Sunday, September 25, 2011


While in Kenya I bought two drinking glasses at Kitengela glass hoping to use them for candles because of their beautiful color. They are hand-blown and made from recycled glass.

Yesterday was a quiet Saturday night, so I lit my candles and sat down to read a book. When I saw the light coming through the glass, I couldn't resist getting out my camera and taking a few pictures.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pray for Schools

A new nation means lots of changes for secondary education.

New Curriculum:
South Sudan has printed a new syllabus for secondary education aligning itself more closely with the Kenyan and Ugandan curriculum.

Extra Year of School:
Secondary school will be four years (S1-S4) rather than the three year secondary program that was previously in place.

New Secondary Completion Exams:
As far as I have heard, there is still no South Sudanese exam in place for students who have completed S4 for university entrance, but that will hopefully come soon.

This is year of a lot of transitions for South Sudan. Changes will come slowly. Many schools are still teaching from the old Sudanese curriculum that comes from Khartoum and are not offering S4. Many students are hoping to sit for the old Sudanese national exam upon completion of S3 this year and apply to universities rather than continuing at one of few schools already offering S4.

This year in particular has been difficult for schools, teachers, and students with so many changes happening all at once. It is a complicated situation.

Some teachers who were employed before the school year started decided to take other jobs and replacements have not been found. In South Sudan as a whole there is a shortage of qualified science and math teachers, so those classes in particular are not being taught. Even teachers who are around are not always in class to teach because they are growing their own gardens and providing for themselves and their families. In a community that suffers a lot of death, there are also a lot of funerals which means teachers miss their classes. Sometimes it seems to me that everyone in Mundri is related, and the men who are teachers are often important in their families and expected to attend the burial as well as the church prayers which usually follow a few days later.

Students are paying their school fees, but are often sitting in classrooms with no teachers, particularly the math and science classes. School fees can range from $30 - $75 a year depending on the school, which is a lot of cash for young men and women to come up with every year. Some students are even willing to study on their own when there is no teacher, but schools typically only have one copy of the text book for the teacher. The students can't afford the expensive text books ($10 - $15 each if you find them in stock which is rare). Even if they could get textbooks, it is not ideal since the text books from Khartoum can be confusing and often contain mistakes. When I taught Physics at Mundri Secondary School I ended up buying a textbook from Uganda to supplement the book from Khartoum.

I feel for all parties involved.

The headmaster has struggled to put a roof on 1/3 of a building destroyed during the war so the S3 Science students who were previously being taught under a mango tree can still have class when it rains. I am so thankful for that roof as I teach. The challenges that face the school are many.

It really makes me sad to walk in to my class at 2:10 in the afternoon at Mundri Secondary School and hear that the students only had one other teacher come in and teach for 40 minutes that day.

This afternoon I am heading back to Mundri Secondary School to teach my practical science lab course to the eight young men in the S3 science track. These men want to be doctors, engineers, agriculturalists and environmentalists. One young man is even studying science because he enjoys it, but hopes to be a pastor. Most students choose the easier arts track. Today we will be looking at a small solar powered car and learning about solar panels and motors. I'm excited! Solar panels are everywhere in South Sudan with the equatorial sun being used to pump water, run computers, power lights, etc.

  • Pray for the schools in South Sudan.
  • Pray God would give me eyes to see how He is at work in a difficult situation.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit would guide me in encouraging the headmasters, teachers, and students in Mundri.
  • I am so thankful for the headmaster of Mundri Secondary School who has welcomed our team in to his school to teach. I am always amazed at his persistence and resourcefulness as he finds a way to continue rebuilding a school destroyed by war.
  • I am thankful for the teachers who teach up to 100 students in a class under a hot tin roof in the heat of Sudan.
  • I am thankful for the students who come to class all day and try to do some work in the afternoons to get enough money for school fees.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Calling All Bricklayers!

One of the books I am currently reading is Wars, Guns & Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places by Paul Collier. Not exactly the best bedtime reading, but thus far a very interesting book especially since I am living in a post-conflict democracy.

