Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why International Development is like Quantum Mechanics

One of my favorite silly poems is "The story of Schroedinger's cat (an epic poem)" which can be found here if you are interested in reading the whole thing. 

I was reminded of this poem when Kristen, my classmate, was presenting on the appreciative inquiry approach of community development.

This approach is based on the idea that the very act of questioning changes the situation regardless of whether or not those questions are answered.

When Kristen said "questioning changes the situation" I immediately thought "The act of observing disturbs the observed —" which is a line from the Cecil Adams epic poem. 

My random associations always make sense to me, but usually make no sense to anyone else.  During an in-class discussion on overpopulation in Egypt and land reform I made a reference to eating babies in Ireland, and half the class knew that I was talking about A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and the other half of the class was confused and a little disturbed.  A minute later another student referenced the Duggars.  It was an interesting class. 

This time I kept my quantum mechanics reference to myself, but after class I mentioned it to Kristen, a fellow science-lover.  She was tracking with me, so I decided I could post it here just for fun. 

So why is international development like quantum mechanics? Cecil Adams wrote:

"We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons — you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed —
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability — certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear."


International development is like quantum mechanics because you can't know if an approach will work in a specific community without testing, but the very act of an outsider coming into a community and asking questions changes the community irreversibly.  You cannot undo the influence of a missionary living in a community even if they don't implement any projects.  The fact that an outsider is there observing and asking questions changes the answers to the questions.

So those are my silly thoughts on why international development is like quantum mechanics based on an oversimplification in verse.  =)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 


 Merry Christmas from my family in Brazil! It is always special when my grandparents can have both their children and their spouses along with all three of their grandchildren in the same room.  Our family is relatively small, but living on different continents makes getting together challenging.   The fact that this photo happened is a blessing for my grandparents who are both over 90 years old. 

 With my cousins

I took this photo on the day I arrived in Brazil which happened to be their 66th anniversary!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recent Reading

Just a few thoughts on some of the reading I have been doing. (I actually wrote this a while back, but never got around to posting it.  It is crazy to think about all the different things I have read since!)

I recommend the book Walking with the Poor by Myers.  I read it shortly after I got to Mundri about three years ago.  I recently reread it for Theology of Poverty, and I got so much more out of it having read something from many of the authors that Myers references like Jayakumar Christian and Miroslav Volf.  Walking with the Poor is now available on Kindle.




http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Poor-Principles-Transformational-Development/dp/1570759391



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I like this quote a lot for so many reasons, but I will let you read and it and relate it to your own stories.  


"Our communities are like our houses in which we feel at home, and yet keep rearranging, taking old things out and bringing new things in, often objects acquired on visits to near and distance place, objects which symbolize that we can never be the same after we have ventured outside our home, that the things we encounter 'outside' become a part of the 'inside'" - A Vision of Embrace: Theological Perspectives on Cultural Identity and Conflict by Volf


Here is one more quote from our readings on reconciliation.  


“…a Christian way of dealing with suffering involves bringing one’s own story of suffering into contact with the story of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ." - Schreiter 



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I wish I could articulate in a better way everything I have been thinking, considering, and praying about through all my classes.  I have a lot of good questions, but honestly, I have information overload.  I am recognizing the mistakes I made as a development practitioner in S. Sudan, and acknowledging to myself that if I continue working in development, I will always make mistakes.  I seem to need to relearn that lesson every few months.  It is so easy for my sinful heart to make effectiveness in ministry an idol. 


"The Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, leads us into mission, and is responsible for the results of mission." - Myers   


So maybe I need to write that quote by Myers on my wall and remember that it is true for missionaries overseas, engineers in the US, stay-at-home moms, ... basically it is true in for every calling and vocation. 



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Since I am letting your all get a glimpse of my thoughts anyway, I must say that sometimes I hesitate write my thoughts on the things I am learning and reading on economics of development and theology of poverty, because I fear being judged.  I guess I still feel a little like an imposter as a missionary, like someone is going to realize that they let a chemical engineer slip in with all the real missionaries that went to seminary or at least have degree in appropriate technology.  And those thoughts take me right back to the Myers quote.  


