Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Last Three Days (Will)

It all started with a phone call. The type of phone call where the person says, “I have some news”, and then starts laughing. Not laughter of the funny sort but of the, “You won’t believe what I’m about to tell you cause it’s so ridiculous,” sort.

Shawn, our team leader informed us on that MAF (the “airline” we use to get in and out of Mundri) had called and told him our airstrip in Mundri was closed for a week for repairs. So, we wouldn’t be able to land there on Thursday when we were supposed to fly. Our options were an airstrip 3 hours away or 7 hours away.

While this sounds reasonable we were shocked. We (our team) is involved in helping raise money in the surrounding area of Mundri for the airstrip repairs. We had no knowledge of any repairs that were needed nor has anyone actually given any money for the repairs. Not to mention it is a dirt airstrip and we’re in the middle of dry season. What could have possibly happened to the dirt strip of land that needed to be repaired?

We were told to think about where we would prefer to land and let them know.

In the midst of this, Heather, Shawn’s wife, got sick. Shawn has also been sick on and off so they were considering staying an extra week in Kampala for more rest.

All our plans would need to be set on Wednesday.

MAF didn’t have any open seats for Shawn and Heather and their 4 kids until February 27. They were now coming with us in spite of illness.

Another phone call…

We had requested an extra 200 kg’s of weight (on top of the 135kg we had for free) on our flight to get all the groceries and supplies (including seedlings I had bought for our agriculture project. Seedlings that need to be watered to keep them alive cause that is what you do with plants, so I’m told.) back in to Mundri. It had been confirmed via e-mail until the above-mentioned phone call.

Rather than having a total of 335kg we were told we only had 225. 1kg is 2.2lbs. We had a lot of weight to ditch and only 16 hours before we had to check in for our flight.

We quickly set aside items we could do without for the next 3-4 weeks hoping MAF can get whatever we left behind to us in Mundri in that time frame. Ground beef, chicken, cheese, butter and some other miscellaneous items were all set aside. After scurrying around for 4 hours we had got the weight down to the right amount.

While shuffling thru our frozen items Shawn informed us to could land in Mundri as there weren’t actually any repairs. Also, the airstrip 3 hours away wouldn’t have been an option as there had been some tribal fighting the night before and the town was shut down. God had cleared that hurdle for us!

In the midst of all of this, I, Will, dropped my cell phone in the toilet. Perfect. (insert not so sweet words said in my head)

I don’t usually do stuff like that. Actually, I’ve never done anything like that. Not once have I ever dropped my phone in water of any sort, much less that of a toilet. This does not make me any better than people who have don’t that many times. However, it lets you know my mental (I wanted to sit in a corner, look out a window and just rock for a little while) and emotional (thought about playing in traffic) at the time.

The "seedlings" that finally made
it to Mundri with us!
Up early. Very early. Car arrived at 5:50am to load our things and get to the airfield that is 45 minutes away.

10 minutes before arriving at the airfield it hits me. The seedlings (the one’s I’m supposed to be watering) were still at our guesthouse. There was no way a car could make it to us before we needed to take off. Our amazing driver, David, quickly called a friend who drives a “boda” (motorcycle taxi) to go get the two boxes of seedlings and bring them to us.

We’re scheduled to take off at 8am. No boda loaded down with seedlings had arrived yet. Engine starts. We’re all buckled in.

And then the camera’s started rolling…

The boda driver arrives at the gate and is quickly ushered through. He passes the plants off to an MAF employee who had been waiting for them with a car. He speeds down to the plane as were beginning to push back…jumps out and gives a look to the pilot of, “please let me put these on the plane. I don’t want to have to water them!” God once again cleared a hurdle.

Still Thursday
We’re now flying somewhere above Uganda.

Shaw and Heather continue to battle some sickness so please pray for them. My phone is drying out and I’m hopeful after a couple days it will work just fine. The food we need/want for the next few weeks is on board plus some of the stuff we thought we would have to leave behind. We did still leave quite a bit behind but we will take the small victory!

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to learn in all of this. I flippantly want to say, “God is good.” And, he is, but it’s not because the seedlings made it on board or because my phone will dry out. He is good because it is his character. His goodness doesn’t waver based on what happens to me.

And, he loves me even when I forget important things or do stupid stuff.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chaos of the Mind

What do you do when you are bored? If you are waiting for something and have an extra minute, where does your mind go or what do you grab?

From being in Uganda over the past two weeks, I have slipped back into patterns that I had from before we  moved to South Sudan. I've slipped back into needing my mind to be occupied all of the time. If I have a spare second, I grab my phone. If I have two spare seconds, I open my laptop and get on Facebook... or check my e-mail... again. I run to something that will entertain me and give me something interesting to look at or think about.

I will be the first to tell you that I love the internet. I think God has used the internet in many great ways. I am most grateful that it allows us to stay connected with friends and family in the States and keep up-to-date with what is going on with our loved ones. We find great joy in seeing cute pictures and videos of our growing nieces and nephews and receiving e-mails from friends and supporters.

However, I'm learning more and more that being so connected has done terrible things for our minds. It causes us to fill the empty spaces in our days with things that are meaningless. It creates noise where there used to be silence and time for contemplation and prayer. I process and pray a lot less when I have the internet at my fingertips. And you know what, most days I prefer that. I think that is precisely how Satan has used the internet (among many other ways...). He uses it as a trap for our minds. Something that can be so good and break so many communication barriers, but it can also clutter our minds to the point where we are distracted, self-consumed and busied.

I actually had the thought the other day that I am excited to go back to Mundri where we have to walk to get to the internet. We have to make an effort and take time out of the day to get online. It is not readily available. I usually complain about that when I am in Mundri, however, I am now becoming very grateful for it. The lack of accessibility to the internet allows me to have the head-space to pray and process and think through things that happen in the day. It allows space for my mind to be quiet and figure out how I am truly doing emotionally. I am grateful that we have the ability to "un-plug" and disconnect on a regular basis because it allows us to connect to those around us and to God. When I'm waiting in line in America and I'm bored, I would whip out my phone and distract myself from the boredom. When I am bored in the market in Mundri, I find someone to talk with and connect to (even if it is just by giggling at each other since the language barrier is still a challenge...).

I'm grateful that something that I found to be a huge inconvenience two weeks ago I now see to be a blessing. I thought it was so annoying that we couldn't check our e-mail at our own house and that I could not check Facebook at any given moment. But now I am finding that the empty spaces in the day are a huge blessing. They allow me to be still before the Lord and to process and think. When my mind is not cluttered by the noise of T.V. and the internet, it has space to process the new Moru words I am learning and to think through how to best love those around me. I'm grateful that life in Mundri allows for more silence and less chaos (of the mind at least ;)).

Team Day Out

Hello All :). It has been a while since I've written because we are still on our break in Uganda. The internet has been choppier than I expected and we have tried to take some time away from everything to rest. However, I am back to blogging and am looking forward to updating the blog about twice a week again.

Last week, we went on a team retreat to a place near Jinja, Uganda. We took a "team day out" on Friday and went exploring. Here are some pictures from the day.
Our first stop was a short hiking trip around a beautiful waterfall. We had a guide who told us about the history of the people who first lived in the area. It was very interesting and extremely beautiful. 

Will and I in front of the waterfall. It felt great to hike as a team and learn more about the Ugandan culture and history.

Our next stop of the day was to go on a boat ride on Lake Victoria. It was unbelievably beautiful! We rode to the source of the Nile River and got to see where the two bodies of water meet. 

This is a view from the boat ride. This is of Lake Victoria.

We stopped at this little shop during the boat ride. It was on a tiny island that was located right where Lake Victoria meets the Nile River. The shop was super cute! You had to take your shoes off to enter the shop because the floor is covered with water from the lake. It was really cool!

This is a picture of R.J., Anna, Heather and me in the shop. They said that the shop/ island does not flood because they recently dammed the river.

Our last stop of the day was to a restaurant called, "The Keep". It was started by an American family and the food was familiar and oh so amazing :). It was really nice to order food that actually came out the way we were hoping it would and to have incredibly delicious milkshakes for dessert!

Our team at "The Keep" before eating lunch.

It was a great day out! We had a great time exploring and bonding as a team. It was nice to take time away from the retreat to "play" together and see the beautiful sights in the area. We are really grateful for the fun day out together!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Not According to Plan

One thing that Will and I learned very quickly with our time living in Africa is that things do not usually go as planned. In fact, when things do go exactly as planned, it's a very surprising day.

Will and I are on our first break away from South Sudan since moving there in October. We flew out yesterday. To fly in and out of South Sudan, we fly with a ministry that brings missionaries to remote locations. We are incredibly grateful for this ministry because it allows us to minister in Mundri without having to take extremely long, bumpy and dangerous car rides into the country. We were told to call the office on Thursday morning at 9:00am in order to find out when the plane would be coming. This is how we find out the time each time we are flying out and the plane usually comes anywhere from 11am-3pm (but remember, there are not always "usuals" in Africa).

So, we were prepared to make the phone call at 9:00 to find out the arrival time of the plane. However, Shawn received a phone call at 8:45am saying that the plane would be there in 15 minutes!! The major problem with this is that we live about 30 minutes from the airstrip! We all immediately starting running around like crazy in order to finish packing, grab something to eat, and load up the car. Five minutes after Shawn received the phone call, we heard the plane flying overhead!! We now had negative time to get to the airstrip!

On the way to the airstrip, we had to slow down and get to the side of the road a few because the military were escorting several governors into Mundri at that exact same moment (of course, right?!). Regardless, we got there as quickly as possible and were in the air by 9:25am.

We typically make several stops when we ride these small planes. We stop in several locations to pick up different people and then always have to stop in Arua, Uganda to go through customs and get our Ugandan VISAS. This time, we had to wait almost 4 hours in Arua so that they could pick up other people and have them meet up with us before going on. While sitting at the tiny restaurant in Aura for 4 hours, it made me giggle to think about how rushed we were just several hours earlier.

We finally arrived to our guest house around 7:00pm. It was so nice to arrive to a clean room, a flushing toilet, warm water and good food! We are very excited about this break in Uganda and are looking forward to resting and eating well. Even though things do not always go according to plan here, they always seem to work out some way or the other. We are grateful for this life that we live and grateful for a God who "works all things for His good".

Monday, January 12, 2015

Toilet Paper

There was a word that I heard every week at church during announcements that always sounded like, “toilet paper” to me. Since the whole service is in Moru, any word that sounds like English always grabs my attention. For the first few weeks, I assumed that maybe they were collecting items for something and they wanted people to donate toilet paper. However, the more I learned about the culture, I realized that people here do not usually even use toilet paper (that’s a story for another day ;)). So, I concluded that this word must have another meaning.

The children dancing before
the message.
Well, last week Will was asked to preach the following week. They announced that Will was going to be the preacher for the next week and I heard (with my little English-hearing ears) that Will was going to be the “toilet paper” next week. Aha!! I had my word! Our teammate Larissa has been speaking Moru for 5 years, so I asked her about this word and it turns out the word for preacher is, “toa-paba”. But I promise, when it is said with a Moru accent, it sounds like “toilet paper” :).

Will preached at the church yesterday. The church deemed Will the “guest of honor” and had the Children’s Church do a special dance and song to greet him. They were so cute! They sang the songs completely in Moru, but my favorite part was that in between songs they randomly chanted (in clear English), “ONE, TWO, THREE, JESUS!!!”. Hehe :). It was so funny!

Will preaching in English while
John translated into Moru
Will did a great job as the “toa-poba” ! He spoke about loving your enemies and about Jesus’ first miracle.  At the end, he discussed how during His first miracle, Jesus does not get the credit for turning water into wine. The bridegroom is given the credit for “saving the choice wine for last”. Will made the connection that this is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. He took our sin on himself so that we could have His perfect record. Just like in the first miracle, He did not get the credit, but we are the ones who are now counted blameless because of His sacrifice. What a great God! It was a wonderful message and we pray that it sunk deep into the hearts of those listening.

Friday, January 9, 2015


I wanted to post some pictures that give you a glimpse of people here/ moments here. This is a random assortment of pictures from our time here so far, but I wanted to show some of the beautiful people we interact with here.

Men waiting for Christmas meal after attending the church service. 

Boys after receiving Christmas gifts and cookies. Look at those precious faces!

A boy playing the drum after the Christmas service at church. He walked back and forth with this drum several times.

I love this picture of friendship. It doesn't get much sweeter than that!

A beautiful woman from our church.

Children spend a lot of time during the day fetching water and carrying to their compounds on their head. It amazed me how hard children work from such a young age.

And just for fun: A silly picture of our team after Christmas dinner. We have a lot of fun together :).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Recently I (Will) have been a bit discouraged. There isn’t one thing in particular I can point to as the source of discouragement but many things, real things, that make me wonder where we can find hope in this country.

War: This is a reality. Rebels continue to fight the government. Peace talks continue but with no conclusion that actually stops the fighting. Recently, and very briefly, there was fighting here in Mundri. Regardless of where the fight is taking place the increased tension war creates is felt in each corner of the country.

Rumors: While the rumors may not be true they are prevalent. For about 10 days all of the cell phone networks were down. No phone calls or texting at all. Rumors of rebel movement, new attacks, road closures and government conspiracies were rampant. On smaller scales, rumors of motives of different tribes and potential retaliatory fighting are widespread.

Division: Tribes are still very divided. While they often live peacefully near and amongst each other, everyone still notices the differences and allegiances are drawn along tribal lines.

Famine: A recent news article stated 2.5 million people will need food aid in 2015 in South Sudan. The fighting continues to leave people displaced from their homes and consequently their farms. People who farm to simply live no longer have the option. Since the heavy fighting that has created famine isn't happening in Mundri we have yet to see this in person.

Heart Issues: No, I don’t mean what your thinking. There aren’t widespread issues of people literally having heart attacks. I mean issues within our hearts that can’t be seen. Whether it is pride, jealousy, anger, lust, etc. it is all here. Not because the people are different but simply because they are human. None of us can escape this one.

All the items above are realities here. They are really happening. War and famine is happening. It isn’t just a picture in a magazine or a clip in a movie. It is real life and there is no break from it.

However, there is another reality that is easy to forget or overlook due to the weight of the issues at hand.

The reality is that of a Savior. Our Savior. He came to earth as a baby to offer hope. He came to save us from ourselves. He came to offer peace in the midst of war and provision in the midst of famine. He came to unite all people under himself. He came to reveal the deep things in our hearts and then did something about them on a cross. He came to offer hope to a people without much of it. And He didn’t disappoint. He came through. He was victorious. Death was defeated and one day all things will be made right. And it all started with Christ the child…the infant in a manger.

Whatever might be going on in your world today may you look to this hope. Pray that we would see this hope here in South Sudan. Pray the people would see this hope, trust Him and maybe then, slowly, war, rumors, division, famine and all our heart issues will cease.

May we see this reality and put our hope there.

“And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’”  Luke 2:10-11

Thursday, January 1, 2015

End to Self Pity

Blog readers, I have a confession to make. I have been consumed with self-pity recently.  I have found many, many reasons to complain lately.  Whether it has been about the heat, the difficulty of our calling to be missionaries in South Sudan, being away from family for Christmas, the list has gone on and on.

A praise song that was very popular before we left the US had a line that said, “Spirit, lead me where my faith is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.” I remember sitting in our comfortable church in Indiana, surrounded by my friends and family, and thinking, “Yes Lord! This is exactly what I want for my life! Lead me wherever you want, and I will follow you there, no questions!” And yet, here I am… exactly where the Spirit has led, and I am complaining and feeling sorry for myself. I am wishing my calling could be somewhere with more seasons, better food, and a little closer to family (sounds reasonable, right?!). What happened to my faith? What happened to my “I’ll do anything for you, Lord!” attitude? Am I this weak that as soon as the going gets tough, I’m ready to throw in the towel and say I’d rather be at a beach?

A very wise woman once told me, “The end to self-pity is gratitude”. If we have a thankful heart, we will not have the capacity to complain and feel sorry for ourselves.

People here seem to go to church on every holiday. If there is anything at all to celebrate, there is a special church service. Since today is New Year’s Day, there was call for celebration, and therefore, a church service. As Will and I were bopping along to the music today in church (yes, music that we still have NO idea what we are singing about), something clicked in me. I looked around this little church building and saw it overflowing with joy. It is incredibly hot outside, some children were wearing raggedy old clothes, there was violence in town just a few days prior, and I spotted nothing but joy on the faces of the people in church today. Not only were their faces covered with joy, but also their bodies couldn’t contain the joy inside any longer and many people would start dancing and cheering in the middle of the praise songs.

I’m finding that South Sudanese people have to be some of the strongest, most resilient people on the face of the Earth. From our Western perspective, they do not have much to be grateful for. Their government is a complete mess, they are almost always in a state of war, there are limited resources (or the resources that do exist are not distributed well), and the education system/ system of order is in complete disarray. But all of these things seemed to have only made the people we interact with stronger. They do the best with what they have and they have some of the most generous hearts I have ever encountered.

So, sitting in the midst of the dancing and praising this morning, I realized I’m ready to kick self-pity in the butt. Gratitude is a choice and so is loathing in self-pity. We came to South Sudan to show the people here the all-sufficient love of Christ. If I choose to sit in the corner and mope, am I really representing the message of the gospel well? Is the message of an omniscient and omnipresent God really penetrating my heart I’m acting as if I’m all alone and no one is noticing my needs?

Today I am making the choice to tell Satan to “bug off” and remembering the battle has already been won. I am able to securely “walk upon the waters” because I know who my Master is and I know the power I have because of Him. I am choosing to count my blessings and serve with a grateful heart, remembering God has provided abundantly for us in more ways than we can even fully understand. Yes, it will still be hot here and I will still struggle with being so far away from family, but it is my choice to let these things consume my mind or to find ways to praise the Lord in the midst of the struggle. May this year be marked by gratitude and genuine abandon for the sake of the Gospel- despite what is comfortable.