January 3, 2017

Happy New Year Loved Ones!

We hope this newsletter finds you well in body and spirit! We have enjoyed a good rest and are ready to get back to the people we love in Juba. This next Wednesday we begin our journey back via a short stopover in Rwanda. This update will be focused on giving you a summary of our plans for 2017. We hope you enjoy tracking with us, and praying for us as we dive back into all that God has planned!

We have several plans “on the books” for the next 6 months (Lord willing, of course) that we want to share with you. We would LOVE for you to pray for each of these projects/programs, for those God would touch through them, and for a lasting impact of #Restoring, #Equipping and #Empowering to take place:

1. Worship Community Group-
We are having a group evaluation meeting the last week of January to discuss where God is leading us in the new year. Pray for this meeting, and for clear direction in how to best equip and empower these young people! Previously we had been meeting twice a week to worship, pray, study God’s word, and work on both vocal and instrument skills, as well as having other one-on-one instruction times during the week. We believe this is an important time for them to step up and put what they’ve learned into practice more on their own. We’re excited to hear what God has been putting on their hearts for this year.

2. Women’s Health Ed. (WHEd)- We have an organizational meeting scheduled for the last week of January to discuss the final details. The first series of classes will run for 8 weeks and focus on basic women’s health topics like The Importance of  Women’s Health, Healthy Communication, Women’s Anatomy and Physiology, Nutrition for a Healthy Body, etc… These health topics are vital to growing a healthy community.  We are excited about equipping & empowering women to make a real difference in their communities! Pray for the finishing details that need to be ironed out (most especially the need for a female translator). Pray for the hearts of these women who are so eager to learn about health topics, and who want to use that knowledge to bless others.

3. Divine Mission Church Building Project-
Jason has already been serving to help with strategic planning, project oversight and organization for the new Divine Mission Church building. Two years ago our Juba church family began a faith journey to build a new sanctuary. The one they are currently in is more than 15 years old, made of mud-bricks and is much too small to host everyone (even with having 2 Sunday service times). A bad deal with some shady contractors in the beginning, and the extreme economic challenges in the country have hindered any further progress. After almost a year of discussing, planning & praying Divine Mission decided to put to use what God had already provided. Dec. 1st they began working on the foundation and have not stopped. We’re excited to get back to see what God has helped them to complete, and to help with the rest of the work. (More details to come in the future…)

4. Farming God’s Way- 
We have planned for a “Well Watered Garden” project among the Mundari people, just north of Juba. Our relationship with the Mundari is a growing one. We have seen it best to plan loosely in this area for now; being keen to see the ways God has already been preparing their hearts. We want to see the principles of God’s word demonstrated through this “Well Watered Garden” to those who have an interest in learning the FGW agricultural techniques. Pray for the Mundari’s hearts, for the political and tribal peace that is needed for people to plant & harvest, and for us an increase of wisdom and discernment. Depending upon the arrival of the rainy season, we will begin in March. *You can learn more about FGW by clicking HERE

Project in Focus: Our Big Move

Remember back in July we shared with you about our hearts to live alongside our Juba church family? Although we already live within walking distance, we have felt it is God’s best for us to relocate to the church property. This is both for strengthening local relationships, and the effectiveness of the work. Above is a picture of the construction that was started in August. We began cleaning, digging and building a place for us to live. This is something we want to share with you “IN FOCUS” because we believe it is a very central part of our work in this next season.

The plan from the beginning has been to build something very simple, cost effective and in a basic way, accommodating for our family. This space will also serve as a community space for the future to be used by us, and the church. The plans involve: leveling out the area next to Pastor Abraham’s mud house, between the primary school buildings and church sanctuary, adding security fencing for our area and the rest of the church (which has been needed for years), the setting of an ocean container for storage purposes, building a bathroom and washroom, an outdoor kitchen area, and setting up a water tower. Since building anything in South Sudan takes SO LONG, we’ve planned to use tents for our sleeping arrangements this year in order that we can live with our Juba family sooner. God has blessed us, and little by little we have made good progress toward our goal. Our Juba family has also donated some materials, and their muscles to help us. (See the pictures below)

              

 
Next we will begin working on completing the security gates, building the water tower and then our bathroom block. We do have $1,800 to put to work when we get back, but still need more to finish and get ourselves moved.
We are asking all of our support team members and friends/family to pray in focus with us on this project.
  • Pray for the finances still needed to complete the construction ($10,000).
  • Pray for the energy needed to be able work in the heat.
  • Pray that God would help us with all of the complicated logistics involved in completing a project like this one.
If you would like to give toward our building project, you can do so through the link below. (Or by sending a donation to our Hayden, ID address)

Thank you again for loving us, praying for us, and supporting the work of BHI in South Sudan. We wouldn’t want to do it without you!! If you have any questions, comments, or just plain want to connect with us, send us an email anytime!

With Love,

On Behalf of Birthing Hope International,

Jammie, Jason, Nayana, Sarah & Aliyah Stark

Our 2016 Celebration Dinner was a success! We enjoyed sharing with so many of you about what God has done over this last year. We had our largest group yet; 9+ local churches were represented, and partners from 2 other states as well! Thank you for coming out! We enjoyed serving you, and we pray that you were blessed to see the lives touched through your partnership with B.H.I.!

 

                               

 

 

 

Coming Up…
We’ve been back Stateside for just over 7 weeks now. We have taken a bit of a rest during that time. We’ve also been working to finish up schooling for the girls, tend to B.H.I. admin tasks, Dr. and Dentist visits, meet with loved ones & mission partners, hosting the Celebration gathering, and Jason has been working on some construction projects to help with the family financial needs. So, these weeks have passed very quickly for us!

ROAD TRIP!! Next week we will begin our travels through Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California. This is an annual trip for us to connect with loved ones, missions partners and churches that would be interested in hearing about our work in South Sudan. If you have any new connections for us, or people who might be interested in having us share, please let us know!

Our Travel Schedule:

May 21-23rd  – Rest time for our family in the CA, Redwoods

May 24-30th – Orange County (San Diego, Los Angeles, etc…)

May 31-June 2nd – S.F. Bay Area

June 3-7th – Redding

June 7-10th – General Portland, OR and/or Seattle

As always, our hope is to share with the Body of Christ about God’s work in South Sudan, to encourage people to be “on mission” no matter where they are, and to just plain be a blessing along the way. Thanks for your prayers for this journey and for new connections!

 

 

 

Our Plans For 2016/2017

Proverbs 16:1 says “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps”.
Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans succeed”.

We’ve planned to head back to Juba, South Sudan mid-July. It is difficult to make plans when some of the necessary details are not available to us, or are unknown. This is where we ALL have to exercise faith (in a Good Father who KNOWS all those details); listening closely to His voice, and preparing as much as is possible. That being said… We want to tell you about our plans, as best we can, for this next season in South Sudan.

This year we plan to serve a longer term in Africa than we have in the past. Over the last 5 years we have spent between 6-9 months on the field with a USA re-connection trip in between. This has worked well for us, most especially the last two years because of the difficulties that come with living/working in South Sudan. This year we’re planning to stay in Juba for a total of 10-11 months, with a Christmas break spent in Cape Town, South Africa instead of the USA. We are so excited about all of the opportunities the Lord has given us to partner with Him this year in South Sudan, and this longer timeline is what we see is needed to make it possible.

Below you will find descriptions of the 2016/2017 outreach projects we will be working on, some of the financial needs for both our family, and that of the ministry. We hope you enjoy sharing in these, praying along with us, and partnering with us in those areas you feel led.

 

Equipping Communities (Weekly gatherings, held in 3 month blocks)

* Worship Community: Weekly gathering of young adults who are already serving, or want to serve the Lord through music ministry. This group is focused on cultivating a community of young people who will be Romans 12:1 worshipers wherever God plants them. Along with small group discipleship, prayer & worship, we work to practically strengthen their vocal and other musical abilities.  Needs: $1,000 for a guitar, a box drum and other teaching resources.

* Women’s Health Education (W.H.Ed.): Weekly gatherings for women who want to learn more about women’s health. The goal is to cultivate a Christ-centered community, and provide health education that will equip and empower women in their role as caregivers. Needs: $300 for teaching resources and supplies, a female translator who speaks English well.

* Leadership Training: Weekly gatherings for the current and upcoming leaders of Divine Mission Church in Munuki. The goal of this community group is to assist Pastor Abraham in his desire to further develop a strong leadership team. We will be covering subjects such as: What is a disciple? The heart of a disciple maker, How to study the Bible, The Great Commission, Understanding the Old Testament, etc… in an interactive group setting. This will be similar to our Gateway Discovery Bible groups, but focused on equipping leaders to be disciples who make disciples.

 

Primary School Outreach:
Nayana and Sarah are developing plans for a weekly outreach to Munuki Primary School. They plan to use art and song to enrich, encourage, and share God’s love with the younger children (Preschool – grade 3) Needs: $800 We would like to also see some new desks made for the children. There are desks for approx. 300 students, but the school has almost 700 enrolled.
Farming God’s Way: (F.G.W. also known as “Foundations for Farming“)
FGW is a discipleship and agricultural tool which works to see people restored, equipped and empowered to be all that God has created them to be. You can read more about FGW here: www.farming-gods-way.org  We plan to do two things with FGW this year,
1. Run a full teaching/implementation of the program with the Mundari people (March 2017)
2. Assist our last year’s graduates in implementing their plans to share FGW in their home communities. (As God provides opportunity in 2016)
Needs: $2,000 for farming tools, seeds, teaching materials and travel costs.
Church Construction Assistance:
Divine Mission Church has been saving and planning to build a new church building, as their current building (built from mud bricks) is too small for their current weekly gatherings, and  any further growth. The piers for the new foundation were set, but in January it was revealed that these are not adequate enough to continue building. Jason will be providing assistance in coordinating with leaders and building committee members to implement a plan to see the foundation set properly. Our goal is to assist wherever we can because we know this new building will mean more people being restored, equipped and empowered through the local church! Needs: Financial partners who would like to sow into seeing the church building completed. Contact us for more specific info.
Clean Water Filtration Systems:
We still have 3 Sawyer water filters left over from last year. We plan to install these, and any other filters we are able to bring with us this year. Our goal is to install as many as possible and share the love of Christ through the gift of clean, disease free water!
Needs: Approx. $1,000 to assist with the completion of filtration systems (water tanks, plumbing and transport of materials to location), and more filters. 1 Sawyer water filter costs $130 and filters 99.99% of all bacteria and virus. Each filter has a lifespan of over 1 million gallons. Contact us for more info.
Vocational Training:
Men and women need skills to create businesses and to earn an income. We have several ideas in the planning phase for vocational training, dependent upon fundraising results this summer. We will be hosting small group instruction for people who have an interest in learning various woodworking and building trades. Our goal would be to pair skills training with discipleship; giving people an opportunity to build on their current skills/knowledge and practice values like quality workmanship, timeliness and integrity.
Needs: $15,000 for tools, supplies for participants, building materials, etc… Contact us for more specific information.
Other Financial Needs: (Related to Missionary Service)

Stark family airfare: $6,000
2016/2017 Housing costs: $6,000 (must be paid in advance)
2016/2017 Homeschool curriculum: $2,000
Teacher’s assistant wages: $5,000
Other misc. supplies: $5,000
Vehicle repairs/registration (S.Sudan): $1,000

Thank you again for your prayers and partnership!

With Love,
On Behalf of Birthing Hope International and the Stark Family,

Jammie M. Stark

Below you will find a video testimony from Pastor Abraham and his wife Ginigo. They serve as pastors of a medium sized missional church congregation in the town of Munuki in South Sudan. They like many others have a real problem obtaining clean water for drinking, washing, cooking etc… They live on a plot which houses their family and extended family, the church congregation, a Christian school and is also the meeting place for many community events. Pastor Abraham & his wife are very much living in service to their community and church, so we thought what a great way to bless them (w/ CLEAN WATER) and through them, bless many others. This is God’s heart… His blessing is designed to flow through our relationships; touching the lives of others! Pastor Ginigo also works very hard to produce a product she can sell to help bring income to her family, and to the ministry work their family does. She has created a  product that makes a big impact- it’s called the “Don’t Die” Drink. She has been for years taking water from their normal source (the Nile River) and mixing different herbs, sugar and fruit juice to make her own re-hydration drink and Popsicles. She bought a freezer and is blessed with a continuous power supply to cool/freeze her product (courtesy of the neighboring cell phone tower). She sells this product to more than 250 people a day, curbing dehydration of school children & neighbors, and generating an income for her family. Her hard work is amazing! But, for years she has been making this drink with the river water that is full of contaminants (including Typhoid and Cholera). Now with the water tower and filter we installed, she makes a “Don’t Die” drink that is free from all bacteria & viruses! It is truly a “Don’t Die” drink now!

We thank God for each of our partners who has given towards the transformation of lives through Clean Water Projects!

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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

You can find our ministry on Facebook, or our website

God bless!!

           

Our first month in Juba we found ourselves with the amazing privilege of attending and being a part of a river baptism. This particular day was the final celebration, and declaration of faith for a group of 70 men & women who had given their lives to following Jesus Christ. Wow, what a day! You could feel the energy in the air; the kind of energy that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up! As we hiked our way to the river we saw a sea of beautiful dark faces and bright colored clothing. Everyone was so excited and people began to crowd in on a shallow area of the river. We gathered in with them in awe of the beauty of this moment. Then we saw another crowd gathering just a bit up the way. Those who gathered there began to drum, dance & sing in celebration of the event… it was breathtaking! I just knew in my heart that this was a very special and significant day… although we know all baptism is significant, this one seemed to be much more than “normal”.

We were invited by our partner church to share in the experience and to be a part of it. These men & women had not only come to faith, but had also been discipled in what it means to follow Jesus and go on to become “fisher’s of men”. It was indeed a hot day; almost 100 degrees and the baptism site was in full sun. We brought water, and wore sunscreen, but 1/2 way through the ceremony all three of the girls began to feel sick. We found them a spot in the shade and our South Sudanese brothers & sisters saw that they got water and even something to fan themselves with. Jason and I began to feel the pressure of the heat ourselves, but being in awe of it all helped us forget. We watched as each man or women entered the water, confessed their faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. And then, we watched as they were submerged in the river… so many of them arose with shouts of joy, dancing and some came out of the water with shaking & fainting. Those baptizing them made sure that they made it safely back to the shore & that they were each prayed for afterward. I still can’t get over the energy in the air. It was interesting to note afterward, that while all this was happening there was a large group of rowdy motorcyclists camped out at the front of the road smoking, fighting and causing trouble. And, that some of those who were drawn in from the road to see the baptism stood stone faced, glaring at what was happening. You could feel such a tension all around the event, but we were not really sure of why. This crowd of about 150 people finally gathered in close together to give praise to God, and to dedicate each of the lives who were baptized to His care. Jason was asked to give the final prayer and we all gave glory to God through song. Ah, such a beautiful day!

We all felt very worn out from the sun and heat… or so we thought. We had driven to the baptism in our little motorized rickshaw and needed to help drop our friends off along the way. It was a long day! When we finally arrived back home we could do nothing but try to rest and cool off from the intense heat of the day. (The only way to get cool was a shower– ah the relief!)

It was such an amazing time… and we marveled at what God had blessed us to be a part of! We didn’t realize until later the spiritual warfare involved in events like this one. We came to find out that the outreach and discipleship that brought these new believers to the decision of being baptized was in a community that previously had no active witness for Christ. Also, some of the family members who attended the baptism were not believers, but rather came as skeptics to look over the event… this was the reason for the tension we were feeling.

That same night Jason came down with Malaria, and wow was it bad! In less than 24 hours he was so ill we thought he was literally going to die! He actually had such a high fever that he was shaking uncontrollably, not thinking clearly, and not sleeping at all. There wasn’t any place to take him so late at night, and we were not even sure of where we could go for help in the morning. All I knew to do was pray, and to ask our brothers & sisters to pray. Since we had no vehicle I could drive him with, the next morning I helped him to get dressed and he wandered down the alley way looking for a motorcyclist to take him to a clinic. He was so weak, and sick… still shaking, but more in his right mind than the night before. (Thank God for our support team who prayed for him that night) As he left the gate I prayed that God would protect him and keep him safe from those who would try to harm him. He was able to receive treatment at a nearby clinic and returned home safely, went to bed and recovered in a week or so. At the time we thought it was mere coincidence. We even thought maybe the heat was what kicked his Malaria over the top… That is until it happened again after another significant spiritual breakthrough in our community. This next time it happened to me…. ((I will tell that story another time))

This is a picture from a short video recording of the celebration song
You can see the video on Facebook
This is our little motorized rickshaw… not quite a vehicle… but it got us around most places

When Faith’s NOT Picture Perfect

So, I opened this blog up May of 2014 hoping that I could use it while in South Sudan to share a more personal perspective of our life & experiences “on mission”. Well, being as it is now January 30th of 2015 I guess that thought didn’t turn out so well! Lol! Some how between playing mommy, wife, homeschool teacher, executive director, the head of ministry finance, mentor, life coach, laundry attendant, friend, occasional babysitter & children’s ministry worker, and oh ya, missionary, I couldn’t seem to find the time! Imagine that! Sigh… I really bit off more than I could chew in this last adventure. Actually, had you asked me what this last year in South Sudan was going to look like, I would have said it would most likely be very difficult. (but I really had no idea just how difficult) We were believing God for quite a mountain to be moved in our lives just to get the funding we needed to get over to South Sudan, much less all the long term support it takes to be a successful cross-cultural missionary. We chose to go when God made it clear to us that it was time to go. We had worked, fund-raised, served, saved and put our faith on the line. Jesus provided us with what we needed for the immediate time and a modest base of monthly support for the year. So we stepped out in faith and trusted that He would work miracles on our behalf. Well, HE DID! I’m hoping to share some of these stories over the next couple months while we are waiting to get back to our mission field in Juba. But, before I tell you all the fantastic, romantic, heroic and awing things that God did… Back to the beginning of my blog:

I have always been someone who encouraged participation, teamwork and delegation in life and ministry. But it often seems like the Lord places me in situations and circumstances where He asks me to push through the impossible… to make a way… to step into the river BEFORE it parts, etc… I have always been willing to live this way. Jesus has truly done so much for me how can I live for anything else but Him? How can I not live a life that shares & shows His glory for all that is possible through this broken vessel?!! But living by faith is not by any means easy. Faith & trust is simple, but not easy. Not everything works out just like you think it will. Not every task is accomplished to it’s fullest like you have believed. (sometimes you can fault yourself & the failures of others, but sometimes you can’t understand why it doesn’t all work out) Living an active faith and believing for great things means that you believe God even still, and all the more when it doesn’t look like you thought it would.

Our last six months in South Sudan was the most wonderfully, horrifying experience I have ever had. Jason almost died of Malaria, we all got Typhoid fever, us girls were verbally harassed more than once by drunk men in the street and in the markets, we went without clean water at times, got food poisoning twice, endured 2 rain storms that flooded our house, were eaten alive by mosquitoes, in a few near accidents and were targeted by a refugee crime ring. WHAT!?? Yes, this all happened. We always had enough to eat and to share with others, but our support was always on its last string. God brought in just enough and we often felt stretched beyond our financial ability… We didn’t have the means for domestic help (all of life’s chores are tediously done by hand)  & we couldn’t find a teaching volunteer to come serve with us… Stretched beyond our physical abilities too trying to fill 20 roles all at once! And then… Nayana developed type 1 diabetes…

So at this point you’re probably thinking either God didn’t bless what we were doing, or that the devil REALLY had it out for us! Well, you can be the judge on that one… As often as I can, I want to post about what God did for us and through us in the last six months despite our challenges.

Walking into Destiny
Destiny: Invincible necessity; fate; a necessity or fixed order of things, established by divine decree. Aka: walking into God’s perfectly planned, predestined circumstance.

We came to know our South Sudanese friend John in a strange way. In 2013 I went to Israel and through a series of uncommon circumstances, I was connected with a South Sudanese man named Abdallah. The Lord told me that in Israel I would find a doorway to South Sudan. (God had been speaking to our family for a year about a long term work He had for us there) Anyway, I came to know Abdallah and he was indeed our “door” into South Sudan. When we met Abdallah it was like meeting an old friend, not just your every day acquaintance, but the deep-hearted kinda friend. We came to find out that Abdallah was a Christian and that we had much in common. It was Abdallah that introduced us to his uncle John. John was the one who helped get us connected when we arrived to serve as missionaries in a community called Munuki in South Sudan. John attended the church you see above. God had miraculously planted him there years before and he wanted us to attend with him at least once. We prayed about it, obviously… We knew God wanted to connect us with the right people, and we also knew African culture enough to know that if we showed up somewhere too many times, only to move on to what God really had for us, it would cause an offense. And that’s the last thing we wanted to do in our first month! As we prayed, the Lord just confirmed in our hearts (Jason & I both) that this little church was where he would like us to be based out of. We were not exactly sure what that translated to at this point. So, our whole little American family of 5 walked down to the church, entered into the sanctuary and sat next to our friend John in the front row. The service was beautiful and definitely filled with God’s spirit. We noticed one particular woman who was overly excited during worship that morning, but passed it off to the fact that God must have just been working in her heart big time! The message was given by a tall, peaceful man named Abraham. He was the lead pastor; the father of sorts. He preached such a strong, encouraging message. After service we shook hands with about 60 people and Pastor Abraham gave us a warm welcome.  Our whole family left feeling full and very welcomed. Strangely it felt the most like home since we left Idaho.

The next day we received a phone call from the pastor. He had called to tell us  two stories… He told us that back in 2011 one of the pastors had a vision of a white family coming to join the church who would help to strengthen and grow it. He said that he believed this was our family because God had done another miracle to confirm it just this last week. He went on to ask if we had noticed the extremely excited women that morning in the church service. He wanted us to know that she was so excited because she had a vision about us. That morning in prayer she saw of a group of white people coming to join the church, and a man in that group who would come to preach and really bless the church. Pastor Abraham told us that she was so excited to have heard God’s plans that morning and felt blessed enough to see what He was doing for their little church family. She was so excited about it that she stayed for two services and was praising God for speaking to her. Pastor Abraham welcomed us, thanked us coming and told us he was looking forward to getting to know us better. He was looking forward to what God was going to do through our family. He asked Jason to preach the following Sunday.

We didn’t realize until later just how big of a miracle this all was. You see, we didn’t come to South Sudan with a lot of money, nice cars or the needed social power to do much of anything. We were relying on God’s grace and His ability to forge friendships and opportunities to share with others about the love of Jesus. In Juba its all about who you know and it has taken some of our friends 5 years to earn the trust of leaders. Most leaders/pastors are suspicious of anyone coming in, even those “sent by God” for fear of them taking congregants and starting new churches. So, to have the leadership in a sense know we were coming and also be open to what God had placed on our hearts was a miracle!  God does amazing things!!!

Below I will show you a few pictures of where God placed us… In short, God placed us in a church body who had just recently decided to be a Great Commission centered, sending church. They changed their name to Divine Mission (because in their culture, a name is everything and this was the statement of being committed to God’s great mission). Pastor Abraham’s biggest heart ache was that he didn’t see his people living in a way that was honoring to God. He wanted to see his people trained up to follow Jesus wholeheartedly in their everyday lives. In our first month we were blessed to be a part of a service to commission & send off their first two missionaries. We also began training Divine Mission’s leaders on how to be Gateway Group Discipleship Leaders. These discipleship groups where one of the main things God placed on our hearts. So because Gateway Groups focused on facilitating the opportunity for people to become obedient disciples of Jesus, Pastor Abraham was delighted to see us train his leaders. We couldn’t have gotten “dropped of” in any better place, at any better time.

If you haven’t read the awesome testimonies of God’s transforming power in our Juba Gateway Groups some of them are posted on our Facebook (just scroll down a few months worth and you will find them, or check out our past newsletters

Our Gateway Discipleship Group (leaders training)
Week after week we saw both men & women touched and radically changed by these groups. Not just the goosebumps, emotional touch kind of experiences that happen when we gather together as the church… But those real eye opening, habit changing, life altering interactions with the Lord and His people. We actually marveled because of how naturally it happened… people wanted to know God’s word and wanted to see Him active in their lives. Men & women WANTED to change because God’s Spirit motivated them to– there was and IS such a willingness in the people to allow God to grow and change them in a real way.

Another Missionary family like ours… They’re from Nigeria

God knew us, and actually, He gave us hearts that really just want to see His people in Africa become all that He has purposed for them to be. He knew our mission; He gave it to us. He sent us to just the right place, at just the right time, to be a part of what He was already doing in Juba… His work of restoring, equipping & empowering people to be their God-given best. He made a way for us that we couldn’t have made ourselves. It has noting to do with our greatness, our skill, or talent, but rather our willingness to follow Him “unto all the earth”, or just across town. (even when it doesn’t all go like we think it will!)
     More to come… Believe me we have LOTS of pics and stories stashed away!