Friday, July 29, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
This week has been filled with the sound of children in the play yard and toddlers crying and babies laughing. The toddlers don’t do as well when the children are on holiday from school because there is so much activity on the compound. I think they get a bit overwhelmed sometimes. The babies are happy because there are so many here to carry them around. I went to the market and bought balls and cards and Lego blocks and cars. We have a new market here and they have toys!!! Yippee!
The older girls sit and do needlepoint from sun up to sun down when they aren’t doing chores. The custom here is to purchase a bed sheet and then draw a huge flower design in the middle and they fill in the design with all colors of thread. I had a man in Juba draw two for me, one with the Mundari cattle herder and his prize cow and another with a lion on it. The girls and women never seem to tire of sewing and they do this intricate work for other people, no charge. All that work and it doesn’t even belong to them! Theirs is such a spirit of helps and servant hood. All the women are this way. I learn everyday from them. They are always calling me, “Sudanese woman” because I do what they do. I walk bare foot more than I wear shoes these days. How freeing! I dig and plant and harvest and carry stuff on my head. Now I just need to learn the language!
Our bore hole is now fixed and we have water aplenty praise God! We called the bore hole fixer people and they came out and pulled 80 meters of pipe from the depths of the earth and one of our pipes was cracked, hence the low water pressure and flow. Now the water practically pumps itself, there is such little effort required. All are happy and even the toddlers pump their own. And so the word of the Lord in Exodus 23 is fulfilled, that He shall bless our food and water.
I was reading in 1 Samuel 13 this week and noticed that when the Israelites went to war against the Philistines, they didn’t even have weapons. Not a blacksmith could be found because the Philistines were afraid that the Israelites would make weapons against them. Instead the Israelites took their plow shears and sickles and axes and had the Philistines sharpen them. They took their harvest tools right to the enemy to be sharpened.
If we want to reap the harvest, we will have to go into the enemy’s territory. Preaching about the harvest in a nice cozy comfy church is like watching the corn grow but never picking it. When we go into enemy territory, our weapons become our harvest tools and they will be sharpened as we go. They remain dull as long as we don’t use them. I can just picture and army of harvesters standing at the edge of a field, weapons gleaming with sharpness as they ready themselves to plunge into the unknown, rows and rows of grain ripe in the field, as high as their heads, ready for the harvesting.
These last two weeks we have had a team from YWAM (Youth With A Mission) come and visit three times a week to play with the children. They are here for another two weeks and then they head back to Australia. They are all in their early twenties and all full time missionaries. How encouraging it is to see these young people so excited about missions and the nations of the world. They attended our church on Sunday and commented that they received more from the Lord listening to a 16 year old girl preach than sitting in some of the big churches in the West. They were amazed that children so young (7-8-9 years old) could worship the Lord with such passion. I am reminded of the scripture in Romans 8:17,
We are heirs of God IF we share in Christ’s sufferings – only then can we share in His glory. Our present sufferings cannot compare with the glory that will be revealed in us. All creation waits to see this.
These children have suffered much. The glory being revealed in them is incomparable. Christ in us is this hope of glory. A friend of mine, who’s ministry has planted thousands of churches, raised the dead, brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and cripples to their feet through the love of Jesus says, “If you insist that the Christian life on earth shouldn’t involve suffering then you’ll deprive people of a lot of joy.” Jesus suffered the cross FOR the joy set before Him. We are His joy and He suffered for us. I see so much suffering and it grieves my heart but when I touch the people and am touched by their plight, I am filled with the joy of Jesus because I know how He loves us, even through our sufferings.
True joy is being able to comfort those who need comforting. True joy is being able to pray for someone and see them healed and set free. True joy is being able to offer a home to the homeless and then watch them be transformed only by the love of God. Here at Yei Children’s Village Iris, we don’t ever counsel children when they arrive. Many times we don’t even talk about what they’ve been through, unless they want to. The Presence of God and the love of the Father is so tangible here that these children are touched and changed by His love through all of us. We just love them through.
