Fixing Things

Recently we took a trip to Doro, South Sudan, to scope out our soon-to-be permanent residence. As usual, upon my arrival several maintenance lists were marked just for me. This base is often short-staffed and missionaries do not have enough hours in the day to start (or finish) many of the projects that need to be done.

Welding a gate

I quickly got to work; installed a new solar system, rewired an old one, set up a fridge, replaced light bulbs, fixed a leaking ATV tire, welded and installed a gate to improve security.

My favorite project by far was helping a friend work on his 6X6 Polaris Ranger. He and his family lived in Kurmuk, Sudan but were forced to evacuate when bombs started dropping the fall of 2011. With only a few hours to get out, they left behind everything.

My friend moved to Doro to rebuild and continue work. Many of the people they formerly worked with were now refugees in the nearby camps. Miraculously, the Ranger also ended up in Doro albeit broken down and abused.

Fixing the Ranger would conceivably be easier (and cheaper!) than buying a new vehicle and shipping it to South Sudan. So that’s what we did!

For those of you interested in the details keep reading…

He already replaced the battery, drive belt and oil filter as the originals were missing or destroyed. After pouring in new oil and clean fuel we turned the key. Errrrr. Errrr. The engine turned over, a good sign, and had spark but wouldn’t start.

We pulled a fuel line loose checking to see if the fuel pump was pumping.  Definitely not, but there was power to the pump.

Bad fuel pump = Problem #1. After seeing what remained in the fuel tank, I wasn’t too surprised.

Since we couldn’t just run to the local auto shop we borrowed the pump from the broken down 4-wheeler. Unfortunately the carburetor was leaking and still wouldn’t fire. Problem #2.

So we removed the carb, disassembled, cleaned, reassembled and installed it. I also removed the valve cover to quickly inspect the top of the engine for any serious damage. Everything looked in good shape, coated in a thin layer of clean oil indicating the oil pump was working. After reassembling we said a prayer and turned the key. This time the engine roared to life!

A small adjustment to the idle speed and we were set to see if the transmission and drive train still functioned properly. Hi, Low and reverse all seemed to work fine.

One thing left, the winch. The cable was broken and the hook missing. We bypassed the missing controller by hot wiring and found the winch itself still worked fine. Our short list of parts to order was much better than buying a brand new vehicle. We are thankful no major damage was done and it will soon be fully operational.

Thank God for Kenya

Kenya is 10 times different from America, yet South Sudan is 50 times different from Kenya. I made the mistake of thinking my time in Kenya had equipped me better, that the two cultures couldn’t be so different, that I wouldn’t have to start all over yet again. I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for this feeling of inadequacy, this seemingly utter helplessness. I wasn’t prepared to feel like a child, a blank slate, when I’ve already experienced so much. I wasn’t prepared to be stripped bare again. And I feel it pressing on me, weighing me down.

Most of the time I can honestly say I am fine. But today I’m not. So I’m thankful for Kenya, for the time we have to “refill”. I look forward to when…

I can speak English to more than a handful of people and hear it spoken in public.

I can drive.

I feel comfortable going places alone.

I can walk through normal grocery stores with a shopping cart.

I can buy fresh fruit and veggies of all kinds.

I can buy ice cream and potato chips of ANY kind.

I can worship and fellowship in my mother tongue.

I can play volleyball… in shorts.

I’m no longer stared at every second I’m not in my compound.

I can go to the movies or bowling or golf.

I can take a real shower with hot water from the tap and not from a bucket on my charcoal grill.

I can use a sit down toilet… that flushes.

I can wear trousers EVERY day.

I can use the internet ALL day long if I want to.

My makeup won’t slide off my face.

I can bake box mix brownies in a gas oven.

I can feel a bit less like an idiot and more like myself.

Healthy Living

My repertoire of diseases I could possibly get while in Africa is constantly expanding.

Schistosomaisis, Onchocersiasis, Filariasis. Every heard of these? Me neither until they were covered in our recent health orientation. Well, I take that back. My husband had Schisto before I came along. It comes from worm larvae carried by snails, boring into your skin as you swim in an infected lake. Delightful.

The others are just as awesome. Go look them up.

In addition there are always the “normal” things like; giardia, amoebas, worms, and malaria, for which we take a profalaxsis, that can cause vivid nightmares and hallucinations. Thankfully, I seem to be immune to those side- affects as is my husband, who is of course immune to most everything that would make an ordinary person sick. Guess that is just another positive byproduct growing up in Africa.

Regardless though I cover myself in an immense amount of prayer every time I choke down the weekly dose. Doses that come from our own personal stash because medical facilities are few and so we happen to be our own walking clinics. The list of medicines we are required to ship in with us, “just in case,” is extensive. I can’t even pronounce half of them.

There you have it. Life without medical facilities is that much more complicated. Come visit and we’ll see just how capable I am at diagnosing and treating any ailments you might contract! 😉

Side note: For those of you extremely worried after reading this. We do have a doctor on call that can do preliminary diagnosis over the phone. If things are terrible we have insurance that covers medical evacuations. But most of the time it’s just your everyday normal sicknesses. Prayers are always appreciated but don’t worry about us too much!

Any strange illnesses you’ve encountered overseas? Or even at home? Leave a comment!


Smiles and greetings are important in Southern Sudanese culture. Good thing. That’s about as far as my Arabic skills will allow me to go. Interaction is difficult for me here. Very few know English, making it nearly impossible to communicate. And I feel like an idiot with my one word Arabic phrases.

The friends we do have are mainly university students. Although they did all of their schooling in Arabic, they have learned English out of necessity. When South Sudan became a country, leadership declared English the national language. Now the entire school system is switching over to English for instruction.

One such friend is Rita. I never know when to expect her. Some days she pops by early in the afternoon, others not until dinner time for westerners. She is always beautifully dressed in brightly colored wraps and carries her exercise books hidden under one arm. She comes to increase her English but inevitably ends up helping me learn and improve my Arabic as well. Together we pour over one of her exercise books, comparing English to Arabic and laughing a lot. I can’t even imagine the intimidation of attending university in a second language!