"The Holy Spirit empowers us for mission, leads us into mission, and is responsible for the results of mission." - Myers  


So I will end with this, you don't have to have everything all figured and your life all cleaned up to take a step of faith accept Jesus as your Savior, and you don't have to have everything all figured out and have dealt with all sin in your life to follow Jesus if he calls you to mission.  God is in the business of restoring broken things and that is good news for you, for me, for churches, universities, nations, the earth, basically it is just universally good news.   


 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Doubt

In many Christian communities, people will speak openly about their own sin.  Subjects that might be taboo like greed, pride, and lust are discussed openly.  In fact, public admission of sin can even become boastful because it is so highly valued.  

There are however still some things that people don't really discuss.  Doubt, in my opinion, is one of those things.  It would be easier to admit to lying than to admit you doubt the existence of God.  

So here I am, a former missionary, admitting on a public blog that I sometimes doubt.  And not just little doubts, like doubting the power of prayer or doubting that God is at work in the midst of suffering, but I doubt the existence of God.  I have moments of darkness and unbelief.

It seems to be the pattern of my life that those moments come especially when I intentionally take time consider God, suffering, paradox, Truth, etc. As a grad student, most of my days are spent reading and praying about those very topics. 

You might think that what comes next in this post is some words about how we can take those doubts to the Lord, evidences for the existence of God, or something that you would read in Christian book on doubt (albeit not as well written).

But I won't, because that is the reality of life of faith sometimes. 

I am thankful for friends to whom I can safely express my doubts and confusion because I think those things should not be keep secret.  I pray that Christian communities would be bold in speaking openly about doubt thus creating a safe spaces for any person to share their doubts.

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1 Corinthians 13:12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

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“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” - Screwtape Letters

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FYI: I still love Jesus.  =) 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brain Full


One of my classmates mentioned this far side cartoon in class.  That is DEFINITELY how I felt in the middle of my last economic development class.  During the break, all I could think was I have been in class for an hour and half and there is still and hour and half of learning to go! It was all great stuff, but my brain was full! This class in particular felt like a mental marathon, and I had not been training. 

But then today my roommates and I went to a political rally because it was less than a mile from our house.   We kept on making eye contact whenever we made connections to things we had just been discussing in class.  I guess we did retain something.  I understood on a deeper level, and my questions and concerns were more complex than they would have been a month ago. 

So looks like I'm learning something. 

On another note, I was cleaning out some things I had been storing in my parents house a few months ago, and I found this! It was on the cover page of my organic chemistry exam at PSU.  After the exam I cut it out and kept it.  Good times. 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Infographic

Because infographics seem to be all rage these days, here is one on South Sudan. Of course there are significant regional variations within South Sudan.  There isn't much data available on South Sudan, and this is relatively recent (2011).   I think it is interesting to consider.  

  Just for fun, I found this infographic on infographics. 



Monday, September 17, 2012

Fit for Service

I was a hesitant blogger when I was first appointed as a missionary with WHM.  I make myself vulnerable as a blogger, striving to share the truth which includes both successes and failures.  As a blogger I know there have been times when I have feared the judgment of men, which totally changes the way I write and doesn't glorify God.  While I am vulnerable, the reader is anonymous.  At least in my prayer letters, I know the audience. I debated writing this post for that very reason.

This week I reached the ambitious weight loss goal I set for myself about a year and a half ago.  (I promise this has to do with missions as well, so keep reading.)   I made a change in my life for two main reasons.

1) For my health at the recommendation of my doctor because, as she said, it is much easier to make a change now than it would be ten years from now

2) For Mundri (this is the part about missions) which I did not admit to publicly until now, because what if I failed to reach my goal...

The reality was I just didn't have the energy of stamina do everything I wanted to do in Mundri.  My primary mode of transportation was my trusty bicycle, and although I was relatively fit and could get the places I needed to go on my bicycle, I found myself avoiding the bike ride into town when possible.  If I didn't HAVE to check up on a water project, I would avoid the bike ride.  If I had time to visit a friend, but she lived on the other side of town, I would find something else to do instead.  Life in Mundri was definitely more physically demanding than life in the US, and I knew that losing some weight would give more energy for the life I wanted to lead as a member of the community in Mundri.