We don’t allow darkness to come into our home. Yes, our children are sheltered from the world but they are not oblivious to it. We go to public places and evangelize and pray for drunkards and prostitutes and we see demonic people and witch doctors. The children know about these things. But within the confines of our home here, we don’t allow it. The children sing only Christian songs and watch only family rated movies. There are no magazines or books which have questionable content. There is so much light here that when we go out to evangelize, it really is the overflow of their hearts. They carry living water with no stagnant pools to be found. Do we live in a perfect world? No, we still have our share of squabbles and misunderstandings and occasional disobedience. After all, they are children like anywhere else in the world.
Saturday evening, we took our big tipper truck and went to the biggest produce market in Yei and we brought our worship team, 30 children on fire for the Lord. They stood in the filth of that place, trash all around, with drunks coming near and dancing a little too close at times. There was no fear in them. I preached a message of salvation from the bed of the tipper truck and then I told of a dream that the Lord gave me the night before. I dreamt that I was standing next to a ditch that was being dug in the streets of Yei. In real life, there really are ditches being dug in Yei to make way for a water system finally. Anyway, in my dream, some of our older boys saw a snake in the grass and they began to beat it out. The snake slithered into the ditch filled with water. The snake was about 10 feet long and about 6 inches in diameter and was solid black. It began to swim toward the other end where men were working and the ditch was filled with water. I yelled at the men to get out because the snake was going to kill them.
I then told the crowd that the snake is the devil and he is going to kill them if they don’t choose life. The dream was sent to me as a warning to the people of Yei. You could literally see the faces of the people change. They believe in dreams and there is even said that Yei has water spirits. When the call for salvation came, ninety five percent of the hands shot up. Then we sent our young children into this crowd of about a hundred people, two by two, to lay hands on people and pray for healing. Everyone we prayed for was healed, glory to God! It was so awesome. I was the only adult praying. The rest were our children. This is the joy set before us, to see people set free and darkness to flee. Perfect love casts out all fear. These children know the perfect love of the Father. They are not orphans.
This week I am working on securing transportation to go north to visit Turalei, a small community near Abyei, which has grown overnight to over 40,000 refugees. The UN says they cannot possibly handle this surge of humanity because the gas shortage has all but stopped them in their tracks. The situation is desperate already. Please keep us lifted in prayer that we can go and be of some assistance. We also want to visit our pastors in Darfur. Both of these places are still considered not secure but we believe God is calling us to go and that He will make the way there and back for us.
I have attached an article below that describes the situation in Turalei. Pray for these people. They are desperately in need of everything.
Residents fleeing Sudan's Abyei region flood nearby town, making food and fuel scarce
By Maggie Fick, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press – Fri, 27 May, 2011
Thousands of displaced persons from Abyei collect food rations in a makeshift camp …
TURALEI, Sudan - Ayak Adiang and her children will soon run out of food — but only because Adiang opened her home to villagers running from violence.
Tens of thousands of Sudanese are fleeing from the contested north-south border region of Abyei, and the top U.S. official in the region warned Friday of a humanitarian crisis over the north's invasion.
Food and fuel are running short. There is not nearly enough shelter.
Adiang's single-room house is now bursting with people. Martha Abiem Deng arrived empty-handed with two relatives and a dozen children between them after fleeing fighting in Abyei. Adiang took them in.
"They will consume the little we have," said Adiang as she sat near the dark, pungent hut that serves as her kitchen.
All Adiang has left is a pot of meat and three bowls of pounded porridge. Turalei's market is empty after an influx frightened families arrived over the past few days, almost doubling the town's population. The only things still for sale are cigarettes and telephone chargers.
County Commissioner Dominic Deng said Friday that up to 40,000 people have arrived in Turalei, a town just south of Abyei. He said at least 80,000 people have fled Abyei, a zone about the size of Connecticut which northern Sudan invaded last weekend.
