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.

Beautiful Creation

Watamu, Kenya

Watamu, Kenya

Grey Crowned Crane

Grey Crowned Crane, Nairobi National Park


Hartebeest, Nairobi National Park

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo, Nairobi National Park

Rothschild Giraffe

Rothschild Giraffe, Nairobi National Park

Flame Tree, Malakal, South Sudan

Flame Tree, Malakal, South Sudan

Bird in Malakal

Bird in Malakal

Arial view of River Nile, Malakal, South Sudan

Aerial view of River Nile, Malakal, South Sudan

Doro, South Sudan

Doro, South Sudan

Hell's Gate National Park, where Lion King was sketched.

Hell’s Gate National Park, where Lion King was sketched.

Airplane view of Northern Kenya

Aerial view of Northern Kenya


Red Curtains

I sit here re-sewing red curtains from my old house to fit the windows in my new house all the while wondering when we will move to the next house. It’s hard to live in the moment when the moment is full of constant change. It’s tiring, this nomadic life, we live.

Just before leaving Kenya to get married I found the exact red material to match my new-to-me bedspread, a second-hand Toi Market find. Excitedly I had my new red curtains made; knowing they would be waiting for us when we returned to what would be OUR home together. Then we decided to move to South Sudan…

Instead of settling down, returning to Kenya was a whirlwind of selling household items and furniture as well as packing away things we might use later, like my red curtains. Thankfully those curtains never made it to South Sudan. If they had, they too would be lost like so many of our things we left behind in Malakal.

However, my red curtains are too short for our new windows. They need to be altered, cut, pieced together, pinned and sewn. Sometimes that’s how I feel; altered time and again. Learn this new language. Adjust to another strange culture. Find your way around this new city. Pushed. Pulled. Stretched. Sometimes scarred. Moved from place to place.

For now, though, my red curtains look fabulous complete with a shiny, brown ribbon to cover the seam. One would never know they didn’t originally belong in the window where they now hang. I hope that I can display the same adaptability (and look just as good!) as we continue to follow where God leads us.

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.

Building in Malakal

Construction has started! With it come many challenges…

Standing in front of our old/current house

Standing in front of our old/current house

Our team architect and housing project coordinator lives in Nairobi so a lot of planning and discussion occurred via email and Skype in the previous months. We also chose to hire a contracting company from Juba to do the building. Yet, the project still requires someone knowledgeable on the ground to enforce quality control and liaison between Malakal and Nairobi.

Thankfully I overlapped in South Sudan with my replacement for a week providing orientation; getting him up to speed of the construction process and living life in Malakal. Now that I am back in Nairobi he will oversee the construction process, do the plumbing, electrical and painting to save on costs.

Another challenge is difficulty in acquiring suitable materials and supplies. Construction in South Sudan is very expensive due to poor roads making the transportation costs very high. Availability of materials can also be a problem as almost all roads are closed during rainy season which began in May. The rains just ended allowing things to dry out and thankfully some roads will open soon. Other roads in very muddy areas are still unusable for another month or two. Towns along major rivers (like us in Malakal) can access supplies via boats or barges. However there are few boats and fuel prices are high. Boat transport can also be dangerous as many owners overload their boats for greater profit. This can have tragic consequences when combined with poor maintenance or bad weather.

The foundation trenches for the new house in the backyard.

The foundation trenches for the new house in the backyard.

Most of the planning is finished and the project is well underway. The builders finished digging the foundations just before I left Malakal and were in the process of pouring the footings. The expansive soil in the area requires a good foundation to keep the building from shifting in rainy season. Therefore a lot of effort and money is spent on this part of the construction. After the foundation is complete the project will hopefully proceed fairly quickly. The entire project, a 2 bedroom family house and two guest rooms, should be completed by mid-January!

Downpour in My House

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is roaring!

This rainy season is like none other. Storms come out of nowhere, flooding our ditches, streets and compound, easily dropping over 2 inches within the hour. The wind slams the rain into our outer walls causing water to seep through and creating rivulets that crisscross our floor. This same wind brought down our lovely Neem tree that offered us much-needed shade during dry season.

BucketsAs the storm continues we scramble to find enough buckets to catch the streams that pour in through holes in the ceiling. However, this is better than the first rains where our roof leaked like a sieve, after which “Mr. Fix-it” and our director patched it the best they could on a tight budget.

Thankfully no leaks have sprung over our beds yet! But…our floors quickly become obstacle courses of containers and puddles in the deluge. Outside we don’t have enough barrels to hold all the water gushing off our roof and overflowing our drain spouts.

Muddy RoadsThe ditches outside our compound can barely hold the torrential rivers of water trying to make their way to the White Nile on the city’s edge. It is difficult to tell where the ditches end and the roads begin. The car parks become murky swamps and many roads are completely flooded. We can hear engines straining as vehicles struggle to dislodge themselves from the sludge.

As the rain slows people venture out to inspect and get on with their day. Pealing laughter is heard from children slipping and sliding on the muddy streets.

Then, just as quickly as they come the storms dissipate leaving behind the notorious Malakal mud that swallows your shoes, creates slip-n-slides out of the roads and traps unsuspecting motorists!

The Malakal team theme song has quickly become:

“Rain, rain on my face
It hasn’t stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud”
– Jars of Clay

Let’s Go Shopping

20130604-071620.jpgAs the boy and I familiarize ourselves with the city we walk the dusty streets peering into small, tin roofed shops lining the way; electronics, hardware, car parts, pharmacies, food stuffs, all displaying their assortment of goods on shelves or hanging from the ceiling by rope.

Many of the “grocery stores” we frequent boast at least one big deep freezer. Yet electricity is not consistent enough to keep food or drinks frozen and generators are expensive to run constantly. Therefore most freezers function as refrigerators or storage chests.

20130604-071245.jpgIn the heart of the vegetable market tomatoes, onions, eggplant, cucumbers, okra, various greens and other fresh produce sit on display in piles atop wooden counters in open stalls. Fifty kilo sacks of beans, grains, macaroni, fresh spices in their natural form, and hibiscus petals for tea line the market rows, each sack open to display the contents to prospective buyers. Each item is weighed on an old-fashioned scale to determine the price. Most of the time shopkeepers will add a little extra scoop or additional produce as a gift.

Browsing the shelves of the “kawaja” (foreigner) friendly shops produces some interesting finds. These are the places to find chocolates (like Snickers!), olive oil, soy sauce, tuna fish, and Nutella.

  • 1 egg = 2.5 SSP = $0.60
  • 1 kilo flour = 10 SSP = $2.50
  • 1 Snickers bar = 5 SSP = $1.25
  • 1 Apple = 4 SSP = $1.00
  • 1 Cucumber = 3 SSP = $0.75
  • 1 Can Tuna fish = 10 SSP = $2.50
  • 1 Coke = 6 SSP = $1.50

If we’re lucky we might stumble upon a pineapple or guavas. One teammate even found fresh grapes. However, much of the produce has a long, hot, bumpy drive to our markets, coming all the way from Uganda or Kenya making it less than fresh by the time it reaches us.

Typical of all countries but two, South Sudan has a healthy supply of Coke!