Saturday, February 28, 2015

Inner (God) Stength

One thing we have learned about life here in Mundri is that it is unpredictable. Everything always seems to be changing. Rhythms seem to be nearly impossible due to the inconsistencies life here brings. This week has not been an exception to this reality. Let me give you a picture of what the week has held.

One week ago today, the Wallace family flew to Kenya for medical care. Shawn, our team leader, has had kidney/stomach issues for about two months and needed medical attention that was not available here in South Sudan. We are grateful they are able to get the medical attention needed, but their absence has made for a quiet compound. They will be in Kenya for the next several weeks getting medical care and we will meet them there in about a month when we go for an East Africa Serge Retreat.

Our teammate, Larissa, is currently in the US for two months. Therefore, our team in South Sudan currently is Justin, Will and myself. On Wednesday, Justin threw his back out while trying to lift a generator into the back of the truck. He has had limited mobility and has needed to rest and recover for the past few days (and for a while to come).

When anything changes here, we have to reassess what we are doing and re-prioritize what needs to be accomplished. This has been a week of figuring out what those priorities are now and how to best serve and love our team. Our hearts have been torn between concerns for the Wallace family, concern for Justin’s back and recovery process and perseverance in our own language learning and workloads.

A friend sent me a quote from Graham Cooke yesterday that I found to be very timely. The quote is, “You can tell the quality of someone’s inner life by the amount of opposition it takes to discourage them”. We are not being “opposed” right now necessarily, but we seem to be in a season containing a lot of hurdles. I have been a person in the past that is easily discouraged. I remember my dad telling me in high school that I could be having a fabulous day with everything going wonderfully and then one bad thing happened and all the sudden I deemed it, “The worst day EVER!”. Now, some of that was just being a dramatic teenage girl, however, this tendency has continued in my life.

If we truly believe, as Christians, God is who He says He is, then it will take a lot to get us down. If we trust in God’s character and believe He is in all things and has power over all things, then we will be people who are unshakable and hard to discourage. I want these beliefs to be evident in my life. I want to be a person who is not easily discouraged by what goes on around me because I am fully aware of the power of the One inside of me. I want to be someone who can laugh in the midst of opposition and difficult weeks because I am aware of the One who has the power and control over life itself. I am on a journey towards this through the grace of God. I am by no means at this point and know that to get there, it takes a deep awareness of God’s character and power. In this, I do not want to beat myself up when I allow things to get under my skin (like the obnoxious goats that are currently roaming our compound with loud groans), but rather have a heightened acknowledgement of God’s strength. Despite what next week brings, I pray that we are able to trust in the power and strength of God and rest in the inner strength that brings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Working Together

Today I had the privilege of helping people from church build a store at the church. A “store” is a small building used for storage. The church has not had a place to put extra books and resources that they have, so they decided to build a small building to help keep things more secure and organized.

While I was helping today, I was amazed (as always) by the resourcefulness of the people here. Almost everything that they used to make the store was natural and, therefore, free. A couple of weeks ago, they made bricks out of mud. They allowed these bricks to harden in the sun for a while so they would be sturdy enough for building with. Today, they used string and sticks to map out straight lines. They then arranged the bricks on top of each other and cemented them together with wet dirt from the place where they dug in the ground to place the bricks.

Will was working on farming preparations today, so I went to help by myself. I had never helped with anything like this yet, so I was unaware of the protocols. However, I quickly learned that the actual “building” process is typically the job of men and the women fetch water for the men and cook so that the men have food to eat when they are finished. Well, I got there before ALL of the women and before I learned this handy fact. So, I did the work of a man today! I used the machete (with the green handle pictured on the right) and chiseled off the old mud from the used bricks to make them even and able to be used again. It was tedious, but very manageable work and it allowed me to listen to the Moru and Arabic that was spoken around me and try to decipher words that I recognized. While we were working, our pastor said, “I have never seen a Kawaja (white person) work with us here before!” He was really excited about that. I explained that I hope he will see that a lot more as we continue to do things like this with the church.

There is something freeing about working alongside people. Here in Mundri, people usually do not allow us to do much. They area always putting us in a place of honor and therefore, do not like to see us get our hands dirty and work hard like they do. I really enjoyed being allowed to work with them today. It was exciting to be included in the community in this way and get to know people casually as we worked together. I am grateful to have had this opportunity today and am looking forward to many more days of working together with our new church community.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dry Season

We are in the middle of dry season her in Mundri. I was struck the other day by how different everything looks now that it has not rained in over 2 months. The change has been so gradual over the past few months, that it has just hit me recently how big the difference is between how things look in rainy season vs. dry season. Here are some pictures to show the difference.

Rainy Season

Dry Season
Flowers near our house during rainy season

The same spot during dry season
 As the land here is parched and dry, these words from Isaiah have continually come to my mind.
"The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail."

One thing that has amazed me during this season is that even in the midst of this been a season of "sun scorched land", God has provided some plants that flourish in this weather. To the right is a picture of a tree that is in the middle of our compound next to the latrine. It is absolutely beautiful this time of year! Every time I notice it, I praise the Lord for sending beauty into this season where everything else is dry and dead. I have been praying that God would direct my eye to the beautiful things in the midst of this dry season. The wonderful thing is they are easy to spot because beauty "pops" in the midst of dry and dead things. My eyes have been drawn to the colorfully feathered birds and other plants in town that are surviving this dry season. I'm grateful for these reminders of life and of beauty. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


The shower that we had added onto our house was finished yesterday! We will be able to use it for the first time today.

In order to attach the shower room to our house, they had to break through one of the walls in our bedroom. They busted through the wall where our shelves used to be. This is now the entrance to the shower and we will have shelves for our clothes in the hallway to the shower.

Our room before the addition

The entry after they busted through the wall
After they broke through that wall, I remember thinking, “this will never seem normal. Our room will always seem different and I don’t think I will get used to this.” Now, this was very “twelve year old girl who was just told she was moving schools” of me, but it felt real at the time. This feeling was perpetuated because the workers left for a few days and the room was left with concrete splattered on the walls and concrete on the inside of the shower area.

As a finishing touch yesterday, they painted the shower room and ceiling the same color as the walls in our bedroom. When I first saw it I thought, “Wow, this might actually feel normal now!”

The entry to the shower after they finished painting
The inside of the finished shower area
As I was going to be last night, I realized these feelings were similar to how I was adjusting to life here in Mundri. When we first moved here it didn’t seem like it could ever seem normal to live here for five years. Everything was so different and so uncomfortable that I really wasn’t sure if I would ever adjust. However, here we are 5 months later and I’m starting to think that there is hope of adjusting to this life. It’s as if God is slowing showing me that the paint colors are starting to match up and the room will look more “normal” soon. This has to be divine intervention because I know I don’t have the strength to adjust to this lifestyle on my own abilities. The people here have been made strong through their difficult circumstances and I haven’t had to have the strength that they have needed in their lives. However, God has seen our situation and had grace on us. He is helping us to adapt, one paint stroke at a time, and is showing us glimpses of how far we are coming along the way. One day this life in Mundri will feel more normal and will fit inside the story of our lives like it belonged there all along.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


When you think of laughter, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s good jokes, funny movies or remembering good memories with friends. In my cultural schema, laughter is something that takes place when something strikes you as funny and when you are amused in some way.

I am learning that Moru people laugh when they are startled by something. For example, I have been in the market several times when a fight breaks out. Usually these fights are between two women and they take place in the “greens section” of the market. I don’t ever get the full story, but I think the fights are usually over someone wanting a particular type of green and being angry when someone else gets the last one. The whole scenario is odd to me, however, what is the most confusing is the response from the people in the market. Everyone who is nearby starts laughing loudly and everyone who is far away runs up to observe and then join in with the laughter.

Something similar happened in the market yesterday and I happened to get swept up in the midst of it. I was walking through the “green section” (apparently this is a hot spot for drama!) All of the sudden, people started RUNNING and pushing me- forcing me to run as well. Being swept up in the movement, I ran until I could pull off and figure out what happened. Immediately, everyone around started laughing. I, however, was far from laughing. I stood there (once I was to safety), with a very confused look on my face, trying to figure out what the heck had just happened. Soon, everyone who was not in the stampede, walked over to see what the cause of the running way (while laughing, of course). At first, someone said that there was a snake. However, we learned a couple minutes later that it was not a snake, but rather a boy (who had a disease which effects you mentally) throwing rocks at people. Regardless, everyone around found it to be hysterical and continue laughing for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I was almost in tears from the confusion and Will kept asking me if I needed to sit down for a minute before biking to my friend’s house.

I am still trying to figure out why people laugh in these situations. However, it has made me think about my own personal reactions to situations. What habits do I turn to in order to not deal with what is really happening in a situation? With what happened yesterday, I turned to confusion and protecting myself rather than concern for the person who was mentally unstable enough to throw rocks at people. I did not stop and pray for that person or even inquire more about what happened. I simply just wanted to protect myself and leave the market so that I would not have to deal with any more unpredictable situations.  When I am not swept up in the situation, I also have the tendency to simply ignore what is going on so that I don’t have to deal with it.

So, I am learning that whether my tendency is to laugh at unpredictable situations or to turn away and ignore them, the heart issue is the same. It is a heart-posture of indifference. I don’t want to be a person who is indifferent. I want to be “prepared in season and out” and ready to pray and intercede on behalf of others in the midst of alarming situations. Whether you laugh or walk away from the situation, you are being a passive by-stander. God is not a passive God and I do not believe that He calls us to be passive either. I am trying to find the line between intervening appropriately in a situation and getting involved beyond my ability. I don’t know where that line is yet, but I am praying (for myself and for the people of Mundri) that the Spirit will lead us to know how to not just be by-standers when it is appropriate for us to stand up for what is right and intervene.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Trash Pits, Red Eggs (and other things that distract)

There are three things that can frustrate the members of our team in a split second. They are: kids in the trash pit, spoiled eggs and herds of goats trying to destroy our compound. Let me explain…

Our "non-burn" trash pit with trash scattered all
around from the kids who enter the pit 
We have a nice, simple (you should laugh at that, nothing is simple here…) plan for getting rid of trash here in Mundri. Since there is no trash system in this country, everyone has to deal with disposing of their own trash. For the rest of that town, that seems to mean throwing the trash wherever is most convenient. However, our former team members created a great system for disposing of trash on our personal compound. We have a pit for compost, and pits for burnable and non-burnable items. We use the compost pit for farming and Will burns the trash in the “burnable” pit once a week. That leaves our pit for non-burnable items. This is where we dispose of food wrappers, and other useless plastic items. We eventually had to cover this with wire fencing and a lock because children would crawl into the pit and go through our trash. Well, that just made it more of a challenge to the children because they eventually CUT the wire fencing and would enter the pit anyway. Now, about once or twice a week, one of us will yell, “kids in the trash pit!!” and whoever is closest will go out and see what is going on and try to get them to leave. This situation is difficult for us because the kids could get really hurt. They crawl down into a large pit that could easily have broken glass, sharp metal or hidden creatures in it. We have told them over and over again that we don’t want them to get hurt, but they hold out hope that they could find something worth their while in the rubbage. The biggest challenge for us is the realization that they are digging through our trash. Meaning, they are desperate enough to do something harmful in hopes of finding something good… in our trash. The whole situation frustrates us because it seems helpless and it breaks our hearts for the children. We try to respond in love, but we also want to communicate that they could get very hurt in the pit. Also, the children don’t just enter the pit. They bring out the items in the pit and then dump them all around the trash area when they do not find anything they want. It makes the whole area messy.

I will spare you a picture of the “red eggs”, but this has been a topic of frustration here on the Mundri team lately. Eggs are a consistent source of protein here and, since it is difficult to get enough protein, we are grateful that they are almost always available in the market. However, in the past we have dealt with a lot of spoiled eggs (I would describe them to you, but I might lose my lunch…). We have gotten in the habit of cracking eggs individually into small bowls before adding them into the other food just in case they are spoiled. Well, this week we have a new reason to remember to crack the eggs separately. It seems like the eggs being sold in the market right now are being fertilized before they are put in the market. We know this because we can see membrane and red blood when we crack open the eggs. They also have a very unpleasant smell. On Sunday, Heather was going to make an egg dish for dinner and 20 out of her 24 eggs had blood inside of them. Yeah, this easily frustrates us and makes cooking even more difficult than it already was.

A goat posse walking on our compound like
they own the place
Goats, wonderful goats. Goats are everywhere here. Many people own them and, when it is not planting season, they are allowed to roam freely. We have many “goat posses” (as I like to refer to them as to try to make light of the frustration) that come through our compound each day. They are loud and they will eat crops, trees, or whatever else they want to get into. We often find them on our porch or roaming around the houses. They are annoying because they seem to “take over” the compound when they are around.

Will said the other day that it is crazy how there could be 100 wonderful things that are a grateful for and appreciate and 2 or 3 difficult things and yet, somehow, we fixate on those 2 or 3 things. I think this is the scheme of Satan. He makes a few things seem so frustrating that they distract us from all of the wonderful things that are really good blessings.  That is what the above examples are for us as a team. They are things that distract us from the fact that we can actually thrive here (only by God’s grace) and that there are many things to be grateful for in our lives as missionaries in Mundri. They are small things that happen each day and we can choose to let them bring us to anger or see them for what they really are- distractions from Satan. You know the beautiful thing? God redeems all things! My prayer is that we would somehow find God in kids in the trash pit, red eggs and goat posses.  I’m not trying to over-spiritualize these frustrating things, but simply to say that God sees our situation, He knows what makes us angry, and He can give us the strength and grace to overcome the big and simple challenges of life. He is able to do so much more than we give him credit for! My prayer is that we would expect Him to show up each day- even in the small annoyances and trust that He can give us the grace that we need for each day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Random Happening from Our Week

There are moments when I take a step back from things that happen during our days here when I realize, “wow, this totally would not be normal in other contexts”. Below is a list of some things that happened this week. Some are not “random” per say, but they add to the week as a whole.

1. I had a language lesson on Monday. After the lesson, I asked Mary if we could change our lesson time to 10:00 am due to the extremely hot temperatures in the afternoon (I bike to town and am trying to avoid biking during the middle of the day). She agreed and we decided to meet at 10:00 on Wednesday morning. When I got to the market at 10 on Wednesday, Mary was not there. I asked her friends where she was and they told me that she went to Juba! Juba is South Sudan’s capital and it is about 7 hours away this time of year. It looks like language lessons with Mary will be cancelled for the rest of the week…

They wouldn't pose for the picture, but
here is the momma and baby goat
2. On my way to the Internet last night, I walked by our neighbor’s house. They were all yelling for someone to bring something to show me. I waited a minute and they showed me a baby goat! The goat was born that very day. I didn’t realize that baby goats can walk the day they are born! It was really cute!

3. On that same walk to the Internet, I passed a boy who was shooting birds in trees with his slingshot. He told me that he had shot two birds already. I asked where he put the birds and he proceeded to pull the birds OUT OF HIS POCKET… ! One of them was dead and the other was a tiny yellow bird that was still alive. It was super random to me, but it was fun to see the kid’s excitement about his accomplishments.

4. While a few of use were at the Internet that same night, there was a tiny puppy outside squealing. We often have people trying to sell us animals. Yesterday, a few boys came with this tiny, super adorable puppy to sell. We told them that we did not want the puppy. Well, I guess they also did not want the puppy because they LEFT HIM all alone at the office. He was squealing and terrified because he had nowhere to go. He finally calmed down and we think someone ending up taking him, but we felt really bad for him in the meantime. 

The shower area that is being built onto our tukul
5. Our tukul has been under construction this week as we are having an extra “pod” added to our house with a shower in it. We are very excited to be able to have our own shower in our house soon. The workers have worked extremely efficiently and should be finished with the shower on Monday. They build the “pod” this week and then will bust out part of the wall in our bedroom to connect the shower room to our house.

6. I made tortilla this week so that we could have quesadillas. As I was rolling out the dough to make the tortillas, I noticed that there were WORMS in the dough from the flour that I used.  The flour here has been fine, so I have not had to sift it before using it, however, apparently that was not the case this week. To make a long story short, my wonderful husband whipped out his tiny tweezers from his pocketknife and picked out each worm from the batter. He must have picked out dozens of worms. Regardless, I had a hard time enjoying the delicious quesadillas that night…

7. Today in the market, I almost accidentally agreed to allow someone to be Will’s second wife today. Apparently I need to keep studying Moru a bit more… ;). She asked in Moru how my husband was. I responded that he was very good. I asked her how her husband was and she said she didn’t have one. Then she asked if he had only one wife. I said yes (all still in Moru, are you impressed??). But then it went downhill when she asked something about my husband and the number two. I said yes. She laughed. I realized what happened and started waving my hands emphatically saying, “MALE KO! MALE KO!” Meaning, “I don’t want, I don’t want!”. Now everyone was laughing. I joined them in laughing and then said goodbye and she responded with, “Please, greet our husband”…. Haha! Oh Lord, please help me learn this language soon!

8. It has been between 108-110 everyday this week. So in the midst of all of the above stories has been us trying to cope with the heat. As I said in my last post, we are still trying to find a good rhythm and figure out how to manage in the high temperatures when all we can think about is how much we miss air-conditioning, ice cream and swimming pools.  Please join us in praying that God will give us strength to endure this hot season.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the small glimpse into our week. Happy weekend :)!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hot Heat Sizzle Sizzle

We came back to Mundri in the middle of dry season. It is 108° today in the shade. Yesterday, it was just as hot during the day and was 93° at 7:30pm (at that point in the evening, we all start saying how cool it is and how thankful we are that it cooled down so much… at 93° ;)).

Larissa told me one time that during really hot days all she can think of is different words for the word hot. She will try to think of something and the only thing running in her head is, “hot, hot, heat, scorching, very hot”… etc. I giggled at this at the time, but now I have slipped into the same habit. I will be walking from my house to the team house (about 20 yards) and all I can think of is, “hot, hotttt, sizzle, heat, hot, hot”.

As a team, we are trying to adjust our days around the heat. Will and I used to do language lessons at 1pm, now we are moving them to 10am so that we do not have to bike back during the hottest time of the day. This is good, and necessary, but it is hard for my western mind to adjust to. I want to be productive. I don’t want to be sitting in the shade during the hottest part of the afternoon, I want to be moving around, visiting people and “doing” something.

This is on our compound. Doesn't it just look hot?!
As I was contemplating this yesterday, something inside of me said, “watch the people”. Meaning, observe what the Moru people do at the peak of the afternoon when the only words in your head are synonyms for “hot”.  Observe how they cope with the extreme heat and how they have learned to adapt over all of these years in the hot temperatures.  

So I did. And you know where I found them? Sitting under mango trees or gathered around whatever shade is on their compounds. I’ve noticed that they do their normal daily tasks of fetching water, hand washing clothes, carrying firewood, etc. in the mornings and before around 12:00 and then again after around 5pm. Shop owners still tend their shops in the afternoon, but they sit in the shade and usually show up earlier and leave earlier this time of year.

So, it looks like we need to learn to adjust as well. Who better to learn from about dealing with extreme heat than people who have done it their whole lives? This season might look a little slower than other parts of the year, but there is grace for adjustment periods. And to be honest, I just pray I can make it through the… hot, heat, hot, hot, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle….