Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dear Friends and Family,
Well the year is coming to an end and I’m winding up things here in South Sudan for a Christmas break!  For most of you its wintertime and its cold outside, for us its wintertime in the sense it’s the time of the year when everything dies, but it's dry and VERY HOT! The temperatures have definitely increased even in the last couple of days. Our last rain was about 3 weeks ago and things are really drying up fast! Thank goodness the amount of mosquitoes has decreased! Malaria is probably the sickness we fight with the most here! I have been grateful that I have only had it once since I have been here! So for that I am grateful. This last month has been a busy one with two Community Health Evangelism (CHE) trainings. I would like to tell you some about both of them!
CHE Training #1 in Adol
The beginning of November we had our first CHE training in an area called Adol. We had 31 participants, a combination of pastors and other people who were also very involved in their local church. I was among the 4 facilitators teaching the lessons. We started out teaching them the basic CHE concepts and what CHE is all about. We introduced to them what their positions in their communities would be as facilitators! During the training they were able to collaborate with each other in making plans and goals to accomplish during the time till the next training there. We gave them ways to help make plans for something that they wanted to help change in their community. Some came up with the idea of finding someone to help put in a clinic, some thought of the need for wells. Some thought a school was the biggest need. It was interesting to hear the ideas they came up with. They were a talkative bunch and that made for some good conversations. At the end of the training we gave them lessons to learn and teach to each other so that they can be practicing when they go back home. They really enjoyed this! So we gave them both a spiritual lesson and a lesson about how to prevent malaria. The feedback we got at the end of this training was very encouraging, they told us that they wished that we could come back next time and teach them for a longer period, possibly 3 weeks. We are thankful that they were so excited about what they were learning and desired to learn more. We will be seeing this group again possibly in February.
This is just a picture of one of the lessons we were teaching the CHEs in Adol, about what is involved if you are to grow as a Christian.
I am teaching about how all the decisions you make have consequences. They can be good or bad!
The hut we are having as our classroom!

My friend Sharon and I before going into the surgery room :) 
 On arriving back to where I live in South Sudan, a team from Tenwek Hospital in Kenya came to do cataract surgeries in our local government hospital. This team did an amazing job with helping over 200 patients. I was able to go in and see one of the surgeries done but I was also present when the patients' patches were being taken off and that was just an amazing time. Some of these people had not seen for many years. Many of the patients were older but there was also a 12-year-old girl who had cataracts in both of her eyes because of malnutrition. That was so neat to see her open her eyes for the first time and although at first she was not able to see clearly, every day following the surgery she could see better and better! It was a blessing to be a very small part of this ministry and to see the way the Lord healed and used this time to reach out to these patients. I am thankful I was able to be here for that time!
This is one of the sweet men who just had cataract surgery. He was insisting I was his doctor because I am white, but what he doesn't know is that I am not even close to his doctor :) That's ok!
In the surgery room, looking through the scope at the cataract just being taken out!!!! WOW! What a site to see!

On one of my visits to a CHE community, I had the privilege of meeting one of the cataract patients. This was about 2 weeks later and he was at home with his family. This man was about 65 years old and had the biggest smile on his face. He was so happy because he had the joy of the Lord in his heart! You didn’t have to ask, you just knew! He was so sweet, he greeted us and then continued to tell us his story and how the Lord used this team from Tenwek to bless his life. He told us that he had cataracts in both of his eyes and that the surgeons were able to take the cataract out of his left eye. They told him that he could come back next year and they will take the one out of his right eye. After returning to his community after the surgery, he was asked to come to the elders meeting because they wanted to know what happened. When he got there he gave them the report that he could see and they asked him to get down on his knees. And they said ok, well we need to give thanks to the spirits. They had the witch doctor handy, But Duor said, “No, the people who were fixing my eye said that the only one who gets glory from my eyes being healed is GOD Himself.” And so he said, “I don't want to give any glory to the spirits.” And he left. WOW! Culturally that is huge here! Also the pastor told me that this man has been a strong believer in the past but He is really active in the Church now. So praise the Lord! This mans testimony is being used in a huge way in this area because of the Lord using the hands of these surgeons.

CHE training #3 in Tonj
The third CHE training that we had was done in the area where I live, here in Tonj. In this training we had 19 participants. All of them have been doing a lot of work in spreading the Word of God and CHE lessons in their communities. We have an activity that is a very big part of the CHE program called a "Seed Project". The requirements are that they have to pick a ministry they can do for someone in their community who isn’t a Christian and it has to only last a day or two, and we give this as homework after every CHE training we have. So that was fun hearing all the things that they were able to do. Some of them even did two because of the way the people in their communities were reacting. In the past months we have gotten a lot of rain and in one of my previous blog posts I wrote about there being a flood that was destroying many people’s homes and their vegetation. It was neat hearing that this was a great time to reach out into their community and help those who were not able to collect all their vegetation. Some of them took this opportunity to reach out and assist widows and children in need. Over the past months the grass has grown so tall that it was a lot taller than even me. So it would take over paths and walk ways. So one group decided to clear some paths from different homes in the community so that people could walk freely without worrying that they could not see snakes and other critters. I actually got to see this after they had finished and they were very proud! Although some people appreciate them for their hard work, some ask if they are being paid to do such a job. Some ask why they are wasting their energy when they have work to do at home in their own gardens. They simply reply that they have work to do at home in their own gardens. Or they reply that they are doing it to serve their neighbors and to show the love of Christ. It’s so fun to get to hear their responses and to be a part of this ministry!

On a home visit seeing the seed project where they cleared all the grass so that people could walk safely on the paths between people's homes!

The CHE's praying before they practice their lessons on each other!
Two of the CHE trainees, and I after we completed out third training!

This coming month I will be going back to Kenya and then flying to the States to attend a wedding of a friend who I went to high school with. I will be able to spend time with family over Christmas and the New Year’s. I’m grateful for this opportunity and thankful for the change of pace. I pray you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

October Update

Dear friends and family!
National Day for Washing Hands, October 18th!
Can you believe there is a day set to celebrate washing hands??? It’s a wonderful thing, especially for this nation. South Sudan actually had a national holiday to celebrate it!

Me showing the Community Health Workers how to make a TippyTap! We had a lot of fun :) 

I wanted to share with you some pictures of how I spent it. One of the tools in the program I am working with provides a way to wash your hands when there is no running water available. It’s called a Tippy Tap! And it’s a great way to help people get their hands clean that is hands-free and easily reusable!  I was able to teach some of the health workers at our clinic how to make these Tippy Taps and they are now going to be teaching the people in their communities how to make them! It was neat to see how excited they were to learn this new way of maintaining hygiene by washing their hands!

This month has provided great moments of encouragement for me!
Lately we have been so limited in visiting our CHE communities because all around us has been swamped and flooded with much rain! We have been very limited as to where we can go!

One of the biggest encouragements has come from a visit my colleague and I were able to make in one of our CHE communities. We were able to visit our friends in Warrock, which is about an hour’s motorcycle ride from where we live in Tonj.  This area is still very swampy from the flood, so we fishtailed a lot.  We were not able to get there with a vehicle and a regular bike would not have gotten us there! So we were thankful that we had the help of these motorcycles to get us there!

This is my friend Pastor Ruben!
During our visit in this community we were able to see the wonderful example this church of believers have set for this area! This church had gardened using a format that we teach in CHE, it is called Farming God's Way. They wanted us to be there for the harvesting and so that was such a wonderful time with them. The whole church got together and wanted to do something to show the nonbelievers in their community that they cared for them and also that they were willing to work together to make that happen! So they put a LOT of hard work into this garden. They planted groundnuts and we were there to be a part of the harvesting! They said that they now want to use the proceeds to help those in need around them who aren't Christians.  They would also use the groundnuts as a way to be able to minister to them. The one heading this is their pastor, whose name is Reuben, and he is also one of our CHEs who is in training now!

This is us underneath the tree helping harvest the groundnuts! This is not easy work! Let me tell you!
Just a picture of what a groundnut looks like!
I asked the people in Warrock for some prayer requests and so I just wanted to send those onto you!

--Through church members reaching out to others in the community some young ladies came to know Jesus as their personal Savior. The ladies joined in the work of the church-planted peanut garden. Now their parents are telling them they may not return to the church and they must work only for the family. Please pray for these new believers to be encouraged in their faith in Jesus. Pray they will continue to follow Him.

--Many people in the community are ill. The nearest health clinic is more than two hours of walking away from Warrock. Please pray for God's healing touch on the people of Warrock.

--Insects are eating many of the plants in the garden. The people are looking for an insecticide that will be effective in protecting their crop. Please pray for relief from the insects and for a bountiful harvest.

--Please pray for the outreach of this church into the community. Pray their love and kindness toward others will point the way to Jesus and bring many more to Him.

My friend Synock and I! Also another committed believer in this community!
Thank you for joining me in prayer for these people and our brothers and sisters in Christ! Life here is not easy and these people are really working hard to share the love of Christ with their neighbors.

My Colleague and I in the community, visiting the locals and holding their kids :)
Another ministry that I’m involved with is CHE trainings, which I will write more about in my next update! But please be in prayer for the ones that my team and I will be training in November and those we just got done trianing at the end of October! We found there were many things that we just assumed they knew about, like the cause of malaria, that they had no idea about! Also the literacy rate was lacking greatly. So translating what we are trying to teach is a huge struggle! In this area of South Sudan education is just not considered important. We believe the generation coming up is realizing its importance but this is a huge problem, especially in the training because many of the tools we provide for them are in English.  So there are many things that we have going on here. I will update you on more of them as soon as I can!

This is the group of believers that I was able to go and visit and be apart of their  harvesting time! Praise God for true committed believers who are willing to think of others before themselves and their own needs. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

September Update

Dear Friends and Family,

Wow, I’ve just come back from a week in Kenya, for R&R. That means rest and recuperation. Being in South Sudan can definitely put a toll on your body. But overall, I am doing well. Jesus has been so gracious. But others are not doing so well. While I was in Kenya, there was a horrible terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi killing over 70 people. This horrible act of revenge was just sickening. I ask myself, Father, why do these things happen to such innocent people? And I know the Father knows, and He is there with those who have lost their loved ones. I did know of some who were present of the time of the attack, but they were thankfully able to get out unharmed. Many others were killed and still more were wounded. Please keep the nation of Kenya in your prayers.

Westgate Mall in Nairobi attacked by Somali terrorists
 One thing I thank God for during this time: it really brought the nation of Kenya together. Because this was an attack on such a wide variety of people, rather than aimed at a particular tribe, people of all tribes came together and wanted to help in whatever way they could. Some people donated blood to the blood banks and others were bringing food to the reporters who were trying to get the latest on the situation for the newscasts. It was just neat to see them pulling together. They need peace and I pray that this will continue to pull them together and unite this nation.

One of the Flood victims home completely ruined by the flood
On my arrival back in South Sudan, as we were flying in, I could see that we have been getting a lot of rain because much of the land looked like a swamp. Approximately 400 people have been displaced from their homes. I asked what the people were doing whose homes got flooded and have been told they are now sleeping on the road; the families and all their belongings. This broke my heart; I could not fathom having to move me and my family to live on the road while my house and all my belongings got ruined and destroyed. It has now been over two weeks since the hard rains came and with a steady rain continuing each day, these people have no way to get relief. Many have moved across the street from the In Deed and Truth compound where there isn’t as much flooding and some have gone to the market to at least have some kind of shelter. All the rain has also ruined their crops, which would have been ready soon to pick. They asked In Deed and Truth (IDAT), the organization I am working with here on the ground, for tarps and mosquito nets to be able to get through this time. Please pray that Jesus protects these people from crocodiles in the water, and with still water it is a nice breeding area for mosquitoes. There is much need and IDAT has limited resources.
The Flood Water covering one of the main roads
One of the flood victims made this makeshift shelter

Many people are on the roads because this is the highest ground they can escape to.
One little boy trying to find grass for his goats and sheep to pasture

I would like you to meet my new friend and colleague, Margit! She is from Germany and has had previous experience of working in South Sudan. She is a wonderful encouragement spiritually. She is a nurse but solely working with the CHE program here in Tonj. Working with her has been such a joy! We have traveled together to the nearby villages, seeing the progress that the communities have made. We have been encouraging them to improve the health in their homes, especially to have clean drinking water and a type of bathroom/toilet called a latrine. We are trying to implement a dish-drying rack (drier dishes attract fewer insects, ensuring greater cleanliness), and different preventatives for malaria. These can seem so simple, but when you have been living without them for so long it’s hard to get used to the idea seeing the necessity of having them. Please pray for these colleagues of ours out in their villages trying to do their best. They need a lot of encouragement.
My new colleague and friend, Margit Mueller
One of our major tasks is going out and visiting our Sudanese colleagues in their communities. We’ve been able to reach some of them, but there are some that we cannot reach because the roads during rainy season are just not passable or completely washed away. We plan to visit these when the rain has stopped and we are able to get there by road. When we aren’t able to go and see them, calling them is very important. Just staying in contact is very encouraging to them. We acknowledge their steps of progress, even if they are small, because they can make a big difference. Please pray for our safety in traveling!

Here are just some pictures of the last visit we were able to do. We had some other visitors: my boss Aunt Joy Phillips (a missionary nurse and community developer to Kenya and other countries for over 27 years) was also able to come along. Another good friend of my parents, who has stayed in Kenya previously, Bonnie Anderson, has joined us. She is a nurse from North Dakota, working here in Tonj for about two months. It’s been wonderful and very encouraging getting to go out into the community with them and see the influence that the CHE trainings have done for these people.
Margit on the left, two Sudanese ladies, Bonnie and I on the right.

In the next month, pray for Margit and me as we go to a place called Rumbek, a part of South Sudan. It’s about a 4-hour drive east of where I live. We will be going there to help with a CHE training that will be happening in this area. That will be an exciting time! We are happy that we get to be a part of this work. Please pray for good acceptance of the material and that the Lord will use us during this time! This is the first week of a four-part training that is spread out over a year’s time, so we are praying that the participants will grasp the basic knowledge of what we are training and that the implementation is widespread.

Thank you for your prayers and support! May God richly bless you!

Me and a dear little boy whose family's  home was destroyed in the flood. We are bringing him back with us so that he can stay with family that has a place for him to stay and be safe during this time.