I am not endorsing all of the opinions of the author, but I thought this quote was interesting.

"Post-conflict situations need squads of bricklayers, plumbers, welders, and so forth, who set about training young men. Unfortunately, it is too mundane for the development agencies to organize it. We need Bricklayers Without Borders."

So if you are a bricklayer, plumber, welder, mechanic, mason, contractor, etc., you should consider applying to the World Harvest Mission South Sudan Team! Join us in partnering with the local church and community in Mundri to bring hope through gospel-centered healing, development and discipleship.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


*photo credit to Kim Berger, little black dots are all weevils*

This morning at breakfast, Bethany and I were discussing the trade-offs we make when buying food to bring to Mundri. In Uganda we buy some food that is not available in S. Sudan. This last trip we bought enough to last four months which is the next time someone will be able to shop in Kampala. We stood with our list in front of the oatmeal. You have two choices for oatmeal in Kampala.

Choice 1: The box of rolled oats. Much cheaper. Probably already has weevils (a small beetle) happily eating the oats in the box.

Choice 2: The very well sealed tin of quick-cooking oatmeal. Double the price of the box oatmeal per kilo. No bugs.

Bethany came up with a great oatmeal plan while we were loading one of our many shopping carts with tins of oatmeal. We decide to buy about half of the oatmeal we expect to use in four months in boxes and the other half in tins. We think we can kill the weevils that are already in the boxes by putting them in the freezer for a few days, and we will eat the oats in the boxes first. If we kill the weevils already in the boxes we can hopefully stop them from multiplying. When the weevils are still alive you can get them out by putting the oats in the sun since the weevils will surface and leave the food. However once dead, you just need to deal with them in the food. If the oats in the boxes are totally inedible, we still have the tins.

We have to make a trade-off between price and bugs.

This morning Bethany and I discussed how the freezing was working and the current state of the oatmeal in the boxes. When I make my oatmeal tomorrow morning for breakfast, I know I will be picking out the dead weevils that float to the top once I add water. Any I miss are just a little extra protein. A few weevils doesn't phase either of us anymore. We think our strategy is working out pretty well. =)

Anyway, just thought I would share a little glimpse into our breakfast conversation. =)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


So it is kind of hard to see what is going in the picture, but there are LOTS of cattle walking down the main road in Mundri town. This has been a pretty regular sight for the last week as cattle herding tribes are being escorted out of Mundri and back to their traditional homelands. Families have been walking along side their cattle with all their belongings packed up and balanced on their heads.

This also created cattle jams on the main road. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to bike to Mundri Secondary School to teach my practical science lab class, but this week it took about 45 minutes as I passed herd after herd of cattle. I probably passed about 700 cows while weaving in and out to avoid their huge horns, the mud puddles, potholes, and the cow patties left on the road.

This morning Liana, Gaby, Larissa, and I helped our friend James mud the walls of his house. It was a lot of fun! We haven't quite mastered the technique of the wrist flick and knuckle punch, but James came along after us to make it beautiful. There will be one more coat applied once this layer dries.

As soon as we finished the Hai Salaama community water project we knew the tank was undersized. Today Michael and Caleb replaced the small 500 liter tank with a much larger 5,000 liter tank.

Michael welds high up in the air.

A group of children gathered to watch Michael, Caleb, and the water office staff work. I came in the middle of the day to drop of some forgotten supplies and take some pictures of the tank raising, so I took a bunch of pictures of these cute children while I waited for main event.

The tank raising makes a pretty dramatic picture. =)

It may not seem like a big deal, but there is now a second gas station in Mundri town! Concrete blocks are being made all around Mundri town as new buildings go up. The crisp new currency is being exchanged in the shops and markets. Prices are going up for basic things including water. The price each compound has to pay per month for water from a borehole has just doubled from 5 pounds to 10 pounds. It isn't surprising since the price of fuel has gone up as have the prices for most imported goods including spare borehole parts. We have seen some fluctuation in the US dollar exchange rate, but nothing extreme.

Well those are just a few pictures from the last few days and some of the news from Mundri town!