Thanksgiving, Christmas, Gardens and More Sheep

This week I planted my very first garden.  I have helped to plant fields of things but have never struck out on my own.  So, I tilled my own little plot beside my room and planted green beans, cucumbers, onions, radishes and zucchini.  Already my onions have poked their little heads through the rich Sudan earth.  We are so close to the Congo here in Yei.  That means it is rich earth to plant much.  I was in the market yesterday and saw lemons the size of small cantelopes, so serious!  And we saw papaya the size of watermelons, no exaggeration here!  I still wonder how they hung from the tree being that big.  I am curious to see what my planting will yield.

We have also begun to plan in earnest for our Christmas celebrations for the children.  Each will receive a new set of fancy Christmas clothes and a new set of play clothes and shoes.  Try Christmas shopping for 125 children!  No small feat.  They will also receive small toys and candy and beads and things.  We are also planning on a huge feast with many goats.  One of our goats just had twins by the way.  Our second set of twins this year!  Most of our goats are just a year old so they are not old enough for us to eat.  We will have to buy our Christmas goats.  Last year I was buying goats for 85 Sudanese pounds (about $30).  This year goats are running at about 250 Sudanese pounds (about $65).  Prices have been soaring here just like everywhere else in the world.

On Thanksgiving Day I woke up sad and I missed my home and family and friends terribly.  This was my first holiday away from home since 1995 and all I could think about was being in Texas.  A few of us missionaries got together and gathered at the Methodist compound, a place called The Captain’s House.  Turns out that I had a wonderful time.  One of the girls is such an excellent cook and this house has electricity and solar and an oven!  She baked homemade bread and real pumpkin pie and falafel and caramelized carrots and topped it all off with Mexican hot chocolate!  I was stuffed and the fellowship was so excellent.  All thoughts of being homesick passed away and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Here in Africa Americans are very much loved by the African people.  They are thankful and grateful for the aid that we bring along with other countries.  I want people to know that every single African I know wants to come to America.  None ever mention wanting to go to any other country.  They have seen the freedoms and prosperity that our country enjoys and they want the same for their country.  They look to us with hope.  Never lose that giving spirit.  If you support water programs or the Shoebox Ministry with Samaritan’s Purse or Save The Children or the World Food Organization or any number of ministries, these people are ever so grateful.  Your gifts are making a difference.  Thank you!

As I was in the market this week I saw a funny sight.  Here the goats and sheep are allowed to wander freely and graze wherever they like.  They wander in the market place also.  As we were walking along, this herd of sheep came out of an alley, about 20 of them, quite huge for wanderers, and they were like the renegade sheep flock!  They were shoving their noses into pots at cook stalls, knocking over a bicycle, sticking their noses in grain sacks, just being mischievous.  It was really funny to watch because normally sheep are so timid and docile.  So to see these renegade sheep, well, it was quite comical.  Another funny site, our children were helping to harvest a field of ground nuts this weekend.  As they were pulling them up, one of the boys came across a family of rats.  He killed the mama rat and the boys are now carrying around these teeny baby rats as play toys.  They will play with them until they die.  That’s about as close to a pet as African kids get.

This week also found me giving de-worming tablets to 125 children.  You kinda have to bribe them with a nicely wrapped truffle.  The little ones don’t know how to swallow tablets whole and so here they were chewing them without any flicker of disgust on their faces as they eyed the prize, a big blue shiny paper wrapped truffle.  It’s like chewing aspirin I guess.  Yuck.  Whatever it takes to get them down!

We enjoyed our usual Friday Night Furnace prayer and worship gathering.  The children were again dragging me to the church early, anxious to dance and sing.  We did this for about an hour with all our might and when we were done, faces glistening with sweat, they begged me to let them keep going.  Haha!  We kept dancing and singing, the boys beating our African drums without tiring.  What a great way to spend Friday nights.  And still every night before bed we gather in the center of our compound to sing and dance and pray.  I love ending my days with these kids.

Don’t be mistaken, our children are just like any others when it comes to school and chores.  They don’t like either and it is like pulling teeth to stay on top of things each and every day.  We have two young men who are house uncles and they have just completed their high school studies at the age of 28.  Remember, there has been war for 50 years and these ages are not unusual.  Anyway, our two young men have been helping in our elementary school and have come to me tonight with a heavy heart.  They have seen some of our children be disrespectful and not care about their studies.  I have to keep reminding them that this is the same problem we face even in America and we just keep at them.  Sometimes I have to play the bad guy and pull some discipline and revoke some privileges, which I did tonight.  Keeping tabs on 125 children is definitely a full time job!