Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!


Celebrating Thanksgiving in Mundri with many of our friends

The women on our team a little less sweaty than usual after our Thanksgiving dinner

Highlight of the day: Each person sharing 5 things they thank God for
(One written on each finger of the construction paper hand)

I appreciate and have grown to love the ways our team celebrates holidays, birthdays, goodbyes, and other events.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jupiter and Fireflies

Last week after Scott's birthday party it was a particularly clear night. We were still energized after some karaoke singing and coffee ice cream that was not decaf.

There was a particularly bright object rising in the East so I got out my telescope. It was Jupiter and the four moons were very clearly visible as well! It was a lot of fun to hear Gaby and Liana's joy in seeing the details of Jupiter including the stripes with their own eyes for the first time. Even the adults, including myself, were pretty excited.

Over the last few weeks I have appreciated the fun we have as team. Sometimes it is coordinated, and sometimes it is spontaneous. Singing karaoke ballads, a rousing game of Boggle, cooking a meal together, looking at Jupiter in the night sky... team fun takes on many forms.

After we saw Jupiter, I printed out the equatorial star chart for November and saw that just a few days later the Leonid meteor shower would be visible. We brought out chairs and stretched out on the hammock looking at the night sky looking for meteors.

It was a hilarious endeavor. We were all staring intently into the sky, and someone exclaims "I saw a meteor!" followed by "Never mind, it was a firefly..." The fireflies in Mundri fly pretty high, so it is still under debate whether anyone saw any meteors, but we saw satellites and LOTS of fireflies.

In the dry season especially in Mundri, the night sky is spectacular!

Friday, November 18, 2011

More on Penn State

Just thought I would share this blog post from a campus minister in State College. Even if you didn't attend Penn State, I think it is worth reading. It was encouraging and convicting to me personally.

Repentance & the Penn State Cult

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thoughts from a Nittany Lion

Living in South Sudan, I was a little late in hearing about the "Penn State Scandal" as it is has been called by the media. Of course, I tend to read news relating to my alma mater, Penn State.

First let me say, that I have read some about all the events and discoveries of the last few weeks, but I may have missed some information. We don't have TV, and I have only read a small selection of the MANY news articles.

Second, I am not going to write anything here about the details of what allegedly happened at Penn State. If you are not informed about the details, please find a reliable news outlet and read a few articles before considering the rest of what I will write here.

Third, as usual, these are my own comments, and not the opinions of World Harvest Mission.

Now for some of my thoughts...

The alleged crimes that took place at Penn State have seriously shaken many people who know Penn State and have lived in Happy Valley. The allegations are disturbing. I have been thinking about why a scandal like this hurts so much.

I long for the coming Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I long for Biblical justice, which is not just justice that puts right wrongs that come about by the sins of men and women, but I long for everything to be in state of right relationship where wrongs don't have to be put right.

Jesus has a special place in his Kingdom for the weak, for the fatherless, for the widow, for the poor, for the oppressed, for children, and for the marginalized in our society.

This scandal in particular affronts these longings. The weak were attacked, and the strong were selfish and greedy, and that hurts. It is right to be saddened because this affront to God's design for His Kingdom.

The sadness and pain that I feel at hearing about the scandal at Penn State, should be same sadness and pain I feel at all brokenness including the brokenness in my own heart. When I don't defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, when I don't rescue the weak and needy, I sin. My heart is full of selfishness and greed. It may not be as visible and offensive to American society as the selfishness and greed of those involved in the scandal at Penn State, but still I sin against God.

The good news is that God is at work in my heart and in the world restoring broken things. There are foretastes of the coming Kingdom now on Earth. They aren't always easy to see amidst the brokenness. When I see these foretastes like a student body coming together in a candle light vigil and praying for the victims of this scandal, I remember my hope that all things will be made right. I know that everything sad IS coming untrue.

As the "Penn State Scandal" continues to unfold in the media, I pray for the victims, the weak, the children, and all those who had a special place in the ministry of Jesus Christ on Earth. I pray for all whose hearts have been affected by this scandal. I also pray for those who are accused of crimes related to this scandal.