At least for me, achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a type of spiritual discipline.  I hope to be ready and able to follow God anywhere in the world.  Part of that for me means being physically fit for service as far as that depends on my choices and discipline.  I'm not running a marathon anytime soon (or probably ever), but I have so much more energy now, which is currently being poured into being a grad student.  I must admit, that I haven't had the same discipline over the last year and half in other spiritual disciplines.

I am thankful for the people who have been my workout buddies along the way.  Bethany brought P90X to Mundri, so we got up early many days before the heat of the day rolling out our yoga mats on the dusty concrete floor while laughing and sweating together.  Now my roommates and I get up early to jog at a local track before we start our reading for the day.  We will see what happens once it starts getting really cold, but for now, it is a routine that works for us.

Now it is time to set a new goal for physical fitness and in writing this I have been challenged to look at other spiritual disciplines that are being neglected in my life. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sustainable?

http://xkcd.com/1007/

A friend shared this comic with me a while back.  I liked it then, and I like it even more now. 

As it got later last night, the readings started feeling like a long string of keywords. 

"Community....sustainable.... globalization.... development... sustainability... community development... global solutions... sustainable..." 

That is when you know it is time to go to sleep and try again in the morning. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Questioning

As an undergrad taking classes like organic chemistry and thermodynamics the answers were clear.  There was only one correct answer to problems assigned by professors. 

Working as a process engineer at DuPont a little more uncertainty was introduced.  You might be able to find all the information you wanted to solve a problem, but only with infinite time and money.  I learned to make decisions with 80% of the information. 

Then I moved to South Sudan, and I had access to even less of the information I wanted as an engineer approaching a problem. Finding accurate and relevant data was a challenge.  I learned a lot by watching and listening. 

As I learned to live in the gray areas of life in Africa, I finally spoke the words aloud that I was considering leaving traditional engineering and working in community development.  

The Bible is full of mystery and paradox, and yet I push against every time it makes its way into my life. 

Now I find myself sitting in classes being presented with many of the questions that I have been thinking about for the last several years. 

When you ask questions like "What is poverty?", you aren't going to get a nice answer that fits into a box at the bottom of the page like π/2.  Even an imaginary number has a precise mathematical definition and follows a defined set of rules.  Now I sit in a class called economic development getting a degree called international development as we ask "What is development?". The answer most certainly does not fit in a box.   

And so today as I reflected on our class discussion I had a lot of thoughts.  I was excited about all the unique expressions of the coming Kingdom in different cultures around the world.  I was feeling disillusioned about development work as I thought about how practitioners (including myself) use new and trendy words to describe the same tired paradigm.  I recognized how the Holy Spirit has been at work guiding our team in Mundri.  I saw the ugliness of my idolatrous heart that wants to serve for myself and not because of Jesus. 

And isn't that a part of tension in so many things worth considering?  We live in the paradox of the already and not yet and it can be an uncomfortable place to be for someone like me who likes neat answers that fit in boxes.     

A little over a year ago as I considered a lot of questions that had come up in my time in S. Sudan I wrote this http://immeasurablymorewhm.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-complete-picture.html, and now a year later, I consider many of the same questions.  I pray I continue to ask questions and learn, because if ever believe I have it all figured out... well that would be a dangerous day. 

I'm sure that most of you who are reading this blog post are friends who have walked with me on at least part of this journey, so thank you for the grace you have shown me. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Prayer for Students

It is a beautiful day in Pennsylvania.  The sun is shinning, and the leaves are green.  This morning my roommates and I headed out to a local farmers' market, and then we spent the rest of the morning camping out in a local coffee shop.  The light pouring in the beautiful windows and a good cup of coffee made being inside a lot more bearable.



I'm taking a short break from reading to share this prayer with you.  It came up in my readings the day before our first class.  What a great prayer to start a year of reading, learning, testing ideas against scripture, and lots of hard work.

FAITH AND THE WORLD

O Lord, 

The world is artful to entrap,
approaches in fascinating guise,
extends many a gilded bait,
presents many a charming face.

Let my faith scan every painted bauble,
and escape every bewitching snare
in a victory that overcomes all things.

In my duties give me firmness, energy, zeal,
devotion to thy cause,
courage in thy name,
love as a working grace, 
and all commensurate with my trust.

