees to burn them as charcoal so as to get some money for school fees. I also practice farming. I have one hectare of eggplant in my garden with a few tomatoes in one side"

"My goal is to be a pastor to preach the word of God because I like to read the Bible every day."

"My goal is to be a teacher to teach our children in our society because 21 years we spent in civil war. My goal is that if God will help me, I will finish my education."

"My future goal is to be a business man after studying. The reason is that I want to help my family at large. I want to support my brother to study also like me. Business is very important for our life in the , I want to overcome the poverty in our society."

"My goal is nothing because there is no work to do. I was working in a farm, but there is nothing in it. That is my condition, and even I don't have anybody to pay school fees. Now I struggle to do some work like burning of charcoal, cutting poles, but there is less money. I will either finish my education or not. I am trying to get some work like engineering or driving."

I ask that you would pray for all the students to have hope for their futures that comes from the truth of the gospel. I also ask that you would pray for wisdom for me as I plan for the next term.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sustainable Development

What is sustainable development? I have been asking myself that question a lot recently. I have read excerpts of various books, listened to podcasts, and had many discussions on the subject.

The word sustainable has become a bit of a buzz word of the last few years, and is used in various contexts with different meanings. Wikipedia defines sustainable development as pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations. In addition, many people (including myself) would not consider development truly sustainable if it creates an indefinite dependence on foreign aid or subsidized products. In other words, sustainable development has an exit strategy and aims to have nationals managing and operating projects. Other development experts, such as Jeffrey Sachs, would more broadly define sustainable development as the emerging science of global scale change.

It doesn't take much reading to know that development experts do not all agree. Jeffrey Sachs, William Easterly, and Paul Collier have very different views on development. I don't yet know my own opinions on many of the aspects of sustainable development that are being debated around the world. I do know that my relationship with God impacts the way I think about sustainable development. In discussions about human rights, my perspective is anchored to my belief that all humans are made in the image of God. I pray that as I study the broad spectrum of things that are considered sustainable development, I would similarly always anchor my perspective on the truth of the gospel.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Southern Sudan has many natural resources. Mahogany, ebony, and teak can be found growing in the forests surrounding Mundri. Mahogany is used by local carpenters for nearly everything they build. As I write this, I am sitting on a mahogany chair, at a mahogany desk, while the roofs of our houses are being constructed behind me with mahogany 2x4s.

The mahogany used for construction in Mundri could be used for expensive fine furniture in Europe or America, but Mundri does not have access to those markets. Transportation in Southern Sudan is also prohibitively expensive. And then what would the carpenters use for construction in Mundri? To import another type of wood for construction would make it too expensive, especially after transportation costs are added. The mahogany trees in this area are a blessing to those who are rebuilding, giving them access to strong, moderately termite resistant wood.

Few people are currently replanting mahogany for future generations. Next year when we move to our new homes on the church land, Larissa hopes to plant some of these types of trees for the next generations in Mundri.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Visit to Lui

On Monday morning Larissa and I hitched a ride with some friends to Lui, a town about 45 minutes up the main road. It just so happened that there was a man on a short-term team from Missouri who is an expert on the application of GPS and GIS tools to agricultural studies. Since I have been learning about the use of GPS and GIS for mapping water points and Larissa is our resident gardener, we decided to go to Lui and hear more about his work. There is no cell phone reception in Lui so we didn't know anything more than what he had told Karen when they flew in on the same MAF flight. In fact we didn't even know his last name, but we were off to Lui looking for "Mark the scientist".

The ride to Lui was glorious. It was a cloudy morning with a cool breeze and we were sitting in the back of a land cruiser pick-up. Since it is now the start of the dry season, the leaves are rapidly turning from green to brown. It felt like Fall to me for the first time.

We met up with Mark, and it just so happened that his group had planned to visit a teak plantation run by the Mothers' Union and the ECS church in Lui that morning, so we joined them for the trip while chatting with Mark and Sam, a gardener also from Missouri. *See pictures of the teak plantation from my last post

Later we returned to the guesthouse and sat and talked with Mark, Sam, and the rest of their short-term team. I learned a lot of helpful information for using Google Earth to map water points. A few weeks ago, Google Earth updated the images available for Mundri and the rest of Southern Sudan making them significantly more useful for our work. Michael and I had already seen the new images, but Mark had new insights about the benefits of using Google Earth for water and agricultural ministries. Much of Mark's work is too high tech to be useful in Mundri, but it was also interesting to hear about how new technologies are being used for agriculture in Japan and around the world.

In the afternoon, we got to talk with our friends, David and Heather, about some of the problems they have seen Moru farmers face and possible solutions. We also heard about what has been tried in Lui previously by other NGOs and missionaries. They have been missionaries in Africa for several decades, and we are so thankful for their knowledge and wisdom.

*David showed us what looks like a field of purple wildflowers but is actually a field of crops completely destroyed by the parasitic plant striga.

David and Heather graciously hosted Larissa and me for dinner and let us stay the night in the guestroom of their beautiful home. Their compound is truly an oasis in Lui. We had a perfect, restful night of conversation. They even gave us a ride back to Mundri the next morning.

In the end our visit to Lui was such a blessing. We learned some new things. We enjoyed the cool weather and a beautiful sunset. We had a night of deep sleep uninterrupted by Chai barking or a motorcycle revving its engine at 6 am.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fall in Lui

*Top three pictures are from a teak plantation in Lui