If you have been praying for the victims of the "Penn State Scandal", you may also consider praying for the weak, fatherless, widows, poor, oppressed, children, and marginalized around the world and in your own neighborhood. God asks us to take up their cause, to defend them, to rescue them, to do justice and love mercy. I know I sin and fail in doing justice daily, but I pray that God would give me his eyes and heart for the weak and oppressed.

Psalm 82: 3-4
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Micah 6:8
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Traveling Beyond Mundri

Over the last few weeks we have ventured outside of the greater Mundri area to learn and see how God is at work in South Sudan. Rainy season is ending so the roads are drying out, but I was still VERY thankful for our tan Land Cruiser, the winch, and low 4-wheel drive.

This is another longer post that could have been three separate posts. Hopefully the mega post won't become a habit... I did divide this post into three sections by town, so hopefully that will help all of you who are reading. I hope you enjoy the details of our travels.


Our first trip was to Garia which is about 30 miles outside of Mundri town. It took us a little over two hours to reach this rural community.

One of the teachers from Mundri Secondary School called Suleman that I know well was our guide. Garia is his home place, and many of the people we met were his relatives.

Since I'm guessing you won't be able to make out the words in the compressed picture, the sign reads "Garia Medewe Farmers Group Association: Agricultural economic empowerment for Garia Medewe Boma Community for better livelihood improvement".

The people living in Garia have been blessed with incredibly fertile land. I was so encouraged by the things I saw and heard during our day in Garia. I was thankful for the warm welcome we received. I was also thankful for the friendships I have made during the two years I have been living in Mundri. I am thankful that my friends have been willing to take the time to tell us about their work and invite us into their families.

When we arrived after a long drive, we were served very fresh boiled cassava and hibiscus tea. Yum! We sat in a circle and went through the introductions, we prayed, and we listened as the men in this farmers group told us about the work they are doing and how it has impacted their families and the community.

To be a part of this farming group you must first agree to farm at least 4 feddans (close to 4 acres) individually to provide food for their family. The land farmed as a group is in addition to providing the basics for your family. The crops from this group farm will be sold and the profits can be used for community improvement, to provide food for community celebrations or funerals, to help a family who has suffered a tragedy, etc.

We also visited a privately owned farm in Garia where 2 square kilometers is being farmed. The community of Garia leased 25 square kilometers of fertile land to a business man. Part of their agreement includes the stipulation that this businessman will pay salaries for several teachers from Uganda for the local primary school. There is also a monetary part of the lease, but the community of Garia is using the resource that they have, fertile land, to improve education, health care, and other public goods. Another 25 square kilometer parcel is in the process of being leased with the condition than the businesswoman will pay the salary for a clinical officer for the health center.

The men shared that one of their biggest challenges is the road to Garia. We had just experienced that challenge ourselves. It is very hard for them to get their crops to market. Rather than waiting for the government to fix the road (which is in the plans, but South Sudan has A LOT of roads in need of improvement and with a brand new nation the process may be slow) or appealing to outside donors, this community has contacted other communities along the road and they have made plans to work together to improve the road themselves.

In Moru culture, if you are visitor, you do not typically bring a gift, but you leave with a gift to take home to your family. We left Garia with a bounty of pumpkins, cassava, and maize! We were truly thankful for the generous gifts.

I praise God for a great visit to Garia.

As for our own journey, we only got stuck in the mud once, which was amazing considering the condition of the roads to Garia. Caleb took this picture just before setting up the winch to pull us out.


A few days later we started our 5 day journey to Kajo-Keji and Juba.

It took us about 11 hours to reach Kajo-Keji from Mundri. Let me tell you that the whole day spend in the Land Cruiser on very bad roads gives you quite a core workout as you are using all your stabilizing muscles to try and keep from banging your head against the side of the car.

We had to ford several rivers. I kept thinking of Oregon Trail. =) In the picture above you can see the man-made stone ford.

We came upon this refrigerated truck stuck in the mud. There were many moments when we came to stretch of road like this one and stopped lock the hubs for low 4 wheel drive then looked for the most recent tire tracks and make a choice...left or right... We choose left in this case and made it through with Michael's skillful driving.

The weather in Kajo-Keji was beautiful. There were mountains and it was cool. I even wore a light jacket in the mornings and evening.

We were welcomed by the Bishop of Kajo-Keji and the coordinator of the PAP (Participatory Awakening Process) Program which they call CCMP (Church Community Mobilization Process) in Kajo-Keji.

We got to meet many people whose lives and families were changed by the Bible based training which helps people to identify the God-given resources available to them and work for the development of their families and communities. The former Bishop of Kajo-Keji pictured above showed us his pineapple farm which he started after he participated in some of the trainings. He has been able to build a latrine on his compound and start building a permanent house made of concrete blocks with a tin roof from the profits of his pineapple farm and the other projects he has started as a result of the training.

We came to Kajo-Keji with Salah Reuben, the PAP (Participatory Awakening Process) Coordinator for Mundri. Salah has started these trainings in the Mundri Diocese. We traveled to Kajo-Keji to learn from communities where the program has been going on for over two years and has been very successful. Check out an old blog post about Salah and PAP if you want to hear more.

We also got to have some great conversations with the Bishop of Kajo-Keji and consult on some water projects he is planning. We met the principal of the local Bible College and learned about the church microfinance institution from the two men have been running the program.

I liked this picture of a pineapple just beginning to form, so I thought I would share it with you as well. We saw beautiful things in Kajo-Keji, enjoyed the cool weather, but most of all heard stories of God at work in the lives of men and women.


After two days in Kajo-Keji we continued to Juba to do some errands and have a few meetings. I can't even describe what it feels like the moment you transition from the dirt road where you have been tossed to and fro for the last 5 hours to the paved roads of Juba. The car is quiet, not by American standards since the diesel Land Cruiser is no hybrid, but after hearing the tools and luggage being bounced around for hours, it is a beautiful thing for your ears and muscles to have a break on the newly paved roads of a growing city.

South Sudan is getting its own country code for telephones (+211). Billboards around town show advertisements from companies proud to be operating in a new nation.

I was so thankful to have a tour of Juba University while we were visiting. Most of the students in my class at Mundri Secondary School hope to attend Juba University. Registration for next school year was happening while we got our tour, and I ran into several prospective students that I know from Mundri. A senior lecturer from the university who is Moru by tribe and is related to many of our friends graciously answered our questions and gave us a tour of the campus.

We ate great food in Juba overlooking the Nile river. Larissa and I took this roommate picture on the bank on the Nile. Yesterday I realized that I will be leaving Mundri in less than a month. I am sad to moving out of the house I have shared with Larissa for the last year and half.

Riding home to Mundri the car we pretty packed. We did some shopping in Juba for things you can't find in Mundri and got a lot of AMAZING produce. Mangoes were in season in Juba. We also got pineapples, green beans, zucchini, apples, and lots of other things we don't find often in Mundri. We also got three oscillating fans since ours died a few weeks ago and dry season is well on its way in Mundri.

On our way out of Juba, Michael checked prices for construction supplies now available more readily in Juba. Juba is growing.

It was a great 5 day trip across South Sudan. I am thankful for all your prayers.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Road Trip

Tomorrow a group of us will head out on a four day trip to Kajo-Keji and Juba. Traveling in S. Sudan has it's difficulties including getting stuck in the mud. Please pray for our travels over the next week. Here are some specific ways you can be praying.

  • Pray that we would love each other well as we will be in the car together for over 20 hours traveling on pretty bad roads.
  • Pray that we would be learners as we visit projects and institutions in other towns.
  • Pray that we would be able to encourage the men and women we meet as we travel.
  • Pray that God would provide opportunities for us to pray with people.
  • Pray for the errands we have planned to get done in Juba.
  • Pray for the Land Cruiser and for Michael as the driver.
  • Pray for our health as we travel.
  • Pray for the logistics of our travel. (lodging, not getting too lost in Juba, finding the people we are planning on visiting, etc.)
We had a very successful trip to Garia last week. Garia is a very fertile area about 30 miles outside of Mundri which ended up being over a two hour drive. God blessed that trip as we learned about agricultural projects and community development.