Let faith stride forth in giant power,
and love respond with energy in every act. 

I often mourn the absence of my beloved Lord
whose smile makes earth a paradise, 
whose voice is sweetest music,
whose presence gives all graces strength.

But by unbelief I often keep him outside my door.  

Let faith give entrance that he may abide with me for ever.

Thy Word is full of promises,
flowers of sweet fragrance, 
fruit of refreshing flavour
when called by faith.

May I be made rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy,
abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigour from its manna.

Lord, increase my faith.  

~ The Valley of Vision, Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Thursday, August 30, 2012

International Development at Eastern University

The anticipation is over.  A new season has started!

It has been six years since I last took a formal class.  A few things are familiar, but most things are foreign.  In a lot of ways, it is like entering a new country with a unique culture and language.   Eastern University is completely unlike Penn State.  I will be taking four classes this semester with the same 15 students in every class.  We are a cohort, walking through this program together.  We pray in class, and the Bible is our central text.   Differing opinions are welcomed and add to the discussion.  I recall a few instances at Penn State when a student questioned a professor's answer or calculation. It did not always go over well.  I spent most of my undergraduate career working on problem sets.  I expect to spend most of my graduate career reading and writing papers. 

For anyone interested in International Development, this semester I am taking the following classes. 

Community Development
Economic Development
Leadership and Empowerment
Theology of Poverty

I'm hoping to post the titles of some of the books that I am reading along the way for anyone who might be interested.  This weekend I will be getting a head start on reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Freire.  Since he is a Brazilian author, I am particularly interested.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

URGENT NEED! Water for Students in Uganda

Imagine being a senior in high school and being told you will not be able to complete the year or attend university this year because there is no clean drinking water at your school. 

The team leaders from the World Harvest Mission team in Bundibugyo Uganda shared this urgent need.  I have included their own blog post at the bottom, but here is my summary.

To keep the doors open at Christ School Bundibugyo, the team needs to raise $12,000 in emergency gifts by August 7th to be able to install a rainwater system.  

Why the urgent need? A construction crew that is building in the highly anticipated  East African Highway has reached a town very near to the school.  They will dig up the water pipes currently serving the school in the process but the WILL NOT be replacing the pipes until AFTER the construction of the highway is complete. 

Lack of safe drinking water has already caused a cholera outbreak in a nearby town, so if there is no source of clean water, Christ School, which is a boarding school for about 350 students, will have no choice but to close for five weeks or more until water can be restored.  

I ask you to pray about whether you might partner with Christ School Bundibugyo in this crisis to provide safe drinking water for the students.  Any amount helps.   


Since many of you may be familiar with the water situation in S. Sudan, I just want to mention that a rainwater system in Bundibugyo would provide plenty of water since it is rainy season in the middle of a rainforest.  Also any extra money raised will go to other needs at the school. 

http://steadfastjoy.blogspot.com/2012/07/water-water-everywhere-not-drop-to-drink.html


Monday, July 30, 2012

Can this man save this girl?

One of the things that comes with moving is sorting through old papers.  In the process I came across an article a friend mailed to me a while back about Matt Damon's work in the area of water in developing nations. I saved it not because of the content, but because of the images.   The article itself was interesting, but the tag line and images kind of bothered me.


CAN THIS MAN (close up of Matt Damon, an Academy Award winning actor who was also once named the sexiest man alive) SAVE THIS GIRL? (image of an unnamed girl gathering dirty water in Mali)

Raising awareness and support for projects and organizations is a part of working in international development.  Images, catchy songs, and tag lines are generally a part of that, especially when you are targeting a generation that grew up in a world FLOODED with media.  I don't doubt that I myself have made poor decisions when it comes to raising support and awareness for the ministries I was a part of in S. Sudan.  I hope though, that both the development workers and the individuals who support them financially would thoughtfully move towards methods that don't play into the typical stereotypes.  Even more than that, I pray that the images and stories coming out of ministries, especially in Africa, would flow out of a worldview that sees all people as made in the image of God, recognizes that all people are in desperate need of Jesus (including Matt Damon), and looks forward to a day when no one will thirst or die of water-born diseases.   Now how to do that in ten words or less for a generation with a short attention span?

