Wow! The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. We want to thank those of you who were praying for our mission trip to Southern Sudan. I could definitely feel the power of prayers while we were out of the country. For so many of us, to be so far away from home in such a different culture, the trip really happened without a hitch! So again, thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers. I hated that I couldn't blog in real time while we were in Sudan, but now the fun can begin.
Here is my mission trip journal so that you can read along, hear all about our experiences, and learn about what God is doing in South Sudan.
Our flights were scheduled at great times (none of that getting to the airport at 4 a.m. stuff). Monday, our flight from RDU to Dulles was at 5:30 p.m. So, we loaded up and left home around lunchtime and dropped our pooch off at my mom's. Thanks for doggy sitting, Mom! Then, we headed toward Raleigh. Thankfully, another team member, David, gave us a ride to the airport and we were able to store our car at his house. Thanks, David! The flight to Washington was smooth, and we began meeting our team members that night in the airport at around 9 p.m. I must say that our mission team was awesome...such a diverse group, but very cohesive and loving. You could really tell that God hand-picked each member just for this trip for special reasons. We all got a good night's rest at the Hampton Inn and prepared for our long flight across the ocean the next day.
So, I'm not really sure where day two ends and day three begins because we lost a day as we crossed the ocean but anyway... Our flight Tuesday was on time and smooth as we crossed the Atlantic. I have a really hard time resting on planes, so even though this was about a 13 hour flight, I didn't sleep at all. I passed the time by watching movies, listening to music, getting to know some team members, and reading. We arrived at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia sometime in the afternoon and had a small layover. The terminal we arrived in was so strange. We didn't see any of the typical airport amenities. It was just an un-air-conditioned structure with some chairs and cigarette smoke to spare. It was pretty sparse without the shops and food and monitors and announcements and cell phone charging stations that we're used to experiencing in airports. I could tell we were definitely not home anymore.
We caught another flight to Entebbe, Uganda where we stayed for a night. I thought this part of Uganda was just beautiful! It was very tropical and green. We stayed at Neul Tourist Hotel, which I also found very beautiful and very photogenic. Check out a few shots from around the grounds at the hotel.
See? Isn't is so pretty there? When we got to our rooms, I was thinking "hmm...this is kinda roughing it, but it's not so bad." The room was a little warm and our beds had mosquito nets over them, the shower was cold and we had to try not to get the water in our mouth or eyes, but overall, the lodging was nice. (You'll see later how this hotel was a nice way to ease into our Sudan experience.) That night as I laid in bed with the window open, I listened to the prayer calls sounding out from the Islamic mosques somewhere in town. It was a sound that I've never heard, and it made me feel a million miles away from home. I slept well that night after being awake for 27 hours straight. The next day we made our trek to our final destination in Kajo Keji, South Sudan. But, I'll save that part of the journey for the next post.
Stay tuned for more!
Continuing along in our story, the next morning we ate a yummy breakfast in Uganda and headed to the Kajjansi Airfield for our flight into Sudan. (Note: The more planes it takes to reach a destination, the more remote your destination will be. Our journey took 4 planes...just sayin')
I was definitely nervous to ride in this type of plane. I've never rode in a single propeller plane before. But, surprisingly, this flight was so comfortable and smooth, I actually loved it. Not to mention, they fly low enough that we could see the ground the whole time. We flew out of the Entebbe area, and I watched all the buildings and structures give way to jungle, grassy fields, and the Nile River snaking in and out of the greenery. I kept hoping I would see some zebras or antelopes or something, but I never did.
We landed at the edge of Uganda to go through customs. The air strips are made of red gravel, and despite all the Ugandan soldiers stationed all around, the airfield was calm and easy to manage. We just walked off the plane and into this little building where a guy on a couch stamped our passports. This was also the last place I used a western toilet before heading into Sudan.
We flew another 30 minutes and we began to see grass huts and dirt paths. We finally landed in Kajo Keji, our final destination. Kids and many onlookers came to see who these two planes full of white people were. We must have been quite the spectacle to them! The First Baptist bus picked us up and we headed to our compound. Here are a few pics we got on the flight:
Walking out to the planes
Part of the Nile
Landing in South Sudan
We stayed at the compound of the pastor of First Baptist Church Kajo Keji. Here are a few photos:
The dorm building where we slept
Our room...those mosquito nets were like gold
Bamboo bridge leading to the latrines
Commons room where we met for devotions, meals, and debriefing
In the next post I will share about our visit to the orphanage and about my struggle with culture shock. Check back soon!
DAY THREE CONTINUED:
After arriving and settling in at the compound and having one more training session, we made a visit to a local orphanage. This was something I had been very excited to do. I had prepared some crafts and a story of Daniel and the Lion's Den to share with the children with the help of my teammates.
It was such a fun time. First, we took a tour of the grounds. I struck by the rooms that the kids slept in. I went into one of the toddler rooms. It was adequate but stuffy, hot, and dim. There were about 20 small cots placed right up against each other with no room to walk in between. The walls were dingy white and bare. Thankfully, each bed did have a mosquito net over it. Over to one side each child had a little cubby full of clothes. That was it. That was the extent of their belongings. I thought about my childhood room with a comfy bed, Care Bear curtains, a full book shelf and plenty of Barbie dolls to spare. It's so sad that a lot of those kids actually have families and homes somewhere, but for whatever reason, they were deemed better off spending their childhood in this orphanage. At 15 the worker said they leave the orphanage. There's no real plan for their future beyond those orphanage walls. Some go back to their families if they have one and some fend for themselves I guess. I know the workers try their best to provide for each child's basic needs; I could see that in the way he proudly gave his tour of the place, but it reminded me that this is simply not God's ideal idea for those sweet kids. They need homes and families and a safe space to grow. That is one reason why adoption is so near and dear to my heart. It's near and dear to God's heart. It made me a little sad to be in that room, so I quickly headed back outside.
The orphanage children put on a little performance for us which was impressive indeed.
Children performing some lively songs for us!
Then, we taught them a fun song about God, complete with hand motions. I told the Bible story, and all the children roared every time I mentioned the lion's den.
My interpreter and some of the kids roaring!
Me sharing the Bible story.
They were fascinated by our digital cameras.
Several of my teammates played games with the kids, and we gave them prizes like bracelets and stickers. Even though we were all pretty tired from traveling, I think this visit with the children really livened all of our spirits! I hope we brightened their day as well.
It didn't take me long that evening to really start feeling the effects of culture shock. Around dusk I went to the shower area, and as I peered into the room I spotted 4 GIANT cockroaches on the wall above the shower head. There was no way I was washing off with those guys hanging around, so I went to fetch John and Jeremy to smash 'em. My shower was cold and very quick, for I had to be on guard the whole time. We had beans and rice for dinner, and then I needed to use the latrine. (This was my first time venturing over to that room since we arrived) Let's just say I've never used an outhouse and only used a port-a-potty maybe 3 times in my life and this African latrine was a whole different ball game (plus those cockroaches liked to hang out in there as well!). I never knew how much I loved my toilet seat back home!
As darkness fell, the generator brought us our only few hours of electricity that day. We went to bed just after dark with the fan on in our room. Too bad that when the generator was shut off at around 11pm, the fan went off as well. It was an extremely hot night in our room. We were afraid to let bugs and creatures in, so we attempted keeping our door closed that night. It was a sauna, and I felt like I was laying in a pool of sweat. We weren't getting any sleep that way. I was so hot I was getting queasy, and Jeremy got a pretty bad headache due to the heat. So, we gave in and opened our door which only provided slight relief. I tried and tried to sleep but it wasn't happening. The two of us literally laid there in our twin beds sweating the night away listening to packs of wild dogs howling in the distance, but getting no sleep. Thus, at about 5 a.m. when the roosters started crowing and the ladies at the compound awoke to begin their morning chores, I was wide awake and exhausted.
I actually started crying that morning partly out of frustration and partly out of fatigue I think. I told Jeremy that I wasn't cut out for Africa. He encouraged me, and we headed out to begin our day. At breakfast, everyone else seemed to be well rested and cheerful. I felt like I was the only one who felt crummy and unexcited about hiking around in the blazing sun all day. A verse popped into my head that morning and kept reoccurring to me all throughout the day.
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
2 Cor. 12:9
This verse really became my mantra all week as I walked further than I ever walk in a days time and stayed hotter than I am accustomed to staying. I thought about it as I craved pizza and salad when we were having beans and rice again and when I was longing for a sink and a toilet seat! I felt really petty and self-centered for the first couple of days as I missed these comforts that we're used to back home. I felt guilty for feeling this way, but I kept repeating that verse hoping that even in my weakness, God could use me to touch the lives of the people in my village. And He did. I know for a fact that there are missionaries who would have been WAY more qualified than me for this trip to Sudan...ones who feel at home in the sweat and dust and cockroaches...ones who don't get homesick like I did...ones who can speak native languages and communicate the gospel clearer than me....ones who aren't as concerned about germs and cleanliness as I was.... BUT, as you will read in the next few posts, God's power overcame my weaknesses and His message still went forth. People were still saved in our village in spite of me and my shortcomings. This is a lesson that really became real to me as the week moved on.
Stay tuned for day 4 when we meet our good friends Johnson and Robert @ Kiri Village
So, e3's model is to partner with nationals and help encourage and model healthy evangelism and discipleship. We work alongside them for a short time, then turn over the reigns to them! Well, on Day 4 we met our nationals. Jeremy and I were placed on a team with this girl, Amanda:
Amanda.... nuff said
Amanda was a hoot, and we loved serving with her. This photo pretty much speaks for itself. Amanda is so fun, so energetic and positive, and so passionate about Jesus. I was really struggling on Day 4 due to lack of sleep and a little homesickness too. I think God placed Amanda with me that week to encourage me and to show me how I needed to be more positive, push through my fatigue, and be joyful as I served. I was convicted that first day out on the field of my attitude, and I thank Amanda for helping teach me this lesson. I was reminded of the verses: "Do everything without complaining." and "God loves a cheerful giver."
Day Four was Thursday for us. We headed out on the red, dusty road to our community, Kiri. The truck dropped us off where we met our nationals, Muni Johnson and Robert Wani. They live in Kiri village, and they were our ministry partners and translators all week. Samuel is a church leader that also worked with us most days.
Robert, Jeremy, Johnson, Me, Samuel
My favorite pic of Jeremy, Robert, and Johnson..love
how Johnson hiked in a shirt and tie all day!
These guys were SO impressive. Robert is only 17 and Johnson is only 20. They are mature beyond their years! Johnson knew so much scripture and lived and breathed it every day. It definitely convicted all of us to know more of God's word. They both have attended the local Bible school and hope to be pastors. Johnson wants to be involved in children's ministry.
Thursday we walked miles and miles it seemed to various families. When we entered a family's land, they welcomed us graciously each time. The Sudanese families live in tuquels (not sure how to spell this, but it's pronounced "two-cull" and it's a grass and mud hut pretty much) The parents have one hut they share with the babies and each older child has a hut usually. They are situated in a dirt clearing with a fire pit of some sort nearby. Surrounding the huts are the family's crops. Almost everyone had maize growing and most also had cassava and sweet potatoes too.
typically what a family's home looked like as we walked up
I was amazed by a few things. First of all, many of the people had pretty large plots of land that they plant and the ONLY tool they use is a handmade hoe. Seriously, I can't even count how many people I saw out in the middle of a field of grass as tall as me, breaking that soil with a simple hoe. These are fields we would probably bush-hog first and then run a plow or tiller through several times before planting. I was amazed at how hard they work to plant their food with just that one simply tool.
Secondly, I can't believe the number of farm animals that are present. Literally every place we went had chickens, roosters, goats, and ducks running around. I can't tell you how many gospel presentations were interrupted by a loud rooster's crow. The baby goats were quite a distraction too because they are just so darn cute! Thus, every home we went to smelled of fresh soil and farm animals. Not a bad smell...very earthy. Jeremy broke the rules and held this cutie:
Jeremy with baby goat
Thirdly, I was floored by the locals' hospitality. They didn't have cold drinks or food to offer us, but when we walked up to a family, out of thin air they would produce wooden chairs, plastic chairs, stools, and benches for us to sit on. They insisted that we take the chairs, and they sat on mats on the ground. That was their way of welcoming us and making us feel at home.
Once everyone was gathered around, we used our evangecubes to present the gospel story. Our translators translated for us. We typically headed over to Kiri New Life Baptist Church for lunch. The church was a large mango tree with tree branch benches underneath. We usually had a prayer and devotion time together. At around mid-afternoon, we would start our long walk back to the main road to meet our driver.
Unfortunately, our driver was not where he was supposed to be. We waited for him under a tree for quite a while when Amanda suggested we just start walking down the main road. He would be coming that way eventually, so we could meet him midway. We walked and walked and walked down the red dirt road. I was beyond tired and feeling like the weakest link as I kept needing to take breaks. The truck finally came when we were about 2/3 down the main road. I could not believe how God enabled me to do that amount of walking on our first day out in the village, especially given that I had had no sleep the night before.
Once back at the compound, my nightly routine was to shower and freshen up, meet in the commons room for dinner with everyone, debrief with the teams (this was my favorite thing), and pray, head to the latrines one last time, and then hit the bed shortly after dark. I wanted to take advantage of the first few hours of sleep that we would have with our fan ON. We slept with our door wide open and window curtain wide open too to allow as much air circulation as possible. Any old chicken or rooster could've wandered right in! Every night after that first horrible night was much, much cooler thank the Lord. We even got heavy downpours one night that really cooled it down! Those mosquito nets that tucked into the bed frame around our mattresses were GOLDEN! I would lie there and hear the little buggers buzzing around the outside of my net. I don't think I ever would have rested easy without the protection of the nets!
No one accepted Jesus at Kiri village on that first day, but many other teams saw people be born again at their church sites. On Day 5, we finally did see some folks come to know Christ at our village. Keep checking back for that story tomorrow!
I got a great night's sleep on Thursday night much because Jenn let me use her Chilly Pad. I loved this thing and want to buy one for home. You just wet it and it stays damp and cold for a LONG time. So, I slept with it on me all night and that really helped keep me cool and comfy.
On Friday, we really started to see God work in Kiri village. Two people accepted Christ today as their savior in Kiri. When all 17 of us met for dinner and debriefing this evening, we heard of so many awesome stories happening all around at each team's community. One team even encountered demon-possession and their nationals performed an exorcism! And this all happens in the Baptist Church, people! This is not hokey or weirdo stuff to them. Although we may never witness such a thing happening in the U.S., the spirit-world is so much more real in Africa. The people know this and they struggle with dappling in the occult, including visiting witch doctors. By the end of the week, several teams had had an experience with demon possession. It was very interesting and eye-opening for me.
The best thing that happened today was how God used mine and Amanda's testimonies to specifically speak to individuals at Kiri. First, we visited a man named Muni Joseph and his family. It was a very sad situation. Joseph had been a student at the Bible college when he started getting sick. He was diagnosed with AIDS and left the school. He looked frail and seemed very defeated, but Amanda shared her testimony and spoke to the people in such a powerful way. It brought me to tears! Although Joseph is already a believer, I felt like God really used our team to encourage him and his family.
Then, we visited another family and shared the gospel. The ladies kept talking about how they go to church, and they thought that was enough to be okay with God. This is MY story. I've been in church my whole life! But, I shared that at some point, I had to make the decision to surrender my life to Him and realize that my works (going to church) isn't enough to save me. Only Jesus saves!
I couldn't help but think how cool it was that God picked us all for a specific reason to be on this trip. He knew the people we would meet and when we would meet them and how our stories would touch their lives.
We had yummy rice and beans again for dinner and some fried potatoes, which were oh-so-yummy! The ladies at the compound really did work so hard to keep us well-fed.
Us and the family we shared with today
So, Day 6 was Saturday, and the teams worked hard again all day long at their church sites. In Kiri, me, Jeremy, Amanda, and our nationals did the same routine of walk, walk, walk, meet, meet, share, share, share, and pray, pray pray. We did not see any new believers today, but we witnessed to many people. One family in particular was a new experience for me!
We walked up to a family's home and there were already 2-3 men sitting out under a mango tree in the shade. I knew as soon as we arrived that they were drinking. The smell is like none other! They had a brown glass bottle and a dirty little cup they were sharing. We asked if we could talk with them about God and they agreed. Slowly, several more people pulled up a chair. I shared the gospel while Johnson translated. After sharing, one-by-one the men started conversations with Johnson that I couldn't understand. I just sat back and watched these middle-aged men drink their alcohol while they debated with Johnson-- it was definitely something I have not done before-- witnessing to drunk men!
It turns out that one of the men said that he did not live there and would need to get his wife and talk it over with her before deciding to give his life to Christ. The other man just wasn't in the mindset to make that decision that day.
There was a lady who had come by as well as a man that had brought his Bible. He was already a believer! We spoke one-on-one with the lady next. She was torn because she knew about Jesus, she wanted to follow Him, but she felt she couldn't. And here is the sad thing that happens in so many places in the world. This lady's only means of making a living was brewing and selling the alcohol that those men were drinking. She knew following Christ would mean that she would have to give up that lifestyle, and she was scared that she would not be able to find another source of income.
Thankfully, in Kajo Keji, there is a great ministry called Seed Effect. They specialize in providing small personal loans for people to use in order to start up a small business. They provide means for a lady like we met today to turn away from a lifestyle that is not pleasing to God and learn a new trade that is honorable. We toured Seed Effect, and here are some photos I took. They were having a sewing class when I was there...I really enjoyed talking to these ladies and seeing their projects that they were working on.
sewing machines that people can get a loan for to start a sewing business
Seed Effect front entrance.
These ladies were right in the middle of sewing class.
It was a great Saturday in Sudan. Tomorrow, I will blog the lively and interesting Sunday Service we attended @ Kiri New Life Baptist Church
Day 7 was Sunday. It was going to be a shorter day for our team as we were only scheduled to attend and help out at Kiri New Life Baptist Church. Church in S. Sudan was similar to church in NC, but in some ways it was also very different.
- The order of service is about the same. Sunday School Bible study first, then songs to start off while the late comers trickle in, then offering, prayer, more songs, a sermon, time of invitation and testimonies, then everyone is adjourned.
- The sermon was preached verse by verse from a passage in the Bible. The preacher used illustrations as well, just like our pastor in NC. (He pulled up a small mango tree growing nearby to illustrate the idea of being rooted in our faith.)
- There was more than one leader or pastor helping out during the service.
- They usually have children's church under a nearby tree, but they made some different arrangements the day we were there. Amanda read a book for children's church and played some games with the kids. Johnson is typically their children's pastor.
- Length -- The service seemed about as long as ours back home.
- The pastors spend some time reminding the people to be on time for the church activities - - sounds oh-so-familiar! ha!
- Pretty meticulous attendance and offering records are kept in a ledger of sorts.
- Baptisms are usually held at the end of the service in a nearby stream. We were hoping to have at least two because we had two people accept Christ during our evangelism before Sunday. Unfortunately, they did not come to the service that day.
- Meeting under a tree...it was actually quite nice and refreshing under the mango tree on Sunday morning.
- Dancing...lots of dancing in the Baptist Church!
- A tree limb pew may snap in the middle of the sermon sending about seven people's bottoms to the ground!
- A drunk man may saunter in from the road, yelling and shouting during the service. (Thankfully, he stayed for the sermon and ended up rededicating his life to following Christ and leaving alcoholism behind!)
- During the invitation, the pastors expect someone to come to accept Christ, rededicate their lives to Christ, or to share a testimony. If no one comes, they wait....and wait. They expect a response of some kind!
- Charms gotten from a witch doctor may be burned at the close of the service.
- One of the pastors may go riding off on his motorbike in the middle on the service because he realizes he forgot to bring the matches from home.
- After the service, if someone drove a vehicle (us), as many Sudanese children as possible and maybe one drunk guy will pile onto every inch of the truck for a ride home.
Here are some of our favorite captured moments from the Sunday service @ Kiri
"Pastor Samuel" plays the drum, while everyone sings, claps, and dances.
Sam brings the message in English while Johnson (in the background) translates into Bahri
Amanda shares a children's book with the kids after the main service. Evelyn is the adorable girl with the head wrap.
This precious lady was beautiful in her brilliant orange wrap! She is a Christian leader among the women in Kiri village.
These two following pics were from another team's trip to church when their Land Cruiser got stuck in the mud. There is normally a rock bridge for them to cross, but we had heavy rains the night before, and as you can see, the bridge was under water. They started spinning and sliding into the mud. The cool part was that the whole community came out to help them get the vehicle free. They helped build up the rock bridge and life the truck out onto solid ground. I believe it took them about three hours of work to get the truck free. The Sudanese people have a strong sense of community.
It was Monday, and many of the girls from our team went to help at the women's conference held at First Baptist Kajo Keji. So, it was just me and Jeremy heading out with our nationals into Kiri village.
We decided to suggest to our nationals to have an afternoon discipleship time Tuesday afternoon and spend the day evangelizing and inviting everyone we meet to the Bible study tomorrow. We walked to many homes and shared the gospel and invited many people to Tuesday's Bible study time. Today looked and felt much like our previous ministry days.
By this point in our trip, I felt myself gently becoming more accustomed to the climate, the culture, the walking, and the people. I was really beginning to treasure our new friendships with Robert, Samuel, and Johnson. I was also beginning to dread leaving on Wednesday. =(
On Tuesday, it was just me and Amanda along with our nationals. It was Jeremy's turn to teach at the local Bible College. A guy or two from our team taught each day.
Jeremy taught on Creator-centered worship as opposed to creation-centered worship. He began with a study in Genesis chapter 1-2 and also looked at some passages from the Psalms. He taught for the morning, while our trip leader, Steve, taught for the afternoon. Jeremy said that he had about 14 students, and that they were very attentive and involved. They asked good questions and seemed to be interested in what was being presented. It was Jeremy's first classroom teaching experience. Overall, he had a great day!
This was Jeremy's classroom
Meanwhile, back in Kiri, Amanda and I visited several new homes, but today we allowed Johnson, Samuel, and Robert to use our evangecubes. We handed over the reigns so that they did most of the witnessing and ministry. They each did an awesome job!
In the afternoon, we headed over to Kiri New Life Baptist Church and waited under the mango tree for some folks to hopefully show up for Bible study time. We had already discussed some passages to study with the people. We really thought no one was going to show up, but then Emmanuel Tako arrived! Emmanuel had accepted Christ back on Friday and had chosen to turn away from a lifestyle of alcoholism. He showed up to our study sober and ready to learn. The nationals began reading a passage from 1 Peter with him, when another young lady showed up. They split up and made two groups. We discovered that Emmanuel could not read, so Samuel took him aside studying the scripture but also teaching him how to read! Johnson and Robert worked with the young lady.
Robert, Jeremy, & Emmanuel Tako
Our format for Bible study was simple:
- Read Passage out loud
- Ask, "What did you notice?" or "What was your favorite part?"
- Ask, "Were there any parts that were confusing?" Address those.
- Ask, "What does this passage teach us about God?"
- Ask, "What does this passage teach us about man?"
- Ask, "How can you apply this story to your life?"
- Ask, "Who else do you know that you needs to hear this story?
Pretty simple, but effective! After our Bible study meeting under the tree, we suggested that Samuel and the other church leaders make this a weekly event. My prayer is that even though we are gone now, Samuel is still encouraging the people to meet under the tree for afternoon discipleship.
