Easter Meals

Easter meal smallEaster just two years ago found us celebrating in South Sudan with teammates from 5 different countries and South Sudanese from many tribes. We cooked all morning over charcoal, went to church where there was much dancing and then feasted on lamb stew and rice from disposable plates under flame trees while sitting on plastic chairs. We shared the Gospel story through song, translated it into Arabic and some heard it for the first time. Our house was a place to hear of Jesus’ sacrifice and His love.

Easter MealThis year we celebrated in the comfort of our new home with friends and teammates who work in 3 different countries. A big bang from the night before meant the electricity was out through the night and into the morning disrupting my plans to throw a roast in the crockpot (not even an option in South Sudan). Instead we cooked with the gas oven and stove top to make the meal, a much easier medium to work with than charcoal. After church we gathered around our wooden dining table to eat off of matching ceramic plates and metal cutlery, our conversation focused more on encouragement for tired teammates while the meal was a taste of home, something not normally served in the countries they work. Our house is a place of refuge and a place to be refreshed.

Sometimes I wonder why God brought us to South Sudan and back again. I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer for sure. Sometimes it feels like we were pulled out of the front lines only to be placed on the back burner; always hearing exciting stories but not quite able to participate in them. Yet both roles are important; that of evangelist and that of encourager to other Believers. There are many examples in the New Testament of both.

For now we are certain this is where God has placed us. Pray for us that in the role he now has us we will be effective in spreading the Gospel by supporting our teammates well and that if there is opportunity we will embrace it.

Jum Jum Believers

JumJum ChurchWhile in South Sudan last year, I (Bear) attended one of only 2 Jum Jum churches. Traditionally the Jum Jum live in small villages about 50 miles North of Doro. SIM started reaching these people in the 1950s but was forced to leave due to insecurity at that time. Up until now, the Jum Jum have remained largely unreached. However, due to the bombing and fighting in that area they fled in 2011. Now they live just down the road from our Doro base!

The number of believers is small, between 200 and 300. But we rejoice as one of our colleagues recently attended a baptism of 20 new believers!

Greeting LineThe preacher of the day was an elder in the community and one of the very first believers. There is no Bible in the Jum Jum language. Therefore, he reads from his English Bible, then translates and expounds on the word in the Jum Jum language. Our team partners with other literacy experts who start Bible translation into the Jum Jum language this month.

Pray with us for the efforts of our teammate, the translation process and the growth of these 2 small churches.

Back to School

In Kampala, Uganda I attended a week-long seminar on Member Care while Managing Crises, essentially how to take care of my teammates emotionally as well as physically. Led by a group called the Mobile Member Care Team, the majority of participants serve with different organizations working in the Democratic Republic of Congo or South Sudan, two of the most troubled countries in Africa.

Conference staff and participants

Conference staff and participants

The conference felt like a throwback to my college days. We started sessions at 8:00am and didn’t end until 6:00pm with two short breaks and an hour for lunch. Evenings were free time except we usually had about 30 pages of reading and another 20-30 pages that we needed to familiarize ourselves with for discussion the following day. In addition we had questions to think about and work through.

Although much of the information wasn’t new to me, I found the group projects, discussions and hands-on application of the material helpful in understanding how others may wrestle with crises. My personality “rolls with the punches” and is pretty even-keeled. Generally I don’t feel stressed nor do I get easily overwhelmed when facing crises. This is both good for managing emergencies and bad when trying to understand why others may feel differently.

Everyone faces crises in their lives that cause stress, whether big ones like evacuations during war or severe illness to smaller losses like moving away or losing personal things. Now I have more tools to evaluate stress levels as well as identify symptoms of people going through and processing trauma. I’ve walked away with a better awareness of why people feel the way they do, how to empathize and how to help them process events in a positive and productive manner.

Written by Bear

Refashionista

I stumbled upon this awesome blog in the usual way, scrolling through Facebook. I love that other people find the good sites and post them. It’s less work for me!

Taking “grandma” clothes (To be clear my Grandmothers are fabulous dressers and do not wear “grandma” clothes, neither does my Mom who is also now a Grandma.) and turning them into fashionable outfits is a great, inexpensive, creative outlet.

In Kenya we have this crazy-large, open air market called Toi (pronounced toy). You can find most any item second-hand (sometimes even brand new) for reasonable prices, especially if you know how to bargain. I just purchased ELEVEN shirts for 35 cents each. THIRTY-FIVE CENTS! Beat that Goodwill. One of which was from Old Navy and still had the tags. Pound it!

After looking through post after post of re-fashions I decided it was worth trying. My wardrobe post birth of Little Bear is sadly lacking in the cute fashion department.

So, in the same Toi trip as the one where I hit the jackpot of cheap, cute clothes I also bought this beauty for way beyond cheap. I admit it isn’t nearly as horrible as some of the ones featured on Jillian’s site. Let it be known I’m taking baby steps. Adjusting the armpits was probably the hardest part but I’m pretty pleased with the final result. What do you think?

Refashion 1

Grandma dress before…

photo 1 refashion

Cute top after!

Water Works

They just kept coming. I couldn’t shut them off.

We rang in New Year’s with some dear friends and then headed “home,” the place we had just moved to the day before. I dropped into bed, boing, boing. I sank so low into the old, spring mattress that I could barely maneuver my now larger than life self around. That’s when they started. That uncomfortable, worn out mattress was the last straw and the tears began to flow.

There were no pillows. We couldn’t find sheets to fit the bed. Everything was unfamiliar.

The only “home” I’ve known since getting married is in Malakal, a war zone. My lovely queen size bed is in Malakal, my sheets too. My husband’s zip off trousers are in Malakal. My pottery tea set and 6 or so other trunks are in Malakal.

These are just things. But they are things I find myself grieving for. They represent home. They represent friends gained and friends lost.

Now, those things, represent a life of uncertainty.

My grief continued to spill down my face the entire first day of the New Year. I grieved for my friends facing horrific circumstances. I grieved for the town I had grown to love and my adopted country. I grieved the stability I had known was lost and yes, I grieved for my things.

I grieved that God would call us to such a volatile country. I grieved that we still feel our place is in South Sudan, even with all the serious issues it faces. I grieved that my yet to be born child might have to face all these things and more.

In fact I think that uncomfortable, worthless, old bed released tears I’d been holding in the entire year. Tears of leaving behind family…again. Tears for constantly saying goodbye to friends, new and old. Tears for missing major milestones. Tears of frustration over the difficulty of learning Arabic, of fitting into a new culture, of learning how to cook over charcoal, of taking buckets baths and not feeling clean. Tears of helplessness as bugs invaded my home and being confined to my mosquito net after dark.

Yes, there have been many good, even great, moments over the last year. But these moments were interspersed with less joyful moments. I tried to stand strong for too long, “outlawing my grief” and I finally crumbled.

My things are still in Malakal. South Sudan is still at war. My future is still uncertain. And no I am not ok with any of it. But that, in and of itself, is ok.

For Such a Time as This

I couldn’t express it better than my colleague. Here is what she wrote concerning our joys and griefs surrounding South Sudan…

It was a hot day, 104 degrees of heat rippled across the dry grass as Mimi, with her head hung low, walked toward her home. There were tears streaming down her dusty face leaving little trails as she dragged a torn pillowcase. If you peeked behind her you could see a small wift of smoke rising up from where she had just departed. The kids had all worked together to build a citadel of grass huts where they set up “home” and played during the day. After a few snake sightings it was burned down for their safety. Mimi had come from gathering her things. A sigh escaped from her lips and she said:

Now we are all of us refugees, Kawaijja (white skinned), Dinka, Shilluk, Mabaan, and Uduk. All of us kids are refugees together. We will rebuild but it won’t be the same.

The image of Mimi and her words have haunted me the last few days as we’ve prayed, cried, and prayed some more. It tells the story of loss, rebuilding, and loss again. It tells the story of children who know what it is like to be driven from home, the effects of losing everything and the uncertainty of rebuilding. It tells a story that I cannot put into words well through my limited exposure, experience and griefs. It tells the story of South Sudan.


Often we obey God and as we obey we walk through graveyards of failed expectations and fields of surprise joys and blessings. Often when things don’t go as planned we trust in blind obedience that God has a plan as we grieve, at times he gives us clarity as he whispers, “for such a time as this I have brought you here”. It doesn’t make any of the griefs or tears shed go away but it is a gift of clarity of action and purpose.

As we reflect on 2013 we see a landscape of graveyards and fields of unspeakable joys. In this time many questions remain but God has been whispering to us that he brought us here for this time and that even though we are sad and grieving in our graveyard of buried hopes He has a reason for each puzzle piece this past year. Our hearts are so burdened for our second home, our second family and the faces, the friends, the people that make up this country.

 

Our beloved South Sudan is in a battle, a battle where fear and hatred are strong contenders against hope, peace and love. Will you join us in passionate prayer for the Prince of Peace to reign in South Sudan?

~Written by Abook (To read more of her writings check out her blog!)

One Year Visa

As we flew out from Kenya I dreaded wading through the visa process in yet another country. As always before a flight I woke up nervous. Our alarm sounded at 4:30am in preparation for our 5:30am taxi ride to the airport! We had a small window of time to get things right. His visa for South Sudan expired on the 15th so our year visas needed to be processed within two days for him to remain legal. My own cutoff date for flying, due to our child’s imminent arrival, was quickly approaching.

To our delight we arrived to a very organized and orderly airport! So many wonderful changes since the first time we passed through. Gone was the chaos, replaced by systematic lines and helpful officials wearing badges. Entry into South Sudan was smooth and painless.

Our taxi driver took us straight to immigration headquarters and we began our visa process in a slightly less organized environment. At the start we hit a slight bump in the road with our papers. Yet only for minute, before the official’s demeanor became friendly and he gave us an alternative. Later as my husband and I compared notes for the day we realized that both of us had sent up a prayer at just that moment!

We were blessed to have step by step instructions given us by teammates who previously went through this same laborious process. Our task was made smooth by their earlier efforts and officials who graciously showed us the way forward. Not two hours later we held our one year multi-entry South Sudan visas in hand!

Praise the Lord for His grace. Thank you to all who lifted us up. Your prayers were definitely felt!