Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Hello All! I hope that everyone has had a great Christmas season! I have not written in a while, and to be honest, I'm having a hard time gathering my thoughts for a "meaningful" blog post. We have thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas season here, but it did make us feel quite homesick, so we are trying to continue to process everything. For now, I will show you some pictures from our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations.

Our team celebrated together on Christmas Eve. We gathered together and make pizzas (a HUGE treat here! We cannot get cheese in town, so we are not able to make pizza often). After eating, we exchanged Christmas gifts together. Because things are scarce in town, we all had to get really creative with what we got each other. It was really fun to see how intentional everyone was with the gifts they got each other! After gifts, we went Christmas caroling to some of our friends' compounds. It was so much fun! We sang 4 songs at each set of houses. Everyone loved it and started clapping along to the songs (songs that were unfamiliar to them). It was a blast! We really enjoyed the day and had a great time "creating memories" with our new team.

Our team on Christmas Eve

Some of the yummy pizzas!

Our Christmas trees and gifts for each other.
Caroling was hard to capture since it was dark outside, but here is a shot of us caroling by candlelight. We visited Veronica's (pictured on right) compound first, and then she joined us for the rest of caroling. She seemed to really enjoy it!

Will and Shawn hit a home-run this year on finding gifts for their wives! It has been hard for us as couple to have a place to go for date nights. There are no cute restaurants in town or places to go for dates. So, Will and Shawn turned an un-used classroom on our compound into a Date Night Cafe/ Coffee House!! They worked for several weeks to clean out the room, find furniture for it and put up decorations. The made a place to sit and read (with a bookshelf full of books) and a place to sit and watch a movie. They even have a table where you can put a tea kettle and make tea. It was very creative and Heather and I were both really excited! 
All of us in the Date Night Cafe/ Coffee Shop!
 Most of the Christians here in Mundri spend all of Christmas day at church. We went to church from 10:30am until around 5:00pm. The service was about 4 hours long and then they served a BIG meal for everyone afterwards. We really enjoyed the service and had a great time celebrating the birth of Jesus with our new church community. One of my favorite things about the day is that the children get VERY dressed up. If the family can afford it, each child will get a new outfit to wear to church for Christmas. Some of the outfits were very extravagant! Think: little boys in full suits and ties and girls in "flower girl" or Prom-looking dresses :). It was so cute!

Two beautiful girls dressed in their Christmas best!
At one point in the afternoon, a group from another church came over to sing Christmas songs to our church. Everyone was really excited and gathered around them. There were a lot of people at church! 
Everyone gathered around while the other church came to sing

We were very grateful for our Christmas celebrations here in Mundri. We were very touched by how excited people get to celebrate the coming of Jesus TOGETHER here. No one stays around their own house all day, everyone goes to church, visits friends' houses and celebrates with others the whole day. It truly felt like a joyful celebration all day long! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

All In

As part of our Christmas gift a teammate of ours, Scott, gave us all a copy of the “All In Manifesto”. We’d never heard it before and we don’t know who wrote it. However, it resonated with us and we wanted to take a minute to share it with you.

All In Manifesto
Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.
Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions.
Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention.

Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes.
Keep seeking God.

Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution.
Stop repeating the past and start creating the future.
Stop playing it safe and start taking risks.

Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences.
Enjoy the journey.

Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can.
Live like today is the first day and last day of your life.
Don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshiping what’s right with God.

Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails.

Don’t let fear dictate your decisions.
Take a flying leap of faith.

Quit holding out. Quit holding back.
Push all your chips to the middle of the table.
It’s time to ante up all your faith.
It’s time to go all in.
It’s time to go all out.

I (Will) found this little message timely as God showed us he had gone “all in” on our behalf when he sent his son to become man. It was his way of saying I’ll do anything to save these people. And not just any people but a rebellious people.

May we take time to pause and thank God for going all in through his son, Jesus Christ. May we take time to celebrate what his life means for us. May we take time to consider that the way we live our lives communicates how far “in” we are towards God. Most importantly, may we remember his all in continues to this day as we have access to the throne of grace. Merry Christmas from South Sudan!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Cheer!

It has been a great week of spreading Christmas cheer here in Mundri! I will tell you about the week through pictures.
 Our teammate, Justin worked at a Christian High School before he moved to South Sudan. This year, students from that school did their own version "operation Christmas child" and sent items for children here in Mundri. As a staff, we had the privilege of creating gift bags for specific children that we know in town. It was so much fun to hand-pick gifts for these children that we have come to love so quickly! The above picture is Heather and Larissa after beautifully wrapping gifts for children in the area.
I have become friends with a family who lives in town. I visit them about once a week and practice language with them. I was able to bring a bag of Christmas gifts for the children on this compound. This bag included coloring books, colored pencils, a jump rope, a Children's Bible and candy. They were thrilled!

Each time that we delivered gifts to a compound this week, we also shared the Christmas story with the children. We explained to them that Christmas is not just about getting gifts, but that the main reason for Christmas is Jesus. At the compound pictured above, I read the Christmas story while Larissa translated into Moru. The parents were so excited that we were telling the children about Jesus! They asked if we would come more often to read Bible stories to their children.

Yesterday, my language helper, Mary, and I decorated Christmas cookies! I taught her how to make cookies while she taught me to say what we were doing in Moru. It was such a fun lesson! We brought these cookies to the children at her compound and to the staff at the Episcopal Church Office. 

These are some of the beautiful children at Mary's compound enjoying the cookies.

It was a great week! I am so grateful for so many opportunities this week to share the true Christmas story with some of the children in Mundri. We are extremely grateful for the students and staff at Justrin's school at home who sent so many wonderful toys and gifts for the children. It was a great way to share some Christmas cheer with so many people here in Mundri!

Children at Mary's compound showing off their new toys

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Larissa, Shawn and Justin all "robed up"
for the graduation. They were a part of the
staff that was recognized at the ceremony.
On Saturday, our staff attended the graduation for ANTC (Archbishop Ngalamu Theological College).  ANTC is a part of the Episcopal church here in Mundri. One of the ways that Serge partners with the Episcopal church here is by supporting and teaching at ANTC. Larissa has taught agriculture classes at this seminary for several years. Justin, Shawn and possibly Will are planning on teaching there in the future as well. Ten students graduated with their seminary degrees and will hopefully go on to be pastors of various churches.

A graduate after receiving his diploma
and being celebrated by his family
The graduation ceremony was very formal and lasted for four hours. Yes, four hours :)! Bishops from all over the area were in attendance and many of them gave speeches. There was a lot of singing and cheering as well. My favorite part of the service was that after the graduates received their diplomas, their family could dance up to them and put leis and large necklaces (some were made from peanuts) around their necks! One of them had so many necklaces around his neck that you could hardly see his face! His family even topped it off by putting a basket on his head! It was a really fun way to celebrate the graduates. It was fun to see their family’s delight in their success.

After the ceremony, they had a huge meal for everyone. There were hundreds of people at the ceremony, so it was a lot of food! The food was delicious! There was bread, greens with peanut paste, beef and potatoes, chicken, beans and rice. It was fun to meet new people at the meal and to eat together as a team.

It was fun to see how this culture celebrates graduations. We pray that each of the graduates have success in sharing Christ with others and that they will be men and women of honor in their future ministries.

All of the graduates, staff and bishops that where honored at the ceremony

This is one of the ways they decorated for the ceremony. They painted phrases and words on each of the buildings. They even painted the bottom of some of the trees white to decorate them. This building is the chapel where they held the graduation ceremony.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Early Christmas!

Christmas came early to us here in South Sudan! We received several packages from family and friends in the US on Tuesday. It was extremely exciting!! There are moments when the mission field can feel very lonely, and receiving treats and notes from home is very uplifting!

When Will and I opened each package, we “oohed and awed” over each item. We would often exclaim, “This is the best day ever!” or “We feel so loved!” (okay, maybe those statements were mainly me, but Will was super pumped as well :)).

Our church community in Bloomington had a going away party for us before we left in September. At this gathering, everyone wrote notes of encouragement to us. These letters found their way to us in the packages on Tuesday. It was such a joy to read through each note! We both felt uplifted, loved and cherished. We will re-read these notes often.

I was thinking when I woke up the next morning, how God used receiving packages to uplift my spirit. I was starting to trudge through each day and try to just “make it through” the heat, etc., but getting these goodies from home put a little more bounce in my step and joy in our hearts. I had been doing really well with meals, but at the beginning on this week, I started to run out of ideas of what to cook for lunches and what to grab for snacks. Receiving protein bars and snack items from home was perfect timing! I love how the Lord lines things up so well for His children!

I am so grateful for this huge encouragement this week. I smile every time I glance at our shelf full of treats and think about the generous hearts who have made us feel so loved this week. It was another reminder of how grateful we are for our support system in the States and how loved we feel by our community at home. Thank you to everyone who was a part of sending us packages this week (and to my family who sent a package a few weeks ago). We are deeply grateful and refreshed:).  Praise the Lord for this encouragement!

Sunday, December 7, 2014


We are currently in “dry season” here in South Sudan. The rains stopped a few weeks ago and it will not rain again until around April or May. We learned this week that one thing people do in dry season is burn their farms. Burning their land is the quickest way to clear it and to be able to prepare the land for the next farming season.  They usually burn their land at nighttime and let it run its course until it stops.The problem with burning land here is that it is hard to monitor a fire and stop it if it is going to far.

Each night, we have seen fires around our house. Usually, the fires die down before they get too close. However, on Thursday night, our closest neighbors lit their land on fire. They did not monitor the fire closely and it kept coming closer and closer to our compound. We were all watching it closely and were able to put it out with branches when it got within about 40 yrds of our house. It was pretty easy to put out at that point and nothing was damaged. Everyone was totally fine and it didn't cause any harm at all. 

Crazy, isn’t it?! To us, burning a large plot of land without controlling it well seems crazy, but it is a part of their culture and they do it for a reason.  We are learning that the best thing we can do is continue to work to understand the culture rather than complain about it and try to change it. They do what they have to in order to survive here, and even when it seems strange to us, they have their reasons. So, we will continue to love our neighbors well- and keep our fire-fighting branches handy ;).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Shopping

The holiday season has arrived! Even though we are far away from what feels like “normal” holiday traditions to us, we are trying to do what we can to still make the holidays feel special here. In honor of us, Heather, Anna and I went to town recently to do Christmas shopping! Here is a glimpse into how differently Christmas shopping looks for us this year.

Heather and Anna walking to town for our Christmas shopping
We decided to walk to town so that we could enjoy the views and not have the stress of driving. As usual, we greeted people along the way and met new people along the road.

There are a lot of new things in the market this time of year because of Christmas. One of the main differences is that there are a lot of large piles of used closed (mostly from the States, it seems) laid our in different places throughout the market. The bulk of our Christmas shopping this year was done by sifting through the clothes in these piles. All of these clothes are used (even though some of the men selling them insist that they are “completely new”). It was quite entertaining to rummage through the clothes. We found all kinds of gems including t-shirts with pictures of ET, Star Wars characters, a worm holding a bottle of Jim Bean (yeah??… very random!),  Rolling Stones, The Beetles and many more. It was also funny to see shirts from different colleges in the US. You never quite know what you will find! Since the piles of clothes are completely out in the open, there is obviously no where to go if you need a “dressing room”. So, you improvise! You put the item of clothing in question on over your clothes and as your friends to be your “mirror” for you :).  The best part about rummaging through these piles of clothes is that they will often have music blaring nearby and you never quite know what will start playing. While we were looking at one pile, Bob Marley was jamming through the speakers.

Trying on a shirt in the market. Don't worry, my "mirrors" told me that this was not a good fit for me. Personally, I think the woman's look in the background says enough :). 
Heather displaying a random find from one of the clothes piles
We also went into several of the shops in town during our Christmas shopping excursion.  To the right is a picture from one of the shops. They all look similar to this. The shops are small rooms with items placed wherever there is extra space. There is usually no guessing what will be in a certain shop and each shop can have a large variety of items (such as plates, flip flops and socks all in the same small shop). I walked into one shop and got extremely excited because they had Q-tips! I had not found Q-tips in town before, so I was thrilled! Oh the things I get excited about now ;). 

Anna and Heather holding the "bounty"
from the day of shopping!
We ended up finding quite a few things to give as Christmas gifts! We also did our grocery shopping at the same time since all of the shopping is in one place. The problem with walking to town to shop is that you might have a lot to carry back! Fortunately, Shawn met us with the car so that we did not have to walk back with all of our items.

It was a great day of Christmas shopping! Christmas will look different in many ways this year, but we are all looking forward to starting new traditions and enjoying new ways of doing things throughout the holiday season.