When we returned to our compound, I found Jeremy playing football with David Kaya's adorable son, Mike.
Check out how he throws. You cannot possibly watch this without smiling!
Wednesday was bittersweet. The ministry had been tiring and I was a bit homesick, but we couldn't believe it was our last day out in the field with our nationals.
Today, Johnson and Robert wanted to take us to Moli, a community near Kiri. So, our truck drove us a little farther than usual. We were dropped off at the Kiri market, and we began our walk to Moli. I noticed differences in the terrain and scenery from what we had been used to seeing in Kiri. We walked past a small mountain with a beautiful rock face. We also, for the first time, walked across a creek.
Typical African grass....taller than me in places!
We visited a family that lived in such a remote area. It felt like we had walked forever to get there, and we weren't walking on roads. These were steep, rocky, paths through fields of maize and grass. It looked like lion territory to me, but our nationals assured us that there were no lions here anymore since the wars.
This family was SO sweet! One young lady accepted Christ after the nationals presented the gospel story to everyone. Then, there was another lady who was considering the idea of being born again. Her only excuse was that she didn't have a Bible and would not be able to read the scriptures. I noticed that one of the older ladies who had joined us had brought a Bahri Bible with her. (She was a believer) I suggested to them that they share their Bible and work together to study the scriptures. We asked the older lady if she could agree to this, and she was happy to! The younger lady was pleased, and she did accept Christ that day! I had the privilege of praying with both ladies as they gave their lives to Jesus. It. was. awesome.
We spent a good, long time at this home. One of the older men had a condition where his muscles were weak and shaky. He and Jeremy prayed together for healing. We had a little photo shoot with everyone, and they were excited to see their images on the back of our digital camera. Here are some moments we captured:
Me and Amanda with the ladies from Moli
Jeremy after praying with the older gentleman. His wife is on the right.
Me and the two new sisters in Christ!
When it was time to leave, some of the older ladies quickly grabbed our backpacks, which were heavy with Bibles. They insisted on carrying them for us back to the stream.
The ladies that carried our bags back to the creek.
While hiking back to the Kiri Church, Jeremy, Johnson, Robert, and Amanda wanted to climb the mountain that we had seen earlier. I opted out and stayed at a home at the bottom of the mountain while they climbed. Here are some shots Jeremy got from the top:
Robert, Jeremy, and Johnson at the top. It was SO hot, but Johnson walked all day in a dress shirt and tie.
Can you see me and Samuel waving from the bottom?
Another boy who was climbing the mountain that day.
It finally came time to say our goodbyes. We had some gifts to give to our national partners. They got backpacks and neck ties as well as some ministry tools, pens, and Kiri church received a set of English and Bahri Bibles. It was definitely sad to part ways with our new friends.
That evening, First Baptist Kajo Keji held a celebration service that we all attended. Several people from our mission team gave testimonies about what they had seen God do during the week. Then, they had a special communion. Jeremy and I both loved experiencing this ordinance in a different culture. We sang many familiar songs and someone from our group presented the Bible College with several new books. It was an amazing time of fellowship and again, bittersweet.
Our trip leader, Steve, sharing during the celebration service.
Thursday was our day to journey back to Uganda and have a little "fun day." I'll blog about that tomorrow!
Day 11 was Thursday, and it was a busy day. We got ourselves ready and had a photo shoot at Kaya's compound. Here's a shot of all the peeps from Southeastern.
We loaded up our stuff and headed over to a local market to walk around while we waited for our flight time. (The MAF flights only come in a couple times a day, and it's always an approximate time) Right as we approached the market, we all saw a prop plane in the sky and thought it was coming for us. We headed quickly over the air field only to find that it was dropping off some other folks and not taking us. We actually had to wait around quite a while.
Something I learned: those propellers are serious! Don't stand anywhere near a prop plane getting ready for take off or you will get dust and rocks in every crevice on your body! I was resting on our bus with the windows OPEN and got pelted!
Finally, we split up onto two planes. Our flight back to Uganda was longer than the other group's because we had to make an extra stop to drop off medical supplies to a missionary doctor.
We were sad to say our goodbyes and leave Sudan, but once we left and were in the air, I think we were all looking forward to our day in Uganda.
Now, remember, on the journey in, my impression of Uganda was that it was a little primitive and a little dusty and dirty, but not so bad. Going back to Entebbe after being in Sudan all week brought a fresh perspective. I walked into our somewhat cool room and took one look at our own full size bed and private bathroom complete with a sink and a flushing toilet, and I thought we were at the Hilton. I felt much more relaxed knowing that we had a door and a few modern comforts and less bugs and less heat and did I mention ...A TOILET! Yay! I say this not to paint Sudan in a negative light at all, but being there and going back to a less-remote area made me very thankful for the simple modern technologies that I take for granted. No matter how much I loved our ministry time in Sudan, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss my bathroom and bed back home!
That evening, our team leader was so kind to make reservations for our group at a beach-front restaurant on Lake Victoria. I'm not even sure I should share these photos. One look and you'll think we were really in the Caribbean all this time and not suffering for Jesus in Africa. It was beautiful, and we even got cold as the night settled in and the lake breeze picked up.
We were so tired and ready to eat pizza that we (Tess and Amanda) got a little silly!
After a big meal of pizza, we headed back to the hotel for rest. Boy, did I sleep good that night, even if there were a couple of lizards in our room. Next post: visiting Kampala!
DAY 12 was Market day. Early Thursday morning, our group traveled to Uganda's capitol, Kampala to go shopping at the market. Entebbe (where we stayed overnight) was nestled close to the beautiful Lake Victoria, and most of the scenery was lush and green. As we traveled to Kampala, things changed a bit.
There were paved roads, skyscrapers, and SO much traffic. Also, the smog and fumes were quite heavy! This was the most urban area we visited while in Africa.
breathing through my head rag to filter the air a bit
There were also these giant, strange, prehistoric-looking birds EVERYWHERE. They're called Maribou pelicans. I wouldn't want to mess with one. They eat the trash in the city so that's why there were so many hanging around.
Maribou Pelican in flight. This doesn't do it justice.
We had tons of fun shopping at the local market. They sold pretty much any African souvenir you could want. We bought quite a few neat items that will be featured in an upcoming RAFFLE fundraiser to raise money for our adoption. The raffle items will be posted on here VERY soon!
Our flight out of Entebbe was late in the day and took us to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where we had a small layover. It was interesting to be one of the few Americans in the whole airport. There were many Muslims; the airport even had male and female prayer rooms set up. Some of our team held our own prayer time in the airport, lifting up those who did not know Jesus as their Savior.
From Ethiopia we flew to Rome to refuel and then flew across the Atlantic overnight. I was able to sleep for a couple of hours, but was pretty jet-lagged for about three days after we got home.
BIGGEST LESSONS LEARNED:
- The Spirit-world is REAL!
- God is bigger than I can imagine and His church is big.
- There is no magic formula or manual for leading someone to know Jesus. Sharing the gospel story is not as hard as I sometimes think it is.
- I can do nothing in my own power, but only when I am weak is the power of Christ made strong in me. He enabled our team to walk more, endure more, love more, speak more, and He was able to use me even with all my inadequacies. What a miracle!
- The people in Africa have some struggles that are different from ours, but the basic spiritual struggles were similar to what we experience here in America.
- As a popular worship song says, "there is no power that can come against Your love. The cross was enough!" We definitely saw God conquer the powers of alcoholism, doubts, demons, and sickness while in Africa.
- Ministry and missions can be hard. It's not a glamorous lifestyle. But it must be the most rewarding job in the world!
- Finally, Jeremy and I do still feel called to serve in Christian missions full-time one day. This experience helped confirm many things for us and this is one of them!
MUCH THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO HAS SUPPORTED US THROUGH GIVING & PRAYER. WE COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU!