Our goat project is coming along famously! I am sending a separate Update Part II to go along with this so you can see our goats and kids. The first picture is of Sarah sticking her tongue out as three of our babies who are trying to feed her cornhusks, which she actually likes. Rebecca is there in the background, the cream colored one. Abraham is the cutest and friendliest and he is in the next picture. I am also sending as Part III a letter from the President of South Sudan to the people after his visit to Washington DC last month. It will give you insight to the upcoming Referendum and what he expects to happen. A very interesting read for those who like to follow the politics of a country.
The goats love the children and are very content with their new home and I am almost sad because they are so content that they never make a noise. They don’t “baaaaa” or anything. It’s a good thing but I like them to talk once in awhile. I think this says a lot for the Presence of the Lord being here that all who enter in find rest. Makes me smile because it is really so true.
This week has been a time of rest for me so I haven’t been doing conferences or outside ministry. I still spend a lot of time with the children of course. I spend my mornings with the toddlers, bringing treats of peanut butter and bananas or apple slices ($1.72 for three little apples!), balloons or candy, or my special porridge with sugar and honey. They adore me and I adore them. In the afternoons I take them for walks along with my fellow missionary friends.
I have taken them walking by myself, which is a huge fiasco. I get a group of 20-30, including toddlers, and sometimes they fight and cry and refuse to walk and I am usually carrying one strapped to my back and trying to coax another to walk. I have even carried two at one time for a very long way. I am usually exhausted by the time we return and I wonder every single time why I still do it! This week I took them to a small stream and they were ecstatic. The water is clear and cool and wonderful on these very hot afternoons. It is now turning into a regular part of out journey.
I am meeting on Friday nights with the youth for Bible study and worship and just more intimate times than the normal church setting. They very much enjoy coming. The children amaze me with their fortitude. Some of the older children are going to school seven days a week because of early testing. The school will not be meeting in January because of the referendum and so the teachers are cramming all the teaching into this last month. It is very, very hard on the kids and they are exhausted. Imagine going to school for six weeks straight, no day off, not even Sunday. It is really happening here, no kidding. And then they sit around by lanterns at night studying. And on top of all this they still do their chores of hand washing and ironing clothes (with coal irons), cleaning dishes or helping with the cooking. They truly amaze me! American kids, be so blessed and thank God for how good you have it.
This week as I was doing laundry one morning, little Abba, she is about three, came up and wanted to help me and so I let her reach in the bucket and swish things around while I did the scrubbing. Before long I had two more hands in the bucket and then two more and soon, there were literally seven toddlers all vying for a piece of clothing to wash. It turned into a mess and I even had to rewash a couple of things and we were all wet and sudsy when we were finished. And if there is a toddler near the bore hole when I am pumping water, they want to help and so it takes a very long time to let them pump, but I do because they feel so big. And I could just see God our Father with us, we putting in our little hands to help Him and making more of a mess than help, but He is just so happy to have our little hands in there with His. God is never too busy or too hurried to get a job done for us to lend our small hands to help.
In my updates I rarely ever mention the LRA anymore but they are still a very real and close threat to us here in Sudan. Just this last week there was an attack in Yambio, to the west of us, and nine people were slaughtered. The governments of Sudan, Uganda and Congo are still working together to try and stop these rebels but it is such a slow process.
I have also been very humbled these last weeks through my being sick. I have always prided myself, and given thanks to God, that I am such a healthy and fit person, strong and young in body and heart. I rarely get sick and it is usually short lived. Those who really know me, they know this is true about me.
I have been here in Yei for almost 50 days now and have been sick for much of it. These last few days are the first time in a long time that I have felt good, really good. Just in these last two weeks I have been fighting a staff infection in my nose, a chronic congested chest and an ear infection (the second one of both of these in these past weeks). I have completed a stiff round of antibiotics this time and have been fasting (I did hear God on this) and praying and I am listening to the Psalms on my iPod, even during the watches of the night. And I have never once entertained a plan B such as, “If this doesn’t get better then I will………”. Seriously, I refuse that plan. I just kept reminding God that He promised me good health and that I was chosen by Him to be here in Sudan at this time and so it is not in His plans for me to go to some other country to see a doctor. His grace is sufficient for me!
There is a great missionary named David Hogan who has recovered from seven incurable diseases and his wife three, he has been shot and been beaten and left for dead three times. They are in the deep jungles of Mexico witnessing to drug lords and such. There is Roland Baker who had such a severe case of brain malaria that he almost died and was left with total amnesia for months, and is now recovered. His wife Heidi was so sick quite a few years ago that she had to travel to the US and was seriously thinking about quitting when God gave her an amazing vision. And now she has hundreds of churches in Mozambique and thousands upon thousands have been saved. These people have been an inspiration for me also as I have been listening to testimonies on my iPod this week. I never forget all those who have gone before me and so I continue to set my face like flint and I continue to trust God. I shall not waver in this. My job is to trust God and His plans for me, and every single one is good.