On a visit to Turalei on Friday, the top U.S. official in Southern Sudan, Barrie Walkley, said "we have a perfect storm" creating a humanitarian crisis. Sudan's north is blockading border crossing points, preventing food and fuel from getting to the south. Militias are attacking southern forces, and the northern army displaced tens of thousands of people by invading Abyei, he said.
Lise Grande, the U.N.'s top humanitarian official in Southern Sudan, said there are not enough stocks in the area to supply all the fleeing families with food and shelter. The fuel shortage is greatly hampering relief efforts, she said.
"It's double the number of people we were planning for," she said. "We have to face the fact that if they are here for a while then what we have is not enough."
Outside Adiang's hut, Deng sat under a tree and gestured to one small jerry can. Her whole family must share the water within it "We don't have any money and there is no food in the market anyway," the 49-year-old said.
Both northern and Southern Sudan stake a claim to Abyei, a fertile grassland near several oil fields. Fighting between north and south broke out last week, and northern troops moved in with force.
Southern Sudan's president says the south will not respond militarily and risk a resumption of the country's civil war. More than 2 million people were killed during war, which ended with a peace deal in 2005.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, said Thursday that the north's movement into Abyei appears to have been premeditated.
Rice said government forces seem to have used an attack by southern forces on a convoy of government soldiers from the north last week as a "pretext" to move into Abyei, the border town between Sudan's Arab-dominated north and mainly ethnic African south.
North and south Sudan ended more than two decades of civil war in 2005 with a peace deal that promised both Abyei and the south a self-determination vote. The south voted overwhelmingly in January to secede and becomes an independent nation July 9. Abyei's vote never happened, so its future was being negotiated by the north and south.
But since fighting broke out last week, families have been pouring into Turalei, hoping for refuge. Many walk for days barefoot through the thorny jungle, carrying screaming children in their arms. Some end up sleeping under trees. The lucky ones are taken in by families, where they face the agonizing realization that every morsel that feeds their own children is taking away from the children of their hosts.
"The food will soon finish," said Adiang quietly, watching her toddler play in the dirt with the children of her guests. "Maybe the humanitarians will help." But despite the shortages, she is glad to be helping her kinsmen. "If I had fled to their place they would have taken me in," said Adiang. "It is our culture."
I’m going to just dive right in. The border area of Abyei (oil land) was taken by force this last week by President Bashir of the North. He sent war planes and dropped bombs on 10 innocent villages and killed innocent civilians. He dismantled the government by force and replaced it with his own. He made a public statement that if the South took Abyei, he would not recognize us as a nation and war would ensue. Well, he jumped the gun and started his own war. Abyei is now in the hands of the north and I don’t know what is going to happen next.
The people are displaced and running south. I dug through what little I own concerning clothes and managed to give two pairs of capri pants and six shirts and a pair of sandals and one set of bed sheets. This is just a tiny drop in the bucket but every little bit helps. I am still hoping to make a trip up there myself in the next few weeks. I will wait and see what God has in mind for me. I feel such a pull to go and encourage these people and so I wait on His leading to go.
The price of fuel here has hit such magnanimous proportions that even many NGO’s are not driving unless it is unavoidable. This is not an exaggeration – the cost for one gallon of gas is $14.00. This has caused a major chain reaction concerning food and transportation costs. Everything has doubled concerning taking public transportation. The price of maize, the main staple of subsistence, has doubled and the price of beans and rice and baby formula has gone up 50-70%. Things are becoming very hard in South Sudan and many say it will get much worse.
This new country (as of July 9th, 2011) will have no major industry or exports and so where is the money going to come from? Abyei is in the hands of the north and so we don’t even have oil money. It’s not looking good. The scripture, “Blessed are the poor….” Really hits home. This was this morning’s message from the mouth of a sixteen year old preacher, one of our girls. She preached that we are not here to be blessed but to be a blessing. We should rejoice in all things because Jesus has prepared a place for us when all is finished here on earth. These kids have no parents, a few sets of clothes, maybe two pairs of sandals and beans every day for food. They understand blessing.
