Sunday, August 29, 2010

update #5 from Laurie


Dear Family and Friends,

While our days have become quite busy with projects over the past few weeks since the Farises left, we are constantly reminded that our time here continues to diminish one hour at a time.

Being here in Sudan has given me the joy of experiencing a new culture, meeting new brothers and sisters in Christ, seeing the growth of Christ’s work in this part of His kingdom, and the day-to-day perseverance of our missionary friends.

Several weeks ago, I learned of a missionary friend’s death in Afghanistan that has caused me to stop and think about where I am heading in life. I think receiving that news while here has given me a different understanding and new appreciation for the kind of life she must have lived over the past six years as a missionary in Afghanistan. I have been forced to ask myself—“Do I really truly value the
Gospel of Christ in my daily life?”

All of this has increased my anticipation to arrive home and continue this adventure of a life that God has given me. I know not what the days hold or how long my days will be here on earth, but He is using it to deepen my longing to live these frail days on earth earnestly for Christ—the One who has given me
eternal life, true love, and the deepest joy imaginable.
One of the hardest things that I’ve struggled with here is the language barrier-not being able to understand the conversations around us—let alone all the singing, prayer and worship on the Lord’s Days. It has made me realize that no matter where I am, if I don’t understand the heart language of the people around me, I cannot understand them or where they are coming from in life. While I long to connect with the Dinka people in the deeper heart ways, I am learning that I have to start from scratch and build friendships through smiles, love, and just taking the time to sit together, laugh and sometimes use a rather animated form of sign language to understand them. It can be uncomfortable—or in most cases, very hilarious—but either way, it’s worth the time and energy.


Here are a few highlights from week #7 that we have just finished.

Wednesday (18th) – Projects today included finishing tying the jergonia (grass mats) to the fence that encompasses the side of the Ward’s yard, sanding and filing the angle iron for more shutter frames, and spending an hour digging the Ward’s new cho (latrine). We also had the joy of painting the back of the Ward’s dresser with chalkboard paint so that Julie now has a great teaching tool to use while schooling
the boys.

Thursday (19th) –

Our projects included more cho digging plus digging a pole up from the Ward’s old shower to be brought back for the new cho walls. The ladies of the church were out in the ground nut (peanut) field nearby and invited us to join them. We couldn’t today since we had more projects to do, but decided we’d have to set a morning aside to join them.

Friday (20th) – We worked on a new project this morning which included making little metal holders for another project. Beth and I got a process down which involved me cutting the metal strips, Beth bending them, me hammering them to fit around the rebar and then hammering two holes with a nail in either side. We ended up making about 100.

Saturday (21st) – Today was another shutter day. We measured, grinded, sanded, and welded. Praise God, by lunch time were almost ready to hang shutters #9 and #10 (3 more to go!). Later in the afternoon we finished hanging them.

Today was Presbytery meeting at Gekko during which Ajo and Keer were examined by the pastors and teaching elders to receive a license to preach. After lunch Beth, Jan and I walked over to greet them. It was so good to see each of these men whom God has brought to be trained to preach the gospel.

The Lord’s Day (22nd) – I was looking forward to going to my home village, Dhokul, this morning where another mission church has started up. It’s an “unorganized” church right now, which means they meet under a big tree (which is the usual way a church starts here).

However, this is Sudan—which means flexibility! Right outside the compound gate, we had a flat tire. (This was similar to last week when we also did not make it to Dhokul due to the back two tires being stuck in the mud—right outside the compound gate.) So we worshipped in Parot (our village) this morning and were truly refreshed by the fellowship with so many of the ladies and children whom we have grown to know so well.

Monday (23rd) – We witnessed another cultural insight via some thief-tracking this morning. Last night, some boys from another village had swiped some things from the Faris house while the team was having worship. Vince did some investigation, and many of the items were found and returned as the day progressed. It amazes me that they could even recover stuff, but the neighbors around here seem to be on top of the news and already knew that the robbery had taken place. Jan, Beth and I also made our market run which we thoroughly enjoy each Monday. We always meet people along the way, and are glad we can now converse or understand somewhat what they are asking us. Last week, we had walked over to the well to talk with the ladies and exchange names and generally provide a source of amusement and laughter to the ladies. This time, we walked through the fresh produce area, where all the ladies sit and shell their ground nuts and sell their okra and fresh greens. They were all eager to be introduced. We always received an extra warm welcome and handshake from
those who are “related” to us or from the same clan.

This afternoon Julie took Beth and I and the boys on a walk to see a new little baby boy who was born this morning around 9am. At 7 hrs old, he was sort of a light grey color (they darken as they get older), with a full head of black hair, and part of his umbilical cord was still waiting to fall off. He was precious.

Tuesday (24th) – We joined the ladies in the ground nut field this morning and tried our hand at “pooning” (weeding). The ladies were delighted that we showed up and quickly taught us the ergonomics to how to correctly kneel and hold the “pur”—which looks like a flat metal hoe fastened to the end of a long thick stick.

Through much sign-language and our limited Dinka, we were able to converse a bit. The ladies asked us when we were leaving, to please not go away, and instructed us to go back to America, get married,have children and then come back to live with them! It was quite fun. Also, it’s totally cultural, but no matter how sunny it is, one of the ladies will fix hot chai over a fire right there in the field, and they’ll
drink chai while they work. (Now those of you who know me, will know that this is quite a wonderful thing!)


Congrats if you actually read all of this! It’s hard to believe that we will be leaving Sudan this week and arriving back in the US on Wed. Sep. 8th.

Much love in Jesus,


Friday, August 20, 2010

Update #9 - Life in Sudan

____ Update #9 - Life in Sudan ________

(written Thursday, August 19)

Dear Friends,
The sun has now set on Day 50 here in the Sudan. Right now, Laurie is lighting our little kerosene stove to brew herself a cup of chai and I am listening to our resident cricket sing his little heart out somewhere in the thatched roof above my head. Life here has been an incredible grace-saturated adventure thus far. I’ve shared a few of the spiritual lessons in some previous emails, but tonight I thought I would just invite you to our little “baai” for a peek into life as we know it here in Sudan.
The C4C compound has become more empty lately, as we waved goodbye to our dear friends Daniel, Natalie, and little Samuel – who are off to Nairobi for the birth of the baby. We’ve missed them here - and Georgie (the dog) does too, but he’s consoling himself by curling up by one of our beds at night. We have been keeping quite busy along with the Ward family and Jan, as we approach our final few weeks.
This week has launched us into fast-forward motion with the various projects to be completed here. One thing I’ve learned about being here in Sudan is that nobody here has just “one” job – and our experience here is giving us a myriad of things to increase our resumes. *smile* The Minion Department (as we are affectionately called) has taken on many different roles: babysitter, dishwasher, chef, farmer, welder, grinder, plumber, tea connoisseur (Laurie), pole digger, photographer, general source of Kowaja amusement… and the list goes on. It has been quite enjoyable, and we go to sleep every night thanking the Lord for the opportunity to use our hands in service here.
Just for fun, I thought you all might enjoy an ongoing list that is being compiled by a few of us (something akin to “you know you live in Sudan when…”) – taking note of the somewhat unusual things that this land offers. Who knows, maybe some of you will end up in Africa someday too and this knowledge might come in handy.

- A common dish served at a local restaurant is cow intestines
- Praying for rain at the dinnertable is a common occurrence
- The currency is a Sudanese pound and there are no coins
- Recreational activities include spear throwing and chasing goats out of groundnut fields
- Kids have little attachment to clothes and even less for “indoor” toilets
- Chickens, goats, and cows are often the welcoming committee on your doorstep (not as much anymore since Daniel constructed the fence though!)
- Digging a new “cho” (outdoor toilet) has many benefits, including a full body toning routine (my muscles are singing volumes right now!), golden sun tanning, and clay mud pedicures.
- Waking up in the morning to an energetic scurry of little feet overhead is no cause for alarm – it is just the lizards having a “good morning” dance on your mosquito netting.
- Waking up at night to the energetic scurry of little feet, however, often means that the resident mouse is having a midnight snack on your granola bars.
- Cameras make instant friends, even if they don’t know to smile until AFTER the picture.
- Land rovers + mud x full night of rain = flexibilityyyy in the schedule! (Or flexibility in footwear when the next day’s jaunt to the market left Jan stuck in the clay!)
- Every night, there is either a gorgeous sunset, a sky full of stars, or a majestic lightening display that you can watch while taking a shower – can’t get much better than that!
- Two boards nailed together make a perfect plane swing, an empty plastic bottle hanging from a string is great for “tetherball”, and countless hours can be spent digging holes in the sand and climbing trees. No need for televisions here!
- Onions and garlic are the staple ingredient for just about any recipe.
- Taking your dirt-christened work skirt out of the laundry for the third time in a week is perfectly fine – it’s just fitting in with the latest fashions!
- Your “tan” often comes off in the shower every night.
- … and much, much, much more!

We are continuing to live every day here to the fullest and are looking forward to our final two weeks here. Thank you for all of your faithful prayers over the past few months – it has certainly been God who had made this trip so profitable. Lord willing, we will have a few more things to share with you all before we return. Please continue to pray for the Kingdom work – that God would “establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90) as we finish up here.
Beth & Laurie

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your FAITH in Christ Jesus and of the LOVE that you have for all the saints, because of the HOPE laid up for you in heaven." ~ Colossians 1:3-5

"…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of FAITH…Let us hold fast the confession of our HOPE without wavering…let us consider how to stir up one another to LOVE and good works…." ~ Hebrews 10:22-24

Monday, August 9, 2010

Update #8 Shining

Hello from Sudan once again! As I sit down to write to you all, I still wonder if I will ever be able to adequately express all the work that God is doing here in Africa. Yesterday, as I was sitting under the shade of a nice tree, God was reminding me of so many of His commands in Scripture to declare the wonderful works of the Lord. “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, I will sing praises to you among the nations…” (Psalm 108:3) So, even though my words are rather inadequate and time is lacking to tell you of everything, it is my hope that you are reading these emails and finding your heart drawn to praising His Name with us.

This afternoon, I’ve been thinking about light and how important it is in our daily life here. The sunshine that is so well-known here in Africa becomes a welcome sight, as it is often our “alarm clock” to wake us up in the mornings. At night, that same sunshine becomes appreciated in a new way when we use our solar-powered lanterns. The stars that you can see from here are absolutely breathtaking – sometimes it is almost light enough to see the path without extra help. Flashlights do come in handy to keep our eye out for snakes when we walk back from the shower, however. *smile* And yes, Laurie and I have been known to read our emails by candlelight as well.

You probably know where I’m going with this. All of these various forms of light that shine brilliantly into the darkness are visible pictures of what God commands His children to be: “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world," Philippians 2:15

I just thought I would share one example (out of many) of this spiritual light and darkness that may give you a better idea of ways to pray as we continue on this mission here in Sudan.

On Friday, as Daniel Faris, Laurie, and I were getting ready to leave for Aweil Town (to pick up Jan, a new team member for the month), there was a great commotion outside the gate. A woman had been attacked by a stray dog and was having violent reactions. Daniel was able to drive her to Aweil town for medical attention, and Laurie and I rode along and prayed (Later we were informed that the cause of her disturbing reactions were most likely the result of demon-possession.) This was the first time that I have witnessed something like that so closely, and it has caused us to think much upon Jesus, His victory over the powers of darkness, and the impact that the gospel could have in this land. Please pray for Adoot and her family, as well as the many, many people in this area who are still bound by the chains of fear and have not yet experienced the freedom that is found in Jesus Christ.

In contrast, this past Lord’s Day, we had the privilege of worshipping with the saints in Mangar-Aquach, which is the village of the first organized church in this area. Every time I visit that area, I am amazed at the joy and sincerity that radiate from their faces. This week, we had the privilege of witnessing two important milestones in the church: the ordination of five deacons, and partaking of the Lord’s Supper with them. Both of these events, along with the preaching of the Word, singing, and praying, was a beautiful picture of how God is continuing to grow and build His church.

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3

So yes, there is darkness, but there is also a glorious light – and how great is that Light! I marvel at the ways God is continuing to shine His gospel even more brilliantly into our own hearts as we witness it going out into this community. He truly is worthy of our praise.

As some of you have requested, here are a few more specific prayer requests as we start off this new week:

This Friday, we say goodbye to Daniel, Natalie, and little Samuel as they fly to Nairobi for the birth of their little one. We will greatly miss their presence here in Sudan, but look forward to hopefully seeing them in Nairobi in a few more weeks when we pass through. Please pray for their safety in travel and the birth of baby in God’s appointed time!

We are also grateful for Jan, who has come for a month. We have enjoyed getting to know her! Please continue to pray for her as she adjusts to life here and discerns God’s calling on her life.

On Tuesday (tomorrow), Jan, Laurie, and I are going to do an impromptu workshop/discussion with the women of Manach-Aquach, talking about womanhood and discipleship. Please pray that God would give us the words to say and that we would communicate effectively to a culture and a mindset that is so different from our own. Pray that relationships would be established and that long-lasting fruit would be seen.

Please pray that we would continue to treasure the moments here and use our time wisely as we anticipate the next few weeks ahead.

Thank you for your faithful prayers and support. We praise God for each and every one of you!


Beth & Laurie

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 4 update

Week #4 update
Tue 8/3/10
Dear Family and Friends,
This update is quite late in getting out due to full days and tired evenings—plus a spotty internet connection. But I thought I’d send this out anyways if you are interested in getting a feel for what week 4 was like for us.
Wednesday (28th) – I woke up this morning only to find more bug bite designs on my legs, feet, and arms. Thus I allowed God to avenge me by sunning my mattress for a few days and happily imagined those bed bugs getting the fry of their lives.
Beth and I helped Julie put up a new clothes line this afternoon. We had barely begun when we were interrupted by Zakari who found a bat sleeping above the cho – the outdoor toilet! (I must say that little guy was quite cute!) We dug 2 foot deep holes for the poles, and then—with Julie and the kids—mixed cement in a wheel barrow and set the poles. With the leftover cement, we poured a back door slab upon which all of us (plus Vince) placed a footprint. Julie wrote an inscription that says: “Our Dream Home – To God be the glory – Rev 7:12.”
Thursday (29th) – We watched the kids this morning while Daniel and Natalie went to Aweil Town to check up on the baby. Thankfully Natalie will be allowed to fly at 36 weeks in August – when they leave to Nairobi for the birth.
We also had the opportunity to “shadow” Daniel to a deacon training session in Mangar Akuach—which is Beth’s “village” (since she received her Dinka name from Pastor Thomas who lives there.) After parking the Land Rover, we had a 15 min walk to the church. It was such a gorgeous walk—with the afternoon sun light bringing richness to the landscape. It was a lot like what I imagine the new earth will look like. I longed to walk around alone with God. As we neared church, we heard the beating of the drum which is used kind of like church bells to call people when it’s time for an event to start. We were warmly greeted by the people. They have this way of greeting by shaking our hand and then putting their hand over their heart, and repeating the motion several times. This is the first organized RP church here in Sudan, and we sensed a specil maturity in this congregation. It was especially wonderful to see God’s evident relationship in their lives.
Friday (30th) – We had a “fun” day helping Daniel and Lual (our compound guard) build an oval-shaped “tin house” for Jan Buchanan (RP missionary in Senegal ) who is flying into Sudan next Friday. One of my highlights, however, was when Lual picked up one of the metal doors from the pile and a hedgehog stumbled out. I ran over and grabbed the little guy up and could feel him start to try to close up. (Now this little guy was just plain adorable!) Before long, however, he managed to squeeze shut until he was a tight prickly ball. He reminded me that when I cling to Jesus in the scary times, the more protected I am from my Enemy of fear, flesh, temptation and discouragement.
Tonight, after Beth and I had fallen sleep, I awoke hearing Beth talking and heading to the door. Initially I thought she was sleep-talking and walking, but then I heard Julie’s voice, asking for the snake identification book in our hut. A village boy had gotten bit by a snake and his family had brought him for help. She’d sent them back to find the snake and bring it to her so she could determine how bad his bite was. We found out later that it was a Burrowing Asp, but he had not been bitten too badly.
Saturday (31st) – Project day at the Wards went well. Beth learned how to weld and I watched the kids. Julie and Beth hung the first two shutters (out of 18!)!
After lunch Beth and I headed back to our bai for a rest and time alone with God. However, we were quickly interrupted upon our entrance when Beth caught sight of a snake-like head peering at us from above our door that leads into our room. I thought she did a great job reacting, and was proud of her for turning to grab her camera instead of running out of the bai. J So Beth went to get some killing help, and I took video of the 2 plus foot long green snake that slithered up onto the ceiling and stopped above Beth’s bed. It was not venomous, but Asouta (one of the village ladies) helped us get it out of our bai and ended up killing it.
Soon after, Ajo arrived for our discussion time helping him understand his English Bible and helped him prepare his sermon for tomorrow. It is so exciting seeing God raise up men to faithfully preach His Truth here. Praise God!
The Lord’s Day (1st) – Worship at church today was especially alive with a packed building. There must have been 90 children and easily 30 adults. About an hour in, Akec (the lady who works for the Farises and is a really sweet woman) nudged my knee and I looked over to see her balancing two babies on her knee. I took one and cradled her. She did not cry—which was unusual—but lay there languidly and only stirred to cough every once in a while. I wondered if she were sick. Before long she fell asleep and I found myself looking down at her little face marveling at this beautiful creation of God’s. I felt the tears rising as I wondered about this little life. Will she grow up to know Jesus as her Savior? Will she experience the freedom of His grace and the joy of His love? All I could do was pray, knowing that He knows—and I had the joy of feeling Christ’s heartbeat for this child—and yes, for this people.
Monday (2nd) – Keer (Peter) came for our hour of English. We were able to help him understand words in his English Bible and to answer his questions over four different passages (and yes, one of them even stumped us and we had to talk with Vince about it later). It was beautiful to see him reading in so many different places of the Gospels and the Epistles and wrestling to understand Jesus’ meaning so that he could preach it accurately.
Tuesday (3rd) – We washed the inside walls of the “tin house” this morning while watching Sammy and Amina (so that Julie could do school with Samuel and Zakari). Our afternoon project were further prep of shutter materials (measuring, grinding, sanding).
Pray we’ll be able to somehow get all these shutters done before we leave. Right now it looks pretty impossible, but if we don’t get them done, they most likely won’t get finished until next year. We’re trusting God for the time, good weather, and working equipment.
The longer we are here, the more God shows us His reasons for us being here at this time in our lives and in the lives of the Cush4Christ team. God’s faithfulness is great and His mercies are new every morning!

Much love in Jesus,
~Laurie (and Beth)

“I will cause Your Name to be remembered in all generations:
Therefore nations will praise You forever and ever.”
Psalm 45:17