I commented earlier how I have been very humbled by all of this. I am constantly reminded of my total dependence on God. I realize that there is such grace for those of us who are in hard places such as we here in Sudan. It is up to us to take the hand of grace that is offered by God and lean into Him. I have a new found compassion for those who suffer with long-term illnesses. And I have learned even more how to walk in a quiet strength knowing that Jesus is always with me as I continually call upon His name. There is no other name by which one can be saved. There is no other name. Doctor So and So cannot save me. Only Jesus Christ. I am so grateful that He is so faithful. And I am so grateful that people like you pray for me. I thank my God for your prayers and I pray that He blesses your families with perfect health and with the abundance of heaven to meet and exceed your every need!
The place that I go to once a week to get on the internet is a 40 minute brisk walk through fields of maize, okra, sweet potato, tomato, papaya trees, and pumpkin. There are cute mud houses with grass roofs along the way, small market stalls and two small creek crossings. All along the way, small children sing out, “How are you?” and they literally run out to shake my hand. I mean, toddlers are running and offering their hand to me to shake. I so totally love that. Everyone greets you as you pass with a smile. It is such a friendly place to live. This morning I took the usual ten boys to the market to buy sugar cane, which I do every Saturday morning, and I let them do the buying as I visit the ladies in the market. So I just sat down on a bench in the shade next to some market ladies and reached over and took up a baby that one was holding.
They think it is the coolest thing to have you hold their children. Most times the children are fearing us and won’t come. This baby was reaching for me before I even took him. I just sat and enjoyed their company and the shade on a Saturday morning in this very small market. It would be like going to a food court in America and just sitting down at someone’s table and talking to them like you have known them. Of course, in America, this would never happen, but here it is so normal. I love that too. I asked the lady what her baby’s name was and she said she didn’t know. She said it was not hers and she pointed to a lady four stalls away. This is how it is in Africa. It is just so natural to help others, to hold their babies, to share a meal with a stranger, to be invited in to their circle. The most used word here is “fudel” which means “welcome”. Ahhhh I wish the entire world were this way. What a grand place it would be. Welcome!
Saturday night was glow bracelet night again and the children never get tired of being excited by this. They run around in the dark and throw them in the air and sing and dance and just have a blast. I always wait until the weekend after a full moon when it is darkest so that there is a plethora of multicolored lights in the center of the compound. We started our day sitting on hand woven mats in the early morning listening to Uganda children’s worship music on my iPod speakers, singing loudly in sweet crystal voices. These children are always singing about God. It’s awesome.
If you ever wanted to see the redeeming work of our amazing God, you just have to look at the lives of these children. We have a beautiful sweet girl who is fifteen I believe, who was rescued from the brothels of Juba. Looking at her now, she has such an innocence and purity in her spirit. Her smile lights her whole face and she loves the Lord so much and is so kind hearted and precious, always helping others with patience. You would never in a million years know that she was a prostitute in a brothel. Her Father God has redeemed and restored her innocence and purity so completely. Only God can do that. I love this kid so much. She inspires me!
We have another young man who was tossed out by his parent because they were Muslim and he wanted to follow Jesus. They just threw him out like the morning trash. He now leads our Sunday School class, teaching the little ones about the love of Jesus. He has an amazing way with children. The hardest cases, where the child cannot be calmed by anyone, this young man’s gentleness calms these children. He has such a wonderful gift and such an amazing father heart. God redeemed what the devil tried to steal and destroy.
Every day I watch these precious ones in the eyes of God and I am changed in my heart by their examples of forgiveness and kindness and perseverance under such trials in their young lives. Watching them inspires one to never give up on themselves or another.
Today, Monday, is my internet day and I always walk the 3.5 miles to and from. When I arrived this morning I found a sign stating they were closed in the mornings for training. And so I had to turn around and walk right back. And three hours later, here I am again. So, it was a 14 mile walk today just to use the internet. Welcome to my world. Keeps me in shape huh?
So this has been my week. I end it on a thankful note. Like Paul, I feel so blessed to be called and chosen by the Lord to be in Sudan for such a time as this. I am so amazed when I look to the heavens on a cloudless night and the sky is like velvet, scattered with thousands of tiny diamonds glittering in this great expanse. The night bugs singing such a wonderful melody and the light bugs flitting here and there, dancing under the hand of the Great Orchestrator of life, God Himself. No matter how hard life is here, I will always give thanks to the Lord because He is ever present. I love my life, I love my Jesus, and I love my family (you)! I feel so much better in my health! Still messing with chest congestion but I feel great! Bless you Jesus for Your hand upon me and bless you family for your remembrance of me.