Now for some good news. I took our abuba to the clinic, the one who couldn’t see very well, and she received an eye exam and a pair of new reading glasses for $3.00. That is awesome. There is a ministry here called CMS Ireland that runs a clinic and the prices are amazingly cheap, including meds. This is where we take our children for treatment. I don’t think they have any real doctors on staff, just bottom of the rung nurses with limited training. I have again spent most of the week at the clinic as the children are going through the cold and flu season and so there are a lot of coughs and sniffles going about, and malaria. So, we have checked all beds and all now have new mosquito nets and so we have declared war on malaria in Jesus Name!
I have also been busy with the business of running the base. There is still much building and just the daily needs are somewhat time consuming. I have been enjoying it and so am not complaining. But, this has once again left me so little time for outreach type ministry, although I spend major chunks of time with the children and so I think that qualifies as ministry J.
I was invited to speak at the Church of God Sudan conference for pastors and leaders on Saturday. I spoke about leadership and what it takes to make a great leader. Somehow the theme, “Follow Me”, was the basis of my talk. Everything that I do here seems to come back to that, follow the Lamb. It makes leading so much easier.
It has been raining every afternoon as the rainy season is upon us. The rain comes in sheets and soaks everything for about 15-20 minutes and the sun comes out and the children come back out and things grow almost before our eyes. When I left to Nairobi the maize plants were to my ankles. Exactly one month later and they are taller than me (over 6 feet). I sit on my front porch and 10 yards out there is a beautiful field of maize corn to look at. To my right, same distance, are onions. We are also growing ground nuts and cassava (my absolute favorite). Soon we will plant potatoes and greens. I love the rainy season here because the nights are amazingly cool. Talk about the best sleep ever!
Every day I eat my fill of fresh mango. They are so numerous that we have to eat one or two a day or they will spoil. They are my absolute favorite fruit and I never grow tired of them. The Lord has blessed me with excellent health and I feel great. Thank you for all your prayers for keeping my body healthy and strong.
I close my update with this wonderful scripture that I have been declaring every day now. Our borehole water supply is running slow and not as plentiful. It takes more effort to pump the water up and it is not as rich a flow. And so we lay hands on our borehole and declare out of Exodus 23:25 that we worship the Lord and he blesses our water and our food and He takes all sickness from among us and gives us a full life span. Every night I dance and sing and pray with the children under the stars, the heavens that the Lord put in place. We worship the Lord before we lay our heads to sleep each and every night. We will see our blessing, Amen!
This week I have been to the clinic every day but one, not for me, but for malaria and wound care for the kids. Malaria is a part of the daily life here in Sudan. For children it is critical and so we don’t delay in getting them treatment. Their little bodies can’t handle the fevers and dehydration and quick treatment is the order of the day. My spider bite wound is still healing slowly. Believe me, I don’t complain at all, even in my heart, because there are much worse things going on than this light affliction on me.
Jesus spoke to me this week about the things that belong to Him. If everything belongs to Jesus, then nothing belongs to me. If I truly gave Him everything, then nothing is mine to keep. Jesus even wants all these light afflictions from us. He wants everything we have to be His. He carries it all. All we have to carry is the cross. We take up the cross daily and carry it. We drink from the cup of suffering. We taste here and there, we carry here and there, but none of it belongs to us if we give Him everything. I can just picture the devil handing us sickness and immediately I turn to Jesus and quickly give it up, handing it over, letting it go. I certainly don’t want to hold onto it. Jesus “took up” all of our sickness and disease, all our infirmities. He is so wonderful and amazing to look down the line of time and see what lay ahead, and He took it up before it even came time to be. Deeeeeeep……
I was so excited this week to pick a package from the incoming MAF flight at our airstrip, which is about a 30 minute drive from here. Someone mailed me a package back in March containing much awaited balloons and marshmallows for the kids and I so wanted them to have it all. So, I took four of the older boys with me, as they just like to ride along. We got there and they unloaded the plane and there sat one small box, 12 X 12 inches, not for me. Awwwwwww……. So we drove back and laughed about how it took five big people to retrieve one small box.