Can Matt Damon save a girl in Mali who doesn't have access to clean drinking water? No. Only Jesus can do that. Can Matt Damon as a part of a larger organization partner with communities to provide access to clean drinking water? Yes! But that just isn't as catchy of a title for an article. 

So this is just a reminder for myself especially to pray and think carefully about the words, stories, and images I share.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

One Year Later

Monday, July 9th marks the one year anniversary of the independence of South Sudan.   It was such a blessing to be able to be in Mundri last year to celebrate independence with friends.  Here are few pictures I snapped last year.



 There was much singing, dancing, and rejoicing!

The students and head master of Mundri Secondary School proudly marched with their banner welcoming the new born country.


People proudly wore the colors and flag of South Sudan including this "Vote for Separation" tie.  The symbols in the center of the tie show how the people of South Sudan voted in January 2011 by placing their finger print next to the symbol of an open hand for separation or next to a closed fist for unity.  

There were high hopes for S. Sudan's first year as a nation.  The fact is that one year after independence, the border between the two nations has yet to be determined.  There is no oil sharing agreement, and S. Sudan halted oil production months ago depriving both nations of a large percentage of their revenue.  Conditions at the refugee camps are horrific as well over 100,000 people have fled violence in the border regions.  Check out the article below if you are interested in reading more about what the news is reporting regarding the current state of S. Sudan. 

Facts and figures of a tumultuous first year of independence - UN Dispatch 

Despite these reports, I continue to hear stories of hope and joyful moments with friends from my former teammates in Mundri.  Water is flowing at a new borehole.  The women of Okari church are learning English.  I am sure the anniversary of independence will be celebrated with prayers of thanksgiving and much rejoicing even though times are hard for many.  

As the first anniversary of S. Sudan's independence approaches, join me in praying for this very young nation.  Here are two specific ways you can pray. 
  • Pray that a fair and just border would be determined peacefully and quickly as well as an oil sharing agreement.   
  • Pray for the refugees and returnees in the border regions as well as the aid agencies that are providing relief and running the camps.  





Keep your eyes open on the Mundri team blogs over the next week for their thoughts on the one year anniversary of independence from South Sudan.  


WEPC Heads Back to Mundri and Other Happenings


WEPC 2009 Team (plus me!)

 WEPC 2010 Team with the whole WHM Team

A team from my home church in Richmond is heading to Mundri this month! The two teams that came from WEPC to Mundri while I was on the field were a HUGE blessing to me personally as well as to the whole WHM team.  Join me in praying for this year's team!  I wish I could be in Mundri with them so badly.  Jenn and John have also raised enough support buy their tickets to Mundri, so Jenn will be traveling with the first wave of the WEPC team, and John will be arriving a few days later.  Praise God for his provision!

I'm in the process of getting ready to move to Philly.  Details are still coming together, but I'm excited.  I'm hoping to arrive in the first few days of August.  Classes for the MA in International Development program at Eastern University will start in late August.  I'm excited to be back in an academic setting and even more excited to be moving much closer to several dear friends from my time at Penn State.  =)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fettered

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Years ago when I first heard "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing", I didn't know what fetter meant, so I looked it up.

Fetter: Verb
  1. Restrain with chains or manacles, typically around the ankles.
  2. Restrict or restrain (someone) in an unfair or undesirable fashion: "fettered by tradition".
Fetter: Noun

1.  Chain or shackle for the feet
2Something that confines

Streams of mercy never ceasing, being rescued from danger and pursued by kindness sound great, but being bound by fetter even to God's goodness, well....

I've been in the US for almost exactly five months now, and it wasn't until about two weeks that I finally felt like I was back at home in my relationship with God.  Maybe that is a funny way of describing how I feel, but that it the best I can come up with. 

Today I am supremely thankful that my wandering heart is fettered.  After a season of transition and feeling unanchored, I am thankful that God pursues and that I'm chained to His goodness.

So what have I been up to?

Once again God faithfully provided.  I have found a church home at Covenant Church of Naples.

I am also currently interning at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  Some days I work in an office entering data, but some days I get to spend outside on a boat or in the mangroves! 



Mom and I went to the Naples Botanical Garden to celebrate Mother's Day.  I am so thankful for all the days I am able to be here in Florida with my parents.


I like taking pictures, so here are a few from the that day.







Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Power of Prayer at a Crucial Time for South Sudan

If you have been following the news over the last week, you know that tensions have escalated between Sudan and South Sudan.   The title of the latest BBC article is "South Sudan's Salva Kiir says Sudan has declared war."  Another article from Voice of America online quotes South Sudan's Deputy Defense Minister Majak D'Agoot from the state capital Bentiu as saying that "'What happens in the next few days is very crucial on whether the two countries can avert the possibility of an outbreak of a full-blown conflict, or if they actually lead themselves headlong into a situation of all-out war.'"

Mundri and the WHM team are VERY far from the fighting in the border regions.  Bethany posted yesterday from Mundri, so check out her latest thoughts.  I also need to be reminded that what I read in the news is often sensationalized and does not always represent the true situation.  In fact I just I read an article in which the Catholic Archbishop of Juba said the UN, the African Union, and Western nations have made "premature statements without knowing the reality."  I am writing this post not be I know the truth of what is going on between Sudan and South Sudan, but because no matter what the reality is, it is a time for prayer.

Yesterday I finally got around to listening to a podcast I had downloaded several months ago.  It was entitled "The South African Miracle: The Story Behind the Story of South Africa's Transition from Apartheid to Democracy".  It was not that long ago the news outlets were talking about fears of all-out war in South Africa.  If you aren't familiar with the story, I recommend you look for the podcast by Dr. Michael Cassidy.  Powerful nations and leaders failed to bring a resolution.   A group of weak Christians organized prayer from around the world.   God was glorified when South Africa peacefully transitioned from apartheid to democracy amid fears of all out war. 

I know that many of you are already prayer warriors for South Sudan, and I will admit that I don't pray as much as I should for a country I love that is going through difficult times.  I was convicted as I listened to the story of what God did in South Africa through the power of prayer. I agree with the official from South Sudan who said that the next few days are a crucial time for both countries.  I am one weak sinner, but I can pray.  I ask all the dependent children of God out there to join me in prayer. Here are just a few specific ways you can pray.

Pray for the following individuals as well as the government and church in both nations: 

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan
Archbishop Daniel Deng of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan

Pray for real decisions to be made to resolve these key issues: 

An article in the Economist gave a great one sentence description of some of the issues.  "The crisis is a direct result of both sides’ failure to make progress in negotiations over post-secession security arrangements, citizenship rules and oil revenues, among other issues that should have been resolved long ago."  I would include defining a precise border as another major issue. 

 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nodding Disease and Hope

I've read several articles about nodding disease from various news outlets in the past month. Of course I have a particular interest since Mundri is one of the three places in East Africa where children are being diagnosed with nodding disease. I have seen it first hand. Scott even wrote a post about nodding disease in Mundri last year.

The words in the most recent article on BBC News really impacted me. Uganda's Nodding Disease: I've Lost Hope

One mother of two children with nodding disease is quoted in the article, and she says "I've lost hope. I'm just taking care of Sarah and Moses like flowers in the home knowing they are of no use in the future."

Tears came to my eyes. These communities have been devastated by war for decades. Now, just as they are developing and recovering, their children, their hope for a better future, are suffering from a slow burdensome disease that caries a significant societal stigma for the family.

It breaks my heart to think of these children, whose mother had to make the decision to tie them to a tree for their own safety so that she could go work in her garden to provide food for those very children and the rest of her family.

What I feel in my heart as I pray for those who are suffering from nodding disease is hard to express in words. It is a thousand things coming together. A thought, an image, a word, a verse.... each overlapping with the other like a collage that comes together to form a larger picture. It is hope, suffering, God's sovereignty, injustice, beauty, sin, love, the already and not yet Kingdom of Jesus Christ, doubt, faith.... It is all of those things and more. Together as I step back, it is the Gospel, which changes everything.

My life has been easy, especially when compared to Betty's life. Even still my sinful selfish heart tries to take control and protect my security and comfort. It isn't easy to hope in a world where evil exists. Hoping, loving, having faith makes you vulnerable to pain and suffering.

