Monday, May 25, 2015

The Cost

We received word on Friday morning that there was an attack in Mundri the night before. From what we've gathered (it is very hard to get accurate information in situations like these), there was some activity from the military and an important man in town was killed. The local youth then fought back and tried to fight against the military. This became and on-going issue all weekend that left around 75% of the people from town, hiding in the bush. They fled as soon as trouble began and without much warning. Therefore, they had very limited food or resources.

Due to how amazing technology is, we were actually able to keep in contact with some of our friends from Mundri during this process. Will, Justin and I (along with members from the previous team in Mundri) would call people in town daily to check in and see how things are going. Moru people are resilient. They believe very much in the power of God and in His protection. They are very quick to give Him credit for their lives being spared and their families being sustained. We were amazed as they spoke to all of these things during our conversations with them. At the same time, there was great fear in their voices as they spoke at a whisper while trying to fill us in on the latest details and continue to remain hidden in the bush.

The news we got today is that the government is now in control of town things are slowly calming down. We have heard that town was completely looted and shops were broken into. When people gain the courage to go back to their homes and shops, they will most likely find their belongings stolen and rummaged through.

While we were getting the news today about Mundri, I got word that my sister is in labor! She is about to have her third child! I am thrilled for her, but oh, my heart aches to not be there with her. I am mourning the fact that I will first set eyes on my new niece or nephew via a computer screen rather than being able to hold that precious bundle of joy in my arms (although, again, technology is amazing and I'm grateful I'll have the opportunity to see that sweet baby today!).

Through all of our experiences lately, Will and I have been reminded over and over again of the cost of being a missionary. It is so hard to love people around the world because then your heart is left in pieces... all around the world! It killed us to not be with our Moru friends this weekend as they were fearful and hiding in the bush. No, we wouldn't have been able to help. In fact, we would have been more of a hindrance. But, our hearts so badly wanted to be with them as the suffered. We wanted to experience what they were experiencing so that we could love them well through it. At the same time, it is so difficult for me to not be with my sister today. I hate the fact that I cannot be closer to her today or help occupy her other while while she is in labor. It is painful to be so far away from people I love who are in horrible times and extremely exciting times.

Will was listening to a song called, "The Cost" by Rend Collective today. It is a beautiful song and I recommend that you listen to it here. The lyrics struck Will while he was listening to this today because it spoke to where our conversations have led to lately. God has reminded us that the cost of love is worth it. We'll be the first to tell you, this is a hard week to say that in the midst of. Our hearts hurt this week. However, we are convinced that loving people deeply and well is worth the pain it brings... even on weeks like this. Love is always worth it. Following God is always worth it. Even when it leaves your heart in many pieces and leaves you aching to be in many places at once. He is worth it.

I do not need safety
As much as I need You
You're dangerous
But Lord, You're beautiful

I'll chase You through the pain
I'll carry my cross
'Cause real love
Is not afraid to bleed

I've counted up the cost
Oh, I've counted up the cost
Yes, I've counted up the cost
And You are worth it

"The Cost" -Rend Collective

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It Takes a Village {because it should}

When will and I were preparing to come to South Sudan, I remember thinking about the old saying, "it takes a village to raise a child". I connected this to getting to the mission field and realized that it also takes a village to send a missionary. I believe missionaries were not meant to go into the field without a community of people sending them and supporting them through prayer.

As I posted recently, Will and I are mourning the loss of our first pregnancy due to a miscarriage. about 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. I think because this percentage is so large, people don't like to talk about it when it happens to them. Maybe that's because it's hard to know how to mourn a miscarriage well or simply because it seems too personal.

What Will and I have learned through being sent to the mission field by many incredible people who support us financially and pray for us weekly (we seriously have the best supporters ever!), is that we need our village of people with us if we're going to make it in this crazy life.

Life is hard.

Dealing with the difficulty of life while on the mission field away from family is really hard.

When difficult things happen, we need the body of Christ around us to build us up and encourage us. To remind us that we're going to be okay and that God is good even in the midst of hard circumstances. We need people who will be present with us (yes, even through e-mail and phone chats) and give us a (cyber) shoulder to cry on. We are strengthened by the grace and presence of others.

I am learning that people cannot be present for you or support you if they don't know what is going on in your life. If you don't share that you are going through a hard time, no one is going to know that you need to be supported in that difficulty.

Hebrews 3:13 says, "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness". 

What a powerful verse! Most of the hard things that happen to us are results of sin in this world. Death was never meant to be. It was not a part of God's original plan. However, sin brought death into this world. A lot of the hardships we deal with on a regular basis are due to sin entering this world. We need each other as believers because we need reminders that sin/ death/ destruction/ whatever you are dealing with is a meant to deceive us. It is not of God. We have an enemy who is out to kill, steal and destroy and yet, we often direct our anger and frustration of those things in the wrong direction. We need each other daily to uplift each other in truth. We need to remind each other to not be deceived when bad things happen to us. We need to remind each other that God is good, even when life is hard.

Will and I have felt incredibly loved and cared for in this difficult time. We are grateful for the hundreds of prayers prayed for us and for the many e-mails and texts messages that have been sent to check in on us. We are convinced more than ever that as Christians, we need each other. We each need villages around us of people who will rejoice with us in the joyful times and mourn with us when sadness hits. We need people in the good, bad and ugly of our lives. We are beyond grateful for the people who have supported us in this journey. We will continue to share the hard things with you, because you know what? We need you! We need your prayers, your love, and your presence in our lives.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
                                                         Hebrews 10:24

Mundri Friends

From left to right, Theresa, Will, Paul, Bishop, Justin
Last night we had the joy of hosting two of our friends from Mundri to our house for dinner. Bishop Bismark (the Bishop of Mundri and our close ministry partner/ neighbor in Mundri) and Paul (the dean of the theological school we partner with in Mundri) are in town for an agriculture conference and were able to visit us on their evening off. It was such a joy to see Bishop and Paul! We were able to catch up and hear how things are going in Mundri. I enjoyed hearing a little bit of Moru (it's been too long, I need to practice!).

Paul and Bishop at dinner along with
two of our Kijabe team members,
Scott and Karen
Having Bishop and Paul visit reminded us of how much we miss Mundri. We are so fortunate to be able to partner with both of them in South Sudan and are eager to get back to the work we were doing there. Seeing them reminded us of the need to pray for South Sudan and the Moru people. Here are some ways we are praying for the people of Mundri. Please join us in praying for them.

  • Pray for peace in South Sudan. Pray that the war will end and the country will experience God's shalom peace. 

  • Pray that God would provide for the people of Mundri. The economy in South Sudan is really struggling and things in the market are very expensive! Please pray that people would be able to provide for their families and have enough food to eat. 

  • Rainy season has hit hard this year. It has rained much heavier than usual this early in the rainy season. Please pray that houses would not be damaged by the heavy rains. Pray for protection for the people in Mundri as the roads continue to worsen due to the heavy rain. 

Thank you for upholding the Moru people in prayer. We long for the day we can be together with them again, but for now, we are grateful for the visit with Paul and Bishop and we will continue to pray for protection, provision and peace for the people in Mundri.

Monday, May 11, 2015

In Hopes Deferred

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." 
Proverbs 13:12

I have not fully understood the weight of "a hope deferred" until this season of our life. 

Will and I left the mission field in Nigeria only to feel called back into missions less than a year later. After raising support and making plans, we made it to the field in South Sudan last October, eager to get started on the work God so clearly called us to. 

I have longed to be a mother for many years now. It has always been a longing of my heart and ever since Will and I got married (almost 7 years ago), I was so excited that my day to be a mom would soon come. 

We had to evacuate South Sudan suddenly, after only being there for five months. Once we left the field, we did not have a large enough team to return. We are in a waiting season. Waiting for the green light that it is safe enough to return and that we have a big enough team to be sustainable on such a remote field. Our hope of life in South Sudan and ministry in our rural community is deferred. So, we wait. 

After many years of seeking the Lord for timing to start a family, we felt the freedom to begin trying. After a very short time of trying we got pregnant. Two weeks after finding out we were pregnant, I had a miscarriage. Hope deferred. The longing for a family is prolonged. So, we the pain.

deferred: to put off to a later time. To postpone. 

So here we sit. In hopes deferred. In longings being postponed. They are not longings that are sinful or extravagant. We are longing for good things, but for things that are not coming to fruition yet. The hardest part of a hope deferred is not knowing if or when your longing will be fulfilled. So, we hold on to hope. We wait in the hope of knowing that if our longing is fulfilled, it will be a "tree of life". Some days, that hope is easier than others. Sometimes that seems obvious and it is easy to hold on to hope. Other days, it doesn't seem worth the heartache that lurks in the waiting. It's too hard. There's too much pain and too many unknowns. But God calls us to Him in this waiting. These heartaches are not from Him. Death is not from God, war is not from God. They are evidences of sin in this world. He is weeping with us in this. He did not do this to us. So we go to Him and we wait. We wait for hopes to be fulfilled and dreams to come to pass. We trust that He is sufficient in the waiting, even when the waiting is painful.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

All the Current Hapenings

 Time for a general, “What have we been up to?”, blog. Enjoy!

Current Work
Theresa has settled in to teaching kindergarten here at Rift Valley Academy (RVA). She teaches M-F, 8am-12pm. Nine children get the privilege of being taught by the best teacher I know. She has enjoyed being back in the classroom, but, in all honesty her heart is still very much with the marginalized children and teachers in Mundri.

I, Will, have been teaching PE to 1st-6th graders at RVA. I haven’t played dodge ball yet but that will change next week when some of my classes double in size due to a special week at RVA. While teaching is not my passion (nor what I studied) it has been good to get to know kids and be a productive.

I’ve also been able to connect with Care of Creation, a sustainable agriculture ministry based near RVA. I’m going to help them reach out to past farmers who have been through there training and find which farmers would like to have further training. I’m grateful to have things outside of RVA to keep me busy!

We both are also assimilating to a new Serge team in Kijabe, a new culture in Kenya and a new culture at a Christian boarding school… all good things, but a lot of transition.

Current Thoughts
Life can be really hard sometimes. When you think everything is up in the air something else happens to make you realize there were still some things anchored to the ground, but they’re not anymore.

Without going in to all the current happenings of the past few months Theresa and I both have realized on a deeper level the need of our anchor being in Christ and not the things or circumstances of life.

Also, we look forward with eager expectation to the day when death and dying (whether it is of babies, teams or dreams) are no more. We’ve had enough of it for now.

Current Plan
Warning: Everything you are about to read can (and probably will) change.

We have a plan for returning to Mundri!

In September, Theresa, Justin and I, will head back in to Mundri with two other “newish” teammates. We will be there through November to see if (1) if a team of 5 is a viable size team in such a remote place, (2) what it would take to make it viable and (3) for individuals in that group to spend time praying if this is where the Lord is leading them longer term.

There are a lot of details in the midst of this plan that could make or break our ability to do it. Mainly, the state of the country at that time and our ability (via Mission Aviation Fellowship) to get in and out of Mundri safely will determine if we can return.

A couple questions you might be thinking…

What about after November?
Tough question…

Remember earlier when I said a lot of things are up in the air…this is one of them.

We are talking, praying and discerning what would be best. Our time in Mundri this fall will help determine some things, but probably won’t provide complete clarity. That said, Theresa and I (and Serge as a whole) are fully committed to being in Mundri and figuring out a way to make that happen.

What if you can’t go in September?
Seriously, cut it out with the hard questions! I mean, who else has any idea what they will be doing or where they will be living in September?

Honestly, we don’t know.

Again, we’re committed to going back to Mundri and still very much feel called there. Not going back in September doesn’t change that, but it does create more questions than it does answers. Details of how are very much up in the air, but our desire is not.

If you have any questions about our current happenings or the plan above please feel free to contact us!

Finally, please continue to pray for the people of Mundri and South Sudan. Pray also that our team would be able to return in September.