Friday, October 31, 2014

Living for Today

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

“This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118:24

I have had a lot on my mind lately. We are living in an unfamiliar place, which is uncomfortable most of the time. My mind has constantly been trying to figure out how we are going to get through different times here. For example, I have had a really hard time adjusting to the heat, but I’ve been told that this is not even close to the hottest time of year. We’re told that March is almost unbearable because it is at the very end of dry season (about 5 months without rain) and it stays hot all day and night without any reprieve.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about our desire to have a family. I wonder what it will be like to raise children here. The worries go on and on.

But, we have a great God who intervenes in our worry.

God has reminded me several times recently that He provides what I need for each day. He will give me the manna that I need for the day.  Planning it out ahead of time is pointless because it comes from Him. So, when I have had a thought of, “Oh my, how will I ever…”. God has brought Matthew 6:34 to my mind and reminded me that there is no use in worrying about it. Not only that, but He has shown me over and over again that when I need grace for something in the future, the grace will be there. He provides what we need when we need it.

Another way that God has met me in my worries is by helping me see beauty in each day. You see, God not only provides what we need for the day, but He does so abundantly! One day that He does this is through the beauty that He provides all around us. Here are some things that have reminded me of His beauty:

In case you can't see this one well, those are monkeys in the tree!

So, my prayer for myself and for all of you is that we would be people who live each day fully without being concerned about the next. I pray that we would trust God for what is to come and trust that He has given us what we need for each day. I pray also that we would be people who take time to acknowledge the beauty in each day and praise the Lord for His beautiful creation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stripped Down

Today marks one month of Will and I living in South Sudan. We said, "Happy One Month" to each other this morning and then both simultaneously exclaimed, "We made it!!" haha. The best way to describe my emotions about this past month is to say that I feel completely stripped of everything that I used to run to as comfort, and on most days, feel completely exposed.

A beautiful tree on our
God kept bringing me to John 15 this week. Specifically verse 2, which says, “He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

This is how I have felt this past month. As if the great gardener is pruning me. In the end, this is a very good thing because it means that I will bear more fruit. But you know what this month has taught me? Pruning is painful. It hurts. You feel exposed and vulnerable and as if you have nothing to cling to.

When we lived in the States, there were a lot of things that I could turn to for comfort on a hard day. These are things such as wasting time on the Internet, watching TV, drinking good coffee, eating chocolate, ice cream and other comfort foods, and spending time with good friends. Most of those comforts do not exist here. Food is extremely limited, Internet is limited and very spotty and it is very pricey to call friends from home. I have nowhere to run to. Most of my “outlets” do not exist here and comfort is something that is very hard to find here.

A mulberry tree on
our compound
But, God knows what He is doing. You prune a tree for a reason. It has to be done for the health and fruitfulness of the plant. It is the same with our spiritual life. Times of pruning and “stripping away” are crucial because they expose what is really going on in the heart. It is not always healthy that I run to comforts on a bad day because it means I’m not running to the One who can actually comfort me in a way that will last- my Creator and Father. Rather, I am running to a temporary fix. I am looking for something that will numb the pain. God has very gently been reminding me since we’ve been here that He is enough for me. He is showing me over and over again that He will sustain me and that He has Will and I here for a reason...even when it hurts.

So today, my trust is in the great gardener. I know that the tree that He plants and prunes will bear much fruit in its time. In the meantime, I will trust in the pruning process. I will rest in knowing that although it is painful, I am learning how to run to the Lord in times of difficulty rather than running to comforts that help ease the pain.

Will you please join us in prayer as we continue to learn what it means to abide in Christ and trust Him as we continue to adjust to life here in Mundri? Please pray that God would be our comfort and that we would run to our Father for peace and truth rather than trying to escape the pain. Thank you for being on this journey with us. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014


One aspect of life that has been different here is how we do our shopping. In the States, I would go grocery shopping one time a week and would go to one store each time. Here, we go to the market almost daily and make multiple stops in the market to get what we need. Everything is so limited here, that there are not a lot of options compared to what we are used to, but we are starting to adapt to what is available. Here is a picture from the food side of the market:

Each vendor has their own table. Most people sell about the same things. It's really interesting because people sitting right next to each other might have the exact same things to sell. However, each vendor typically has their usual costumers who primarily go to their "shop". I am starting to get into a rhythm of buying onions from one vendor and tomatoes from another. It has been a great way to practice Moru and get to know a lot of people in one place.

One thing that has been difficult about shopping here is simply identifying what is in the market. There are some fruits and veggies that we are familiar with from home, but it took me a while to realize what they looked like here. For example, the below picture is (from left to right). An orange, a tangerine and the one that looks like a lemon is a lime :). Other than bananas and papaya, these are some of the only fruits that we can find in the market (at least this time of year).

The picture below looks like mini watermelons, but they are actually cucumbers.

We are beginning to be able to identify each item in the market and are both starting to learn the names of each in Moru and in Arabic. I was really proud of myself yesterday when I bought onions from a vendor and it is completely in Moru! Wahoo! Baby steps, but it was very exciting and we are learning to rejoice in our small accomplishments. 

Another HUGE victory happened yesterday when I found a watermelon in the market!! At first, I thought it was a huge cucumber (because of the way cucumbers look as pictured above), but fortunately the women who was selling it spoke English and told me in clear English that it was a watermelon... I may have done a happy dance in the middle of the market :). It is the only one I have seen and there was only one of them. It was very juicy and delicious. A huge score in the market! Because the fruit options are so very limited here, we get excited about any new fruit that appears. We have learned to buy as many of it as you can because you might not see it again for a long time. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Get Rhythm

Theresa and I are both fans of rhythm. While neither of us has it in the musical sense we love it in our daily patterns. We both enjoy having a sense of what the day will hold. Africa, often having it in the musical sense, does not seem to have it in the daily living sense.

From the beginning this was something we knew we had to choose to not only accept but also embrace. After two years in Nigeria we know fighting it is useless. We have to charge full steam ahead into the seeming chaos that always seems to move to a beat we’ve yet to learn.

All that to say, each day looks different and there isn’t much rhythm other than language lessons three days a week. So, I wanted to offer a quick glimpse of my “typical not-typical” day.

This morning, after breakfast, checking e-mail and IU basketball news (you know, the important stuff) and a quiet time, I rode (bicycle) in to the theological college in Mundri. Shawn, our team leader, and I met with the principle to discuss our future involvement. This meeting turned into us changing light bulbs while standing on a table.

After the meeting/electrical work we met with a “local” man named Manny. Manny is Moru (the predominant tribe in Mundri) however his Mother married a British man and when the war started they moved to Kenya. Manny eventually went to college in England and played professional basketball there. He has returned to Mundri as a missionary using sports to bring peace and the Gospel. His ministry, Flysports, recently purchased land to develop for the sports activities. We got to walk the boundary and pray over the future use of the land.

After lunch in town I had my language lesson with Francis. We read through a dialogue about doing business in the market. I learned how to ask someone to “reduce” the price and plan on trying it out asap.

Theresa’s lesson ended at the same time as mine so we purchased a few items for dinner and rode home with food in our bags and eggs strapped to my back.

The rest of the day will include making dinner, doing dishes, prayer time with our team and probably watching an episode of the West Wing.

So, that was today. Tomorrow looks (at this point) completely different. We pray that as we can’t find rhythm in our daily comings and goings we will find it in Christ. That our days will be filled with the awareness of His presence and that will become more and more of all the “rhythm” we need. Finally, we pray we will learn His rhythm and will follow that beat regardless of where it leads us.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Our focus for the next few months is language learning so we can communicate well with the people. Will is learning Juba Arabic (a pigeon form of Arabic that is written with English letters instead of Symbols) and I am learning Moru (the local, tribal language here in Mundri). We are learning separate languages because of the people we are trying to reach. Will is mainly going to be working with the men in the area, and will also occasionally be traveling to surrounding areas for supplies. Because of that, the people he will interact with most will be speaking Juba Arabic. I will be working with children and want to communicate well with the women who live near us and who have shops in the market. The majority of women and children speak Moru. We will be able to reach more people as a couple since we will have the ability to speak to people in Juba Arabic and in Moru.

Will with his language helper, Frances
We are only about 2 ½ weeks into our time here in Mundri and I already have moments when “just” learning a language doesn’t feel like enough. I have wondered if I have enough purpose in this time. When I think about this, however, my mind goes back to something we learned at our pre-field training in Colorado this past summer.

They explained that for the first 2 years of a child’s life, they are learning language. They usually are not able to communicate in a way adults understand yet, but they are taking everything in. They are observing, listening and babbling to try to take in the language. After the two years, it obviously still takes a while for children to get the sounds completely right and string a sentence together correctly, but it eventually comes together.

Although it may seem pointless, those two years of “taking things in” are critical in a child’s ability to learn a language. They need this time of observing, listening and babbling to be able to eventually speak an understandable sentence.

This is the stage I feel like we are in right now (but hopefully it won’t take two years!). Some days it seems un-productive to my western mindset. I would feel better if I could go out and accomplish something that seems more tangible. However, God has been reminding me of the big picture. He is showing me over and over again that I need this time of “babbling” and saying things incorrectly in order to eventually be able to communicate well with the people.

I keep thinking that at the end of our language learning, I will finally be able to connect with people. However, that is not true. I can connect with them now, even if I look silly with my large hang gestures and butchered Moru attempts. We still bond with children before we are able to speak with them and have them respond.

So, there is purpose in this time. Learning two new languages (between the two of us) seems daunting, but it is critical to our future ministry here. We will, like children, take the time to listen and observe, and eventually we will be able to speak and be understood (and hopefully the large hand gestures will not be necessary anymore ;)).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Normals

I have had quite a few moments lately where I take a step back from whatever I am doing and think, “Wow, I can’t believe this is just normal already”.  Here are some examples of things that are now normal and a part of our everyday life:

1.     Scanning for scorpions and cockroaches when we enter the pit latrine. I walk in, scan the room completely and then enter if there is nothing with multiple legs staring at me, and then go about my business. And, while we’re at it, using a pit latrine in general has become normal, surprisingly. Funny how we adjust :).
The "squatty" latrine. We peek in first and look around before committing to walking all the way in 

A huge cockroach in the corner of the latrine

2.     Cold showers. I thought this would be a hard adjustment, but I actually REALLY look forward to a cold shower at the end of a very hot day. It’s a huge blessing!

A portion of our walk to the office
3.     Walking to office to be able to get on the Internet. We have access to wireless Internet, but it is not located where our house is, we have to walk to the shared office to get online. This is less than a 5-minute walk away from our team house, but far enough that you cannot access it from our compound. Since the Internet is not accessible from our compound, we only check it 1-2 times a day. We are getting used to this, but it has made us realize how frequently we checked e-mail, Facebook, etc. when we were in the States.

4.     Throwing rocks at goats (and yelling at them in a high pitched voice).  Goats here have free roam of any land. They get on our porch and eat our flowers/ crops. Therefore, anytime we see them, we do what we need to do to get them to go away! :)

A goat eating plants on our compound. 
      5.     Explaining to children that our names are not “white man” (kawaja). Anytime kids see us coming down the road in a car or a bike, they start yelling, “Kawaja, Kawaja!!” They even have a song about a white chief of the church that they sing every time they see us. We are trying to learn enough of the local languages to say, “My name is not Kawaja, it is _____”.

      6.     Smelling bad ALL of the time. Okay, maybe I’m not used to this yet, but it is true. We reek constantly. The good news is that we all smell so bad that you can’t smell the other people’s BO because your own is strong… haha. It is so hot here that you feel fresh for about 45 minutes after showing and then you sweat so badly that you’re back to reeking again.

7.     Being able to identify multiple types of animal poop to know what rodents have been in our house. I was worried for a while that we had loads of mice in our house, but learned that the doo doo that I have been sweeping up is from a lizard, not a mouse. That was a relief :).

8.     Ants in the kitchen {and your pants}. If you leave even a speck of food on a sponge, the ants will congregate ALL over the sponge and the sink. We are still getting used to cleaning the cleaning utensils thoroughly so that the ants will stay away. Also, since our clothes are line-dried now, I constantly feel like I have ants in my pants and in my clothes. I’ve gotten used to feeling itchy all the time (and shaking things well before putting them on).

9.     Saying, “Wow, it’s a hot one!” EVERY SINGLE DAY. This comes of out my mouth so often! Haha. I’m trying to catch myself before I say it and realize that every day is a hot one, but it never ceases to amaze me how stinkin’ hot it is here (and we’re not in the hottest time of the year yet… yikes!). 

10.  Hand washing my underwear. We have someone who washes our clothes since it is labor-intensive and time consuming, but I wash my own underwear. It’s not difficult, but I’m finding that you appreciate clean underwear so much more when you have to take the time to wash it yourself! This also means that we are getting used to having clothes lines outside and make-shift ones inside for when it rains and you have to make the mad-dash to grab your clothes from outside and let them finish drying inside.

Although some of these adjustments have been difficult, I’m so grateful for God’s grace in the midst of all of our changes. He has been gentle and kind and has been constantly reminding me that He has made us strong enough for this and that it will be easier. Praise the Lord that He teaches us to adapt and adjust! We serve a great God! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Youth Day

Today was Youth Day in Larissa's church. This is an annual event where the youth choirs preform and it is a celebration of the youth at the church and in the area. Heather, RJ and Andrew (her two youngest sons) and I joined Larissa for this celebration. We were able to help the women in the "kitchen" (large outside area designated for cooking). Here are some pictures from the day. 

 Larissa and I were helping to cut some of the meat until we were told that the work was too difficult, so they had us cut the meat that was already cooked :).
 Some of the women preparing the greens that are used in a local soup that is made.
 Larissa, Heather and I cutting the liver. They do not use cutting boards, so we were trying to perfect our cutting skills while slicing the meat in our hands. We all walked away un-injured! :)
 Right after the previous picture was taken, we were told that we were working too slowly and the food would not be ready in time, so they came to help us. Hehe. We will increase our cutting speed soon ;).
 A women cooking the greens from the second picture. They make it into a soup that has the consistency of slime (yes, that is as good as it sounds ;)). Aren't the pots they use gigantic!
 It takes a lot of people to make lenya (sp?). This is made of ground maize and a type of flour. It starts very liquidy, but they continue to add flour until it becomes like play dough.  Because they eat with their hands, this becomes the "spoon" for their meal.
This is the final product of all of the food (greens and fish not shown). Each plate will have lenya, meat and stew.
There were A LOT of people there, so as you can see, a lot of food was needed! This picture shows a portion of the people who couldn't fit inside the church. The church was packed inside as well. This youth event is a very big deal. It is not often that a church like this would serve meat. They do not even serve this much food for Christmas. It was quite a celebration! 

We had a great day learning more about the culture and helping the women cook. I'm really enjoying learning more about how things are done here in Mundri. Now I'm going to go rest after a long day in the heat! Have a great weekend :).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Week One

Yesterday marked one week in Mundri, South Sudan for Will and I! And wow, what a week it has been! Here are some things that we have learned this week.

Life here is not easy. Everything takes a lot more time than you expect it to, and is more difficult than you anticipate it to be. For example: cooking. Cooking is very involved here because of the very limited amount of ingredients that you can get in town. It took me about 4 hours to make homemade pizza for the team on Friday (with ingredients that we purchased in Uganda). It was delicious, but so much more involved than anticipated.

Driving is also not easy. There is one way to get into town from our compound and the road is TERRIBLE. It is a dirt road with a ton of potholes. I’m talking crater-sized holes. Since it is still rainy season, the whole are filled with water, so you have to maneuver around the holes that are too deep to drive through.  We have learned that biking to town is definitely the way to go if possible.

A sweet family who allowed us to visit with them for a while
The people here are wonderful. Seriously, they are extremely welcoming, loving and kind. When you go into the market, people do not just want you to buy veggies from them, they want to know you. This is a VERY relational society. Everything comes down to relationships. People genuinely want to get to know you and have a relationship with you. We have learned to go to the market when you have time to greet people and even sit and chat for a while. This will become much easier when we know the language better, but for now, everyone is eager to help us learn.

Larissa visiting with some children on a compound visit
Our staff is great. We are really enjoying getting to know our team here. Currently our team consists of Larissa, Scott, Justin, and Shawn and Heather Wallace and their 4 children. Larissa and Scott have lived in Mundri for several years and the rest of us are all new to Mundri. Justin has been here for a few months and the Wallaces arrived 3 weeks before we did. It has been a huge blessing to learn from the “seasoned” staff members and glean from their wisdom. I had the privilege of spending the day with Larissa yesterday and it was incredible. She introduced me to several families that she is close to and we spend the day chatting and being fed by them. Larissa knows the local language (Moru) very well, so it was extremely helpful to listen to her converse with her friends in Moru and hear them respond. We are so grateful to be a part of such a great team!

Here’s to many more weeks in Mundri! Please pray for us as we attempt to learn the languages here. Will is going to be learning Juba Arabic and I will be learning Moru. We needs lots of prayers that God will give us the ability to hear the languages well and connect with good people to teach us well. Thank you!

Look at that sweet smile! This child goes by a nickname, but
his given name is "Barack Obama"... hehe :).

Friday, October 3, 2014

Our Tukul

The traditional type of housing here in Mundri is called a tukul. Traditionally, this housing is made with a mud foundation and grass roof. Ours is made with a concrete bottom and a zink roof. In a time when there has been a lot to adjust to, our tukul has been a bright spot. We are starting to feel settled in it and it is comfortable. Here is a tour of our house.
Will and I outside of our tukul

Our kitchen area. The staff had this added for us before we came
so that we can cook in our own house. There is a small dining area on the other side of the counter.

The extra bedroom that we will use as a sitting area/ workout room.

Our bedroom

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We're Here!

Hey All! We made it safely to Mundri, South Sudan yesterday! Here are some pictures of our journey here.
Will and I on the small plane that takes us to South Sudan

Flying over Lake Victoria. It was stunningly beautiful!

Staff and lots of locals met us at the air strip. Isn't is crazy how
close you can get to the plane!
The internet here is very spotty, but we will try to post a couple times a week. Please stay tuned for more updates.