We didn’t waste the trip. I took them to lunch at a small roadside stand and we ate our favorite meal ever, cassava posho and kabob. It is a sticky gummy maize dough with chunks of beef in a rich sauce, all eaten with our fingers of course. I had taken the girls earlier in the week to the same place. All were so happy and we were fat when we left J. Yes Jenny Joy, it is your favorite place! Sorey! Haha. I think I am going native as I am preferring to eat with my fingers more often than using a fork or spoon.
On Friday, I went to the local taxi park to pick up two very important packages from Juba City, the place where I did street ministry for a week in April. A teen girl and her younger brother came to live with us here in Yei. They lost their parents when they were young and have been living with their stepmother who abuses them. She was ready to take the girl to a village to marry her off to an old man. The stepmother told her to either marry or go live on the streets and to take her brother with her. She was prepared to live on the streets and so we have become their safe haven. The taxi guy said to meet him between 3-4 pm to pick her. We sat there for two solid hours, as he was very late.
The taxi park is a horrible place to be. The guys sit around and drink and chew this green grass stuff which is a type of speed/cocainish stuff that makes them nervous and edgy. There is always arguing and fighting and drunkenness. We watched this for two hours and it was like we were invisible because not a single person bothered us, which is highly unusual. Not a single drunk came near. Highly unusual. There was a small girl of about eight selling a huge sack of mangoes. She was selling them seven for one Sudanese pound (about 35 cents). I asked her if she would sell the entire bag for 10 pounds. She did. I figured there were only 70 or so mangoes inside.
This morning I washed them and counted them and I prayed that God would multiply them so that all 110 or so kids and the 10 mamas could enjoy. All the children came and all the mamas came and everyone had a mango and there were even five left over!! That is like 125 or so mangoes. I can’t prove or even say for sure that God multiplied them but I know these street kids. They know how much they have to sell and always get the best deal for produce. This little girl would not have sold me twice the amount of mangoes for that cheap price. But God! Haha! Makes me smile.
I found a really cool verse this week. In 1 Samuel 7:5, the prophet Samuel tells the Israelites this: “I will intercede WITH the Lord for you.” Jesus intercedes before the throne day and night for us. When we pray, we are not praying to Him, we are praying WITH Him to the Father, in Jesus Name. How way cool is that? We intercede WITH Jesus, right there alongside of Him. The scripture says that we are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. We are right there with Him when we pray. Samuel ministered before the Lord for hours every day. He got a revelation of true intercession. He knew it was a partnership with the Lord, a position of sitting with Him. There are so many sweet nuggets like this sprinkled all over the Old Testament, telling of things to come when Jesus got here. God is ALWAYS telling us before hand. We just have to listen better, me for sure J.
I had a soaking session with the teenagers on Friday morning and we prayed from this position. We waited on God to answer us, Jesus and us, and we received the same things to bring to prayer on Friday night at our Friday Night Furnace meeting. I am teaching them to wait on the Lord for His leading concerning prayer and what to pray WITH Him when we intercede on Friday nights. This is powerful because we are in agreement with Jesus. We intercede with Him. I really like that.
Today, Sunday, I presented the message to our church about Psalm 23. As we went through each verse, I had three little sheep (children) enacting the verses. Green pastures equaled one green sleeping bag. Rod and staff equaled a broomstick minus the broom. Banquet table equaled a mango, some bisquits (crackers) and lots of “laua” (candy). Boy did I have their attention.
As I talked about the table set before us in the presence of our enemies, I poured out the candy at the feet of the sheep and one of our toddlers, Patience, who just learned to walk, she yells out my name in excitement, “Owlina!!” and starts toddling over to the banqueting table and sits right down at the candy section for her share. Ahhhhhh it was so perfect. She didn’t care what the church crowd thought. She had a single eye for that table and she walked sweet as you please across the alter, her eyes on the prize. When we sit and feast with our Shepherd, people will see the wonderful pleasure and abundance that is to be found there and they will come to dine with Him. When we see the feast that He gives us, do we take notice and yell out His name in excitement and go single eyed to His table? Do we care that everyone is staring? Where is our focus? Oh the things that I learn from the mouths of babes……
As I was sitting with one of the older mamas this week, we call her Abuba, I asked her why she didn’t do needlepoint like the other mamas and all the older girls. She said, “I can’t see.” I never realized. She never complains or squints or acts like she has a hard time with small things. It’s just amazing how people really don’t complain about stuff here. They are happy, no matter what. Everyday I seek this kind of attitude, being satisfied with much and with little, just being thankful for the goodness of God, however He blesses me, just being thankful.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I send you greetings filled with the peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and His power residing in you who believe. This week as I prepare to bring the “Easter” message in our church, I am constantly reminded of my citizenship in heaven. Being in a foreign country, it is never far from my thoughts how easily my being here is questioned. Whenever I travel outside of the area of Yei County, I am asked for my papers giving me a right to be here in Sudan.
God has reminded me of my citizenship in His country, His kingdom (Phil 3:18-20). I have diplomatic immunity whenever I enter into the kingdom of darkness to rescue those who are caught there. I have my kingdom passport, stamped with the Blood of Jesus, giving me access in the foreign country of darkness. The devil will question my right to go into his domain but he can’t legally stop me from getting what belongs to the kingdom of light and bringing it out. He can use corruption to try and stop me but as long as I stand firm in who I am and where I come from, he fights a losing battle. I love that!
This week, as we have been continuing our ministry of teaching the nurses in the hospital to pray for the sick, we have been praying before we go there. As we have been praying, I have been asking God for the dead and meaning it. Oh, I have asked God to anoint me with the kind of faith it takes to pray for the dead to be raised, but I don’t think I ever believed I could have that extreme kind of faith. I have never even prayed for a dead person. As we were praying this week, I began to ask in faith, believing, for the dead. It just came out of my mouth and so I know it was not me purposely asking for this. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. I am tired of seeing the dead. I want to see life.
That day, as we arrived at the hospital, there was a lady lying in the dirt under a mango tree crying and wailing because she had lost a loved one. We looked and kept walking toward our classroom area to get ready for the teaching. I kept looking back at the lady and I finally had to go to her because I felt such compassion welling up inside me. As soon as I laid hands on her, I began to cry with her. I felt her pain and I didn’t even know her. The tears wouldn’t stop flowing, although silently. In Africa, when a person dies, all the women gather and cry with the grieving family. I felt a part of them this day. I felt their pain.
After praying, I then returned to the classroom and just kept looking out at the small crowd. Then I heard the Lord say to me, “This morning you asked Me for the dead. Did you mean it?” I was taken aback. Well, yes, I meant it, but now? I went back out to the crowd and asked where the husband was, in what ward. A lady took me to him and he was lying in the dorm style ward, people all over visiting their family members who were sick. No one seemed to pay any mind to the dead guy covered in a green sheet with his wife’s embroidery on it, right there in the midst of life going on all around him. There was one man standing there and I asked if this was his relative. He was the nephew. I asked if I could pray for his uncle and he said yes.
I stood at the foot of the bed and firmly took hold of his cold and stiff feet and began to pray. People were watching me all around and I was by myself in this. I closed my eyes and began to speak life into him and began to imagine his feet warming and moving beneath my touch as Jesus breathed life into him. I thought about a missionary to Africa, John G Lake I think, who said that when you pray for the dead, grab their feet because if their feet get warm then life is returning. I prayed with all this running through my mind and I was really expecting life to come. The world seemed to fade away and it was me and the dead guy and Jesus. After about ten minutes, I moved to the head of the bed and placed my hand on his head, which was still hidden under the sheet. I then told the uncle sorry and the uncle was glad I prayed, even though nothing happened.
I believe this was just a huge step of faith for me and there was no fear in me, even though people probably thought I was nuts. I just know that Jesus and the disciples were raising the dead and Jesus said we could too and so I went after that and I felt such compassion for the wife. I feel like this was a seed sown and the next time I step out in faith and pray for a dead person, something good will happen. In Luke 18:8 Jesus asked the disciples, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Jesus mentioned the word faith 46 times just in the gospels. I counted them. Faith is a huge deal to Him. I want bigger faith, I really do. I don’t want to fear man’s reaction anymore concerning what I do with my faith. I want to live the gospels in my heart and not just in my mind. It is with our mouths that we confess but it is with our hearts that we believe.
The cross is faith in action. Jesus had such great faith in what He was doing for all mankind on the cross, faith that would change the entire story of every life into eternity. He knew that people would think He was crazy, a heretic, doing things and saying things that were not normal. The Christianity of Jesus is the normal. Everything else is abnormal.
FAITH…… What does it really mean in each of our lives? I have not come even close to attaining it, but everyday I contend for it.
This week I planted almost two fields full of peanuts. Here we call them ground nuts. We have no tractors or plowing oxen, just out backs and hands and feet. It is hard and tedious work but we all work together, planting in other’s fields. This week some of us went to help a pastor’s wife plant her field. Then we planted a friend’s field, she is single and has a small child. Neither field belonged to any of us but we planted and sowed happily until it was finished. Job 12:8 says, “speak to the earth and it will teach you”. So many times, the earth teaches me about the great mysteries of the kingdom of God.
We planted another’s field with no expectation of a personal return. We just wanted to be a help to another in need. This is the fellowship of the believer’s. We shall all reap together in heaven, a great harvest. It’s not about what we reap here on the earth. I used to always think about seeing the harvest of the kingdom. I would do ministry for the reason of seeing a harvest. Now, I minister from the stance of only wanting to sow extravagantly, sowing everywhere in all fields, knowing that the harvest will come and bless those whom God has in mind to bless. I receive my blessing everyday because I know that He makes my heart grow bigger each time I sow. My heart is God’s harvest field. From that abundance I can sow extravagantly.
Last week at the hospital we prayed for a nurse, Felix, who came up in front of everyone and said that he could not quit drinking and smoking and he wanted to be set free. He was so humble and desperate for help. We prayed for him. Tuesday, he brought a friend who was in the same trouble. A week later Felix is still free from alcohol and cigarettes and he brought yet another friend! Felix is a new man and is so excited. All we did was pray with him. Jesus changed his heart and his life. We went to the hospital on Good Friday to pray for the sick and we went to visit Felix where he works on the TB ward.
He brought all the patients who could walk outside under a mango tree and we told them the good news of Jesus the Healer. We prayed for each patient and gave out Bibles. I prayed for one man in a wheel chair who hadn’t walked since January. When I finished I asked him to stand and take a few steps with me. He did! Haha! I told him to contend for the Lord’s strength and to not give up. We left and people were encouraged. Even if all we do is encourage people, it is more than not going at all. People need to hear good news. It is a sad and scary world for many and good news is hard to come by anymore. Jesus is always good news. In every situation, He is the good news.
Today is Resurrection Sunday and I preached this morning about the first sacrifice, in the Garden of Eden, when God had to kill an animal to make skins to cover Adam and Eve. I talked about how the Israelites had to depend on the high priest once a year to get atonement for their sins. Then I finished with the cross.
Well, during worship, a snake was found crawling in the overhead rafters. Everyone started focusing on this snake and it was too high up to do anything about anyway. I got everyone’s attention and asked them if they wanted to look at the devil today or look at Jesus. They all yelled, “JESUS!” and we commenced to worship again, eyes closed and taking no notice of the sneaky snