Every day I am learning more Arabic so that I can communicate with the little ones and the mamas. Only the teenagers know English well enough to have a conversation with me and so I am learning small phrases to speak to the little ones. Today I learned the best one, “Anna hibu ita” which is “I love you”. The kids love it. Also I am always telling the babies, “Tali inna, casa lu ee den” which is, “Come here and wash your hands”! It is slow going but the children don’t seem to be in a hurry so neither am I.
This week I am also learning how to care for the agriculture. We have so much growing here on our compound. Even the young children have their own plots that they care for, all strictly voluntary. I am learning which plants produce what and how to harvest them. Yesterday I helped one of the mamas weed her plot, both of us bent over and just chatting away about families and such. She was almost uncomfortable that I was helping her. She kept worrying about my hands and I told her that I was enjoying this and that they were always waiting on us, like cooking for us and sweeping our areas and just always concerned for our well being. And I just want to do my share and help them back. She really liked that.
Then I moved over to the next plot and helped a group of children pick greens. They were pinching the leaves off only and so I went to pinch a leaf and one of the girls said, “You pick like this” in her Sudanese accent and showed me the proper way to pinch at the stem. And so I picked a bunch with them and when I ate my lunch today, I was thinking how I had helped pick them. Pretty cool.
Last week a couple who are here from Australia bought a Singer sewing machine for the girls to learn to sew. Her and I went into town early this morning to pick up my friend who is from Uganda and has a sewing business. She helped us by showing us all about the machine and then we filled up some jerry cans with water and drove her back. She said they have to go a long way to get water and so it was a blessing just to fill up some water for her. Such a simple thing but such a great blessing. I really love how people here care about each other and will go out of their way, even for a stranger, if they are in need.
My friend, Pastor William Deng, from Akuem came to see me today and I was so happy. He was only here for four days and stays on the other side of Yei when he is visiting. He took a motorcycle taxi here and his comment when he arrived, “I didn’t know you were in the bush!” We both laughed. After our visit I took him back to his place at the SPC compound and it really was far away. It took 30 minutes just one way. This honored me so much that he would go through that trouble just to come and say hello. That is how it is here. We had a wonderful visit and there are so many doors opened to me in Akuem through his church. He says everyone is asking when will I return. They still talk about me a lot and miss me. Very cool!
On Sundays, the other missionaries and I go into town to a Bible study with other missionaries here in Yei. It is amazing how we represent many countries like, Australia, UK, America, Germany, Netherlands and Ireland just to name a few. And we are of different faiths such as, Episcopal, Pentecost, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic and Charismatic. We really care for each other and we all discuss the Bible each week and we pray together with the same heart for Sudan and each other. It is truly a picture of the end time church, where we lay down our denominations and we just come together to worship our One God. Each week a different person leads the study and worship. We pray for the church all over the world to have this same fellowship and love for each other.
Also on Sundays we do our shopping for essentials. Here is a sampling of the price for things here.
For about .34 cents you can get 15 small bananas OR four small tomatoes OR four small onions OR a pack of cigarettes OR five bread rolls.
For $1.78 you can get a can of tuna OR a can of corn OR a can of peaches OR almost anything in a can.
For $5.10 you can get one basic can of Pringles potato chips OR a box of cereal OR a jar of peanut butter.
For $13.60 you can get a case of 24 sodas or pay .69 cents apiece.
For $10.20 you can get a very nice skirt or a pair of shoes.
For $119.00 you can get a Singer sewing machine (non electric of course) and stand.
For .69 cents you can get a nice butcher knife.
Prices here are so inconsistent and just don’t make sense.
This week I just lived my everyday life of loving children, stopping for the one a whole lot, teaching the Youth Group on Friday nights, walking with the boys on Saturday mornings to buy sugar cane and coming back to chop it all up and enjoy watching the children devour it and me too! And sometimes on Sunday, like this Sunday, I preach the message in church. And I started running again. I also take the young children for walks a lot around the outside of the compound. I also helped two of our staff ladies get all the children to try on their new Christmas clothes and shoes to make sure all get a new set that fits. That was a major fiasco. The little ones were sorely testing me with their mischief. We were exhausted when all was done!
On a daily basis, my breakfast consists of hot tea with real fresh lemongrass and sugar or coffee or sometimes both, and either a bread roll or mondazi (a type of fried doughnut ball) or a huge piece of sweet potato or a huge piece of cassava root (my extreme favorite). For lunch and dinner we will have rice or posho (bland doughy maize) with beans or cabbage or greens or a chunk of fish (head and guts and all) and on Sunday we get two bite sized pieces of meat in a sauce. Definitely no fat in this diet so we can eat a lot and still be skinny. I supplement my dinner with avocado and tomato and onions sometimes. And I will on occasion have either tuna fish or PBJ sandwiches.
What do my days look like as a routine? Every morning I am awakened by the rooster crowing and children singing worship at 630 sharp. I take a jug of water to wash my face, standing on our porch, and I brush my teeth there also. I don’t have a house so no sink or bathroom for me. Then I walk down to the kitchen, which is more like a lean to with a huge clay oven of sorts. We can’t bake in it because it is more like a giant counter with two holes for a fire where we set big industrial pots for cooking. This is where I get my hot water for coffee. I usually stop all along the way to talk with and hug many children. Then I spend some time in the Bible and such.
Every morning I carry a large jerry can of water up to where my tent is so I can have water to wash my hands and face throughout the day. It is very heavy and a long haul so I have a strong back and arms. Twice a week I hand wash all my laundry, including sheets and blankets (those not so often). Then I do whatever the Lord finds for me to do during the day, which is mostly interacting with the ladies or children or working on some project. On Mondays I spend a few hours at the internet café. Then each day I carry my basin and towel and soap and shampoo and clean clothes and I take my evening bucket bath in one of the girl’s dorms where they have a room for this.
And that’s my life here in the bush, living with 102 children, and 8 mamas and 4 other missionaries.
My Word for this week:
Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.
Jesus SAT DOWN. He demonstrated that He never Lords it over us. He takes the low position and becomes one with us. He demonstrates by His love for us that He really does serve us, although He is God, He will do anything in Jesus name according to the will of the Father. His desire is for us. He sits down and asks us to take the low position with Him. Sit with the one today, somewhere, just sit with the lowly one. Sometimes I don’t say a word, I just sit with a child and hold them. They are so comforted by this alone. Just sitting down.