I don't know Betty. I wasn't there when she said she had lost hope to hear her whole story. I don't know what she believes about Jesus Christ. I pray for her children to be healed, but if in God's sovereignty they are not healed, I pray that there will be a day when she will be with her children, whole and perfect, in heaven.

I know also that part of the reason tears came to my eyes is that I long to be there. I miss Mundri. I long to be a part of that community as they pray for a cure and look forward to a day when there will be no more disease.

Part of my calling as a missionary to share the things I have seen with my friends and church family in America. There is suffering, injustice, death, and sin in every part of the world, but East Africa has a special place in my heart, so I'm sharing this with you in the hope that today you will pray for the communities affected by nodding disease. Also pray for wisdom and continued funding for the doctors and scientists who are studying the disease.

Speaking of hope, if you haven't already, you should read these two beautiful blog posts on the subject.

The Weight of Hope - ParadoxUganda
Unanchored - ParadoxUganda

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News from East Africa

If you are interested in South Sudan and East Africa, check out these recent news articles. I can't comment on the accuracy of these articles, but I ask that you continue to pray for the place I called home for two and half years.

Sudan and South Sudan in fierce oil border clashes : The most recent article on South Sudan from March 27th (today).

South Sudan’s wobbly start - Rustling with Kalashnikovs : From the Economist

Technology and development: A new business model could help people in poor countries light their homes cheaply using solar power

Economic Opportunity for Women
: Sudan is listed last on the Women's economic opportunity index

Kenya Strikes Oil for First Time : ""We will make sure that the oil in Kenya is a blessing for the people of Kenya and not a curse," Murungi (Kenya's energy minister) said, in reference to other countries whose people remain mired in poverty despite having struck oil."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Split Down The Middle

"One night I walk the beach. It's late and the waves are lapping quietly at the sand, like a cat drinking milk. It is clear and the stars are out, but this is Virginia Beach, so they must compete with the city's lights. High-rises stand silhouetted against the unnatural glow, and I walk with my head turned toward the grayness of the ocean.

This same ocean laps against the beaches of Virginia and Senegal. That seems impossible to me and makes me wonder if there is some place out there in the middle of the Atlantic where waves decide to go to the east or to the west, split down the middle as though parted with a comb. There is no such place, I tell myself, but I cannot stop picturing it. I like the idea of a place in the middle of the ocean where east-going waves split from west-going waves, and I feel if there is anywhere left in the world where I truly belong, it is at that spot."

Susan Lowerre, Under the Neem Tree

A friend in Richmond who served in Uganda with WHM years ago put together a list of quotes from books and songs about going, leaving, re-entry, now, and questions. This quote in particular stuck with me. I am thankful for friends who have walked this path ahead of me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Loving

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Thinking about living in Naples for only six months and then moving to Philadelphia for ten months and then potentially moving again can be overwhelming. Even spending the last month traveling takes its toll. Repeatedly stepping back into a communities that I loved and loved me well and then driving away again is exhausting. I hesitate to be vulnerable with new people and in a new community, especially when I still miss Mundri so deeply. That is not the person I want to be. I value relationships, so I pray for God to give me the strength to be vulnerable.

A Month of Traveling in Review:

I kicked things off with a week in Colorado Springs for debriefing and then a weekend in Boulder. I took the pictures below as the sun was setting just as Ben, Amanda, and I were getting back the car after a short hike. It was a spectacularly beautiful moment.



Two days after getting back to Florida, I packed up my mom's car and started driving up the east coast. I was able to visit friends in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina. It was a wonderful trip highlighted by a week in Richmond where I reconnected with my sending church, West End Presbyterian.

I wasn't great about taking pictures, especially in Philadelphia and Richmond, but here are few.

Hiking in February in NY with Linda made possible by a seriously mild winter. =)

I got to drive past my childhood home in Darien, CT and have coffee with a friend who grew up in a house just up the street.

Swans on the way to Cove Beach

I was so blessed to be able to hang out with lots of great friends up and down the east coast. I even got to spend time with several people who also love Mundri including Heidi, John, Phil, Kim, and Bethany.

Meredith was my last stop on my way back to Florida. It is hard to believe it was three years ago that we were both at CIT preparing to head overseas.