Monday, March 25, 2013

From Guns to Coke Bottles

This article caught my eye this morning for two reasons: 

1) I have a fascination with Mozambique even though I have never been there 
2) In one short article, the author manages to hit several of the major themes covered in Economic Development last semester  

After reading the article, one line stuck with me.  

"But now the walls bear images, not of clenched fists or of AK-47s, but of the ubiquitous Coca-Cola bottle, or of smiling faces boasting the virtues of one or other mobile phone company."  

It reminded me of this verse from the book of Isaiah.  

They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks  ~ Isaiah 2:4 

*Sculpture titled Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares at the United Nations Art Collection* 

Personally, if I were to repurpose a metal symbol of destruction, I'd make it into a water tap.  =)

I have been thinking a lot about the importance of symbols in communities, especially since I was assigned to do a group presentation on symbolic interactionism for my Community Development class last semester.  

So today the article has me considering symbols of peace and prosperity in different times and worldviews. Rather than try to express those thoughts in written form, I will just leave it as an idea for you to ponder.  

*RAWTools turning weapons into farm tools - These guys spoke briefly at the Justice Conference*  

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day

Today is World Water Day! Since I have spent a lot of time thinking about water, here are a few things I would love for you to think about today.

For many people around the world, getting water is HARD WORK! Water is heavy (about 8.3 lbs per gallon varying slightly with temperature and pressure).  I tried a couple of times to carry water on my head, and only managed to carry the smaller size jerrycan (10 liters) a relatively short distance.  People around the world work hard for their water while we just turn on the faucet.  And the majority of the people gathering and carrying water are women and children.

Add to that the work of accessing an improved a water source, well you get the idea.  I posted this picture because I think it shows visually some of the work involved, but let me tell you that digging trenches through the hard S. Sudanese soil is the really hard work.  It just doesn't make for as dramatic of a picture.

In my Relief and Disaster Mitigation class we studied the Sphere Handbook.  It provides minimum standards as well as indicators for humanitarian response.  In practice, the indicators often serve as goals for different sectors when responding to emergencies.  Just to give you a sense of scale, in a refugee camp the water goal is 15 liters per person per day and no more than a 30 minute wait at a tap.  The typical large jerry can shown below holds 20 liters of water.  I took this picture on the day of a convention at the ECS church in Mundri which meant extra long lines and water shortages in the system.  This was an unusual day in Mundri town, but many disaster response situations will not even achieve the goal of 15 liters per person per day for drinking, hygiene and cooking.  I've seen different numbers floating around, but it is no secret that Americans use a lot of water every day.  Since I'm talking in liters, the average person in the United Kingdom uses 150 liters of water per person per day, ten times more than the goal for disaster response.

Even though I am no longer serving as a water engineer, I will always care about water issues.  I hope today you consider the water you drink and pray for those who don't have access to safe drinking water.  Pray especially for individuals affected by disasters and conflict who are living in camp situations where water is often very scarce.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Back to Mundri!

It's official! Or as official as it is going to get until I work through details and paperwork with WHM and Eastern which could take a while.

I'm heading back to Mundri for about 7 months for my field practicum, which will complete my MA in International Development from Eastern University! 

I get different reactions when people hear that I have lived in South Sudan and that I am heading back.  A lot of people are surprised and ask me why I am going.   

I have heard all of the reasons I shouldn't go.  In fact, I have considered many reasons that will never even cross your mind.  I have counted the cost.

I am not a unique person who doesn't like stability and comfort.  I have spent a lot of my life traveling and moving, but I still long to be a part of a community of friends that is steadfast and unchanging.  Even if I lived my whole life in the same small town, things would change.  The only truly steadfast person in my life is God.   

I am going back to South Sudan. Not because the cost is small.  But because of the one who paid the cost I could never pay on the Cross.  Not because I made and impulsive thoughtless decision.  But because of the call from God that I have doubted and prayed over repeatedly.  Not because I'm a special person who finds the life of a missionary easy all the time.  But because of the one who carries my burdens and gives me strength. 

I could come up with a million reasons not to go including the fact that I am not guaranteed success in ministry.   Missionaries are definitely not granted an easy button for life from God.  But I truly love partnering with Christians in Mundri and seeing God at work in a place that is now a part of "home" for me.  Some days things will be really hard and there will be sacrifices, but I can tell you first hand that there is also tremendous joy in the missionary life.

So I'm headed back to Mundri, and if you wanted to know why, I hope this post helps you understand a bit more of the answer to a question I struggle to answer myself some days.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Airport Ads and Reminiscing

I spend a lot of time at airports.  Before a long flight I tend to wander the airport just so I can move my legs in anticipation of the hours of sitting ahead.  While waiting for flights I get to see a lot of airport ads.  I always look for the HSBC ads which are usually clever.  This campaign in particular made me smile.  First, as a student of international development, I agree that local knowledge is immensely important.  But mostly, it sounds like a Michael-ism.  "Never underestimate the importance of local knowledge" fits right in with "never underestimate the power of the equatorial sun to reduce productivity" and "never underestimate the usefulness of a short length of pipe" and all the other valuable lessons Michael taught his engineering apprentices.  Michael usually shares those pearls of wisdom after singing the following lyrics.

"I have only come here seeking knowledge, things they would not teach me of in college" ~ Wrapped Around Your Finger, The Police  

And I definitely learned a lot of things not taught at Penn State!  Before starting on our first water tower, Michael had me practice with Kyle by making a work bench.  Kyle and I planned, discussed, measured, and cut the angle irons with a hack saw.  As we were getting ready to weld them together, we realized that even with two engineering degrees between us, we had still cut every angle iron on the wrong plane creating spear like pieces. Good thing Michael had us practice first! Now you know why Michael kept singing those lyrics.  I definitely lacked practical skills when I arrived in S. Sudan.

So now back to the airport ads.

Recently, I have also taken notice of the strange but humorous Oxfam ads.   Since I'm guessing you can't read the small text, it reads "unique gifts that help fight hunger, poverty, and social injustice."

So next time you are at the airport, walk around and check out the ads.

And if you want to realize how little you know and what it means to minister from weakness, apply to be an engineering intern in Mundri.  You will learn from the men of the local water office, your teammates, and lots of other amazing people in Mundri town.  You may even get Michael to sing you those lyrics!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Brazilian Treats

Many of my all time favorite foods are all Brazilian.  First of all Starbucks in Brazil came up with the brigadeiro frappuccino!!! AMAZING!!! Although I must say the conversation with my aunt was better than the drink itself. =)

Of course I stopped for pão de queijo. =)

So far I have also enjoyed passion fruit mousse, goiabada with queijo mineiro, guaraná, and AMAZING coffee!!! I have a whole week left of all my favorite special treats that are only available in Brazil (and some parts of South Florida).  These foods remind me of family and bring back a lot of good memories.  Good thing I am only in Brazil for a little over a week because I may be physically unable to pass a shop that sells pão de queijo without buying one.

My Little Blue Dress

On Black Friday 2011 Melissa found a great little blue dress with a bright colored flower print in a pile of clothes like the one shown above in Mundri, South Sudan while we were out doing our team Christmas shopping.  I bought the dress for a few S. Sudanese pounds.

The dress was made in Vietnam and then made its way to a clothing rack at an Old Navy in the US.  It was purchased and then somehow made its way to East Africa.

I wore the dress for Thanksgiving 2012 on Staten Island with a cardigan and tights to help it make the transition from summer to fall.

Now the dress is with me on spring break in Brazil airing out on the balcony of my aunt and uncle's apartment after a long flight in a suitcase.  Who knows what other travels are in store for my little blue dress.