Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reed Update

One Sunday morning, when Will and I were back in the US last fall, we sang a worship song at our church. The song was “King of My Heart” by John Mark McMillan. In the bridge of the song you sing,

“You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down

You’re never gonna let
Never gonna let me down.”

While Lucas, our worship leader, was singing this song, I started sobbing at these lines. The truth was, in the wake of evacuating South Sudan, having a miscarriage, being uncertain of the future and not knowing if our friends in Mundri were safe, or even alive, I felt very let down. So much so that I couldn’t bring myself to sing those words. They didn’t feel real to me in that moment. Life had hit hard and I was angry and felt confused and a bit abandoned.

Fast forward to this past Friday. I was in the car traveling from Arua, Uganda to Kampala to begin our journey for our next transition. Everything we own in Africa was in the car with us and we were on the old, familiar journey of moving from one temporary home to the next. I was listening to a podcast from our home church in Bloomington, IN. At the end of the message, Lucas’ familiar voice (with beautiful accompaniment) starts singing the song that I had heard in church several months earlier.

As he was singing the bridge, I immediately started singing along. The amazing thing was that this time, my heart believed those words to be absolutely true. It was about 8 months later and I could see more of the story. We are 2 months from giving birth to a baby girl, we now have a plan for where we are settling next and we have been in consistent communication with our friends in Mundri.

You see, when I was unable to sing these words 8 months ago, I was trying to judge and unfinished story. It was like looking at a half painted piece of artwork and calling it “ugly” before seeing the end product. All I could see was that life was difficult and I felt let down. I didn’t have eyes to see at the moment that the story wasn’t over yet and redemption was yet to come.

What I’m not saying in all of this is that we should expect only good things to happen because we are Christ followers. That’s not true at all. We are told to expect trials and difficulty. What I am saying is that God uses the hard things of this life to strengthen us and prepare us for what it is to come. When we judge His work while it is still in process, we are not being fair to the Artist. It’s not fair to call life “bad” when we’re stuck in a hard place. Part of life is allowing it play out and seeing where God is working in the midst of the difficulties.

Here’s a little more of the picture that God has been creating in our lives.

We will be in Spain for our company conference for the next two weeks.
We will then travel to Nairobi on June 4 and will be there through giving birth to our baby girl (sometime around July 12)! We will stay there for about 6 weeks after the birth.
Once I recover from the birth and we are able to get our baby girl’s passport, we will fly to Uganda to transition to our new ministry field.

A view from Fort Portal, Uganda
Will and I just accepted a position as the new team leaders of the Serge Fort Portal, Uganda team! We are so excited about this new opportunity and are looking forward to seeing what God has in store! We will be the team leaders for a woman who has lived there for several years and has many years of experience serving in Uganda, a family of 6 who will be joining the team in the fall, and a single woman who will be coming in the winter. The team will all be doing different work within the realm of community development. We will all do this through ministering to single moms through the arts, children in a Children’s Home, work through a vocational school, teaching, etc. We are so excited about the way God has been piecing this team together and the work that He has prepared for all of us to do in Fort Portal.

Looking back, God had not let me down in the fall. Life had, yes. But God was still in control and was using the difficulties of life to prepare me for what was coming. I believe if I had been listening in that moment at church when I couldn’t sing the lyrics, that God was whispering, “Just wait, my daughter, the picture isn’t finished yet. There is more to come.” I’m grateful for a God who doesn’t let His people down. I’m grateful that even when life is hard and we feel abandoned and let down, the story isn’t over. He sees us in the pain and is holding us in His strength.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mundri Visit

Will and Justin had the opportunity to return to Mundri for a couple days last week. The primary purpose of the trip was to deliver much needed seeds to the community and to see friends/ assess the damage to town and our compound. They were so grateful to see friends, but it was a really difficult visit emotionally.

It is one thing to hear about war, and even to see pictures, but seeing the aftermath of devastation due to war first-hand is really hard to take in- especially when it effected people you have come to love. As always, however, Will and Justin said that our friends seemed hopeful overall and continued to say, "Rabunna Fi (God is here). They have not lost hope that God is with them and can bring peace to their land. For this, we are extremely grateful (and humbled).

Although I was not able to go into Mundri with the men, I sent in a small gift for two friends. One of my friends sent back a letter and a huge bag of Mundri mangos. She said in the letter to think of her when I eat the mangos and picture us sitting under her mango tree together (something we would do on a weekly basis). Mangos from Mundri are the absolute best! The are not too juicy and not stringy. They are extra sweet and have a great texture. They are also some of the only food people in Mundri have been eating, since they are plentiful right now and most people have a mango tree on their compound. This gift was so special to me. I continue to be amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity of Moru people.

Here are a few before and after pictures from Mundri.
Our bedroom before
Our bedroom after the looting

Our kitchen before
Kitchen after

Living room before
Living room after

As you can see from the pictures above, EVERYTHING was taken. When the guys went in last August, there were still a few things in the houses. However, this time, even the outlet covers were stolen. We have been told that the first looting could have been from soldiers, and then after that it was probably from local people from town. The houses were open at that point and people were extremely desperate. We understand why it happened, it's just hard to see all of your things missing.
An outlet that was completely removed from our house

One of the hardest things for Will to see while he was in Mundri was the difference in how town looked. He said a large majority of the shops were empty and there were many less people and items in the market than before. 
Mundri Market before

This is taken from a different angle, but this is the market after
War is so hard to understand. It is extremely difficult to be faced with the realities of what one human is capable of doing to another human.  Our hearts are so heavy for Mundri and the people there. However, we are confident that even though we cannot be in Mundri full-time and even though many things look drastically different and scarce, God is there. He has been there from the beginning and He will continue to remain there. We are confident that the story is not over and that there is still hope.

Some of you may remember our plead for prayers during the big fighting last May. We told you that our good friend's wife, Linda, was in labor in the midst of having to be in the bush due to fighting. Many of you prayed fervently for Linda and for the baby. We are so happy to report that both Linda and their baby girl are doing well! Thank you for your prayers for this amazing family. We're so grateful for God's protection over them during such a scary time!

Please continue to keep Mundri, South Sudan and the Moru people in your prayers. Their resilience is amazing! Please pray God would continue to give their hearts hope and provide for their very felt needs. Thank you for loving the people of South Sudan along-side us!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

She Ate Beans!

The longer we live in new cultures, the more we enjoy learning new things about the intricacies each culture offers. It took me a while to learn that there is no word for "pregnant" in Moru or Juba Arabic. The word simply doesn't exist. However, we finally asked our Moru friends what they say when someone is pregnant and discovered this wonderful gem of a phrase :)...

"Huwo akulu janjarro."

Directly translated (from Juba Arabic), it means: She ate beans.

Nope, I'm not joking.

If you want to tell someone that you are pregnant, you would say, "I ate beans" hehe. It still makes me giggle each time I say it.

In Moru you say a phrase you would say translates to: "Her stomach is heavy".

Although the phrase makes me laugh, the reason they use this phrase is quite sad. In this part of the world (this goes for women here in Uganda too), losing pregnancies is very common. Therefore, there are a lot of superstitions around why women lose babies in pregnancy. One is that if you talk about the baby before it is born, the "spirits" will kill it. Hence why they do not have a word for pregnancy in their languages. This leaves them to talk around what they are really trying to say- thus describing how the body looks instead of mentioning anything about a baby growing inside.

When Will was in Mundri last week (more about that in a future post), he greeted many of my friends for me. While doing so, he showed them by picture and told them, "Huwo akulu janjarro!". They all responded with great excitement about my "bean eating"!

So folks, this is what it looks like when you eat too many beans...
Theresa 30 weeks