Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Ministries, New Opportunities!

Dear Friends and Family,
I pray this finds you doing well. This finds me in Tonj, South Sudan. Transitioning once again to a different culture, with new languages, new faces, new customs, and new ways of living. Being in South Sudan has been one of encouragement. It’s exciting because this country has only had its Independence for 2 years, so the people have a fresh perspective of hopes and dreams for their future.  A complete contrast to what their country has faced previously because of being in war. Since being in the town I am currently in called Tonj, you can tell there are signs of growth and development. Although some would say they are very behind developmentally, the people seem optimistic and hopeful for the direction their country is moving in. ( The Picture to the left is the Flag of South Sudan!)
I arrived here in South Sudan on the 18th of July, and for the first week I followed my friend and colleague Whitney Smith, trying to learn all that I could about what this next year would look like. She is the one I came to take over for. She was a friend that I had met in College, at Asbury University, and she has been living here in South Sudan for a year. She is now on her way home to prepare to get married in November. It was a blessing to work alongside her and see her passion and love for the people here. I pray that the Lord would also do the same for me, to open my heart to new friendships and opportunities for growth mentally, spiritually, and physically.  I have a lot to learn and it can sometimes be overwhelming, but I trust that the Lord is helping me and guiding me step by step.

Many of you may not know what I will be doing here in Tonj, South Sudan, so I just wanted to share briefly so that you would know how to be praying for me. But before I do that, I want to share how Jesus has led me to this place for this time. I had heard about work being done in South Sudan for some time. Most of the things I heard were, that it was a very hard place to live but the people there were very likeable. As I said before, they have been a people torn with war as a major part of their history. So this wasn’t a place that I had ever put on my list of places to visit because I always thought it would be a really tough place to go. The picture I had in my mind was rough and not safe. (The picture above is of Tonj Town, the cows like to take over the road.)

One missionary lady that I have known my whole life from growing up in Kenya named Aunt Joy Phillips, has been working in and out of South Sudan for a while, and so I’ve heard of the work being done here for some time. My brothers have both spent some time working in Sudan, so I have also heard a little about it from them. Anyway so South Sudan has always been in some sense on the back burner of my mind. In April when I was in Kenya for a Retreat with the WGM missionaries, I had the opportunity to talk with Aunt Joy.( The picture below is of a cow I saw on a walk in the Tonj town, I am just amazed at the size of this cows horns!!
She brought up the fact that Whitney would be leaving South Sudan around August of this year and that she would really love it if I would join the team working in South Sudan. Of course, if I felt the Lord was leading me in that direction. After we talked, I told her that I would think and pray about it, and immediately the Lord started working in my heart.

I had many talks with Him just wondering what his purpose was for this next year. I asked Him to make it very clear that if South Sudan was where he wanted me to go I would go.  In the next week, I asked God to show me other options and opportunities for ministry and I looked into some. But he kept on bringing my heart back to South Sudan. So in that next week, I wrote Aunt Joy back and said I would go, and it felt like within a few hours or minutes, she had already written me back. So then I started the transition of saying my goodbyes in Zambia, wrapping up the work I was doing there, and packing up my things. And this is where I am now!

I have been asked to help take over the work being done here with the Community Health Evangelism program. The ministry of CHE is done through training community leaders in dealing with physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects within the community. It consists of training materials as a tool or method for doing holistic community development to empower communities to see their lives transformed. Community leaders are trained in areas such as hygiene, sanitation, disease prevention, nutrition, spiritual life, discipleship, evangelism, and components of a Christian lifestyle. ( The picture below is of my first CHE training. This is the group of people I have the privilege of working with.)


The third week in being here, we had a CHE training, and it was so encouraging to see the enthusiasm and energy coming from those who were being trained. There is not a lack in energy and sharing. The people here are very open to share their ideas, and it was just fun to have that time with the ones I will be working closely with over this next year. We covered a wide variety of topics, here is a list of some of them: how to make a tippy tap, latrine, and how to treat your mosquito net so it repels mosquitos. On a more spiritual note, we covered how to share your testimony, different ways to pray, and how to help others in their steps of faith.(This picture below is of my friend Mary who attended the CHE training. She is a kind sweet woman who desires to serve the Lord and serve her people through using the tools given through CHE.)

Something else I have been involved with while being here is the Simply The Story (STS) training. This involves helping the people learn a Bible story and discover the spiritual treasures it contains. The African people are known for sitting around the fire at night and sharing stories. This is a great resource for ones in ministry to be able to share these great Bible stories. I know even for me, stories help me remember things that I wouldn’t normally remember. This training is a great tool, even for some of the leaders who are pastors. During the training, we teach them the oral style of asking questions after sharing the story so they can facilitate discussion about the story. This engages their audience and helps people remember it better after the repetition of the story. (The picture below is of My friend Ruben who also attended the CHE training! He is a wonderful believer in the Lord and a huge encouragement to see His Faith and hard work for the Lord.)

Now through working with these two great tools of training, I now have the opportunity to make sure the things being taught in the training are implemented. So I will be involved in doing a lot of follow-up and encouragement.  There are many lessons to help the people with health issues that they face in their communities. So when I visit the different areas where they live, I check up and see if they have implemented the basic ways of staying healthy. When they have these down, then we move on to other things that can assist them in growing. It’s all a process of growth! And I think we all need this encouragement and push to do things that we know are good for us, but it just might mean that we have to do something a different way than we are used to.

Please pray with me as I learn the areas that I am involved in and for protection on the roads as I travel to the different sites where these people live. The roads are not easily accessible because we are in our rainy season here. Some of the roads turn into streams or rivers. So just pray that the Lord will guide and direct us into making good plans and that when we go to these different communities that He will bless the work. I know these people are hard workers, so just pray that I can be the encouragement they need.  Thank you all for all your support and prayers! I can definitely feel His presence here, but I also know that Satan is trying to work against us. May the Lord bless you in the work you are doing for His kingdom!
In Him,