Planning, preparing, gathering, buying, packing and shipping; THIS is my world these days. This is what it takes to move a family of 5 to South Sudan for the long term. When you live in America, always have, and have never given a real, practical thought to just how one would pick up and move to somewhere that didn’t have a Walmart, a Rite Aid, or even on most days fuel to fill your gas tank…. this pile of bags & totes may look weird or over-done to you. It’s difficult for most people to understand my life, or track with me in this stuff. Sigh. I am such a people person now, of which I thank Jesus for! (I wasn’t always this way) I love to be with others, work with others, laugh with others, sing with others… The last month has NOT been filled with others like I would choose, but rather lists of tasks, errands and what I call drudgery (necessary drudgery mind you, but drudgery none the less). As I have been working at planning and preparing for when we are able to head back to South Sudan I have often wondered what Noah packed into the ark. Noah was given instructions to build something he had never seen, for something he had never experienced (a flood) and he didn’t know what to expect in the practicalities of everyday life floating around on a boat with his family & all the animals. Well, I HAVE been to South Sudan, I HAVE lived there for an extended period of time, I know what to expect… and Gosh, it’s still an extreme challenge. What is diligence and what is overkill… How do I plan for the future and yet not worry about tomorrow like Jesus told us? I most definitely need God’s guidance and wisdom! Amongst all this personal and family preparation I have also been preparing for a mobile health education clinic, a new believer’s discipleship class called FREEDOM and a neonatal resuscitation class for traditional midwives who want more training. Here’s the deal- I’m not planning to move across a city, or to another side of the country, but I would liken it to moving back in time- say to the year 1910. Things are primitive, they take a LONG time, often they don’t work or can’t be completed…
Think about your day- You get up and in some seasons it’s before the sun comes up… no biggy, switch on the light. You go to the tap and get a glass of water without wondering if it is clean, then to the bathroom to relieve yourself with a flush. You turn on the shower and take a quick warm shower, hop out and toss your slightly wrinkly clothes in the dryer to refresh them. You go to the Keurig or coffee pot and make your morning cup of Joe, sit on the couch and read the newspaper or your Bible. Afterwards, you walk back to the kitchen, pop in some toast, grab some butter from the fridge & a glass of milk. It’s about time for you to head off to work, or to school so you make your way out to your car, start it up and you’re off! Pretty normal morning right? You can probably relate to this scenario. (?)
Now try this one: You don’t get up until AFTER the sun is up for two reasons, 1) there are no lights to flip on and 2) the mosquitoes before dawn will eat you alive. Once it is light you make your way to the pit latrine outside (across the yard from your bedroom) to relive yourself and then head to the well to pump water for three things: 1) your bucket bath, 2) your morning drink 3) water for your coffee. Then you take your morning drink without thinking about the fact that it is brown and probably contains Cholera or Typhoid, you light the fire to boil water for your coffee. While you are waiting for it to boil, you bucket some of the water and go out to the corner of the yard to the bath house to bathe (with cold water). Afterwards you make your coffee to drink without breakfast because there is no fridge to store butter, or milk. Your clothes are wrinkly so you take some coals from the fire to fill your coal powered iron, wait 10 minutes for it to heat up and then press your outfit. You head out the door in enough time to buy some bread to eat along the way. To get to work or school it requires 45 minutes of wait time, 20-50 minutes of walking, and ride in a minibus taxi or a motorcycle. This routine sounds like it could be a camping trip or from a movie set in the American pioneer days doesn’t it? This is what life is like for most everyone in South Sudan. You don’t have electricity and have to take your mobile phone or laptop to a “charging station” with everyone else in the neighborhood and wait 2 hours for it to charge. You need tooth paste to brush with? Well, most people can’t afford that- they use a twig from a tree like they always have. Do you want to buy something? Well, you have to keep cash on you and walk down to the store to get it. None of that shopping at Costco once a month, or Walmart once a week! Shopping is hard, hot work and carrying space is limited to your arms, or the arms of the relatives you bring with you! You want meat? Well, buy it in the morning to cook in the afternoon because refrigeration is also scarce and very expensive! Now maybe you can wrap your head around why there is so much to plan and prepare for?! Just to do life itself is enough as you can see. Now add the responsibility of teaching, pastoring & discipling. Let’s just say to be productive AND relational it requires A LOT of strategy!
With all of this difficulty, time and lack, why do I do what I do? Why not just stay home and minister here?
It’s an amazing privilege to do what I do. God has blessed me with the opportunity to go to the difficult places, to love on people who have not experienced love in most ways before, to share God’s word with those who haven’t heard it, to be an expression of lasting joy that is not based on status, possessions, or circumstances. I have the opportunity to learn from others as they learn from me. What I know about health, hygiene or the Bible is exchanged for what they know about honor, respect and community. God made me to do the difficult things, to break barriers, to overcome and to shine in adversity. He has made you this way too! Did you know that? You were made to shine the life, love and power of Jesus in the difficult places in the world! I started this blog today to share a little more about the practical things I will be doing in South Sudan this next year… Maybe you have heard the stories on our Facebook page about teaching the Bible, about our opportunities to disciple men & women in following Christ in their everyday lives, etc… THIS is the basis of what we do as Christians. This IS the main thing. If we live out what Jesus has called us to live; being obedient to His written word and the leading of His Holy Spirit then we WILL be making disciples. We will be living examples of all that Jesus commanded us. The inward changes that happen inside the heart of an obedient, in love with Jesus disciple will effect outward change in the world around them. Jesus never called us to simply give people gifts, make their lives easier, build them, drill them or offer them what they deserve in life… He left us with the command to go make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded us. He said His greatest commandments were to love; to love Him with everything we are and have, and to love others as we love ourselves. You see, this kind of living starts in me but ends up creating a ripple effect throughout the whole world! This loving our neighbor IS a part of discipleship- So, those of you who have read this far can read a little about the practical things I am blessed to be a part of this next year in South Sudan:
Over the years I have studied natural health & wellness, international nursing, traditional midwifery, family health education, etc… One thing that is in short supply in South Sudan is medical care, health information, education and discipleship.
Some stats for you to chew on: 253 out of every 1,000 children die before they reach age 5 because of water born illness, malnutrition, or malaria. Only 47% of women have a skilled attendant at the birth of their baby. Surveys say less than 35% of the population has access to clean water sources. On top of these real health and wellness challenges, Only 45% of the population have ever had a chance to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only 10% of these are in active Christian communities and/or churches. Wow, what a different world. You travel to work and back realizing most people you come in contact with have turned on the T.V., the radio, seen a website, attended a church or in some way have heard the Gospel. Many people have had an opportunity to hear someone personally share about their faith. Not so in South Sudan! Many people have never heard… and if they have heard, they are not involved in or have the chance to be involved in life-giving Christian community. I am so excited to take my education, in both the health related field and in God’s word and give it away in the context of community. This next year I will be helping to train a few indigenous men and women; persons of peace. These brothers/sisters have expressed a desire to learn and grow, both in faith and in practical knowledge to serve their communities and families. The focus will be in three areas: 1) Family health education; addressing first the health and wellness concerns of women and children, then secondarily implementing discipleship through health education. 2) One-on-one and small group neonatal resuscitation training seminars for women who are already serving their communities as midwives/birth attendants. 3) New believer’s classes focused raising up disciples of Jesus who will go make more disciples whether they are mothers, workers, teachers, pastors, nurses or students.
In all of this we are first training indigenous leaders to do just that, LEAD!
Well, there it is, a mish-mash of thoughts from a not so professional blogger! 🙂
If you are interested in reading more about our cooperative projects in South Sudan you can do so here:https://gallery.mailchimp.com/87e1a4c18133c6f454f9a694a/files/BHI_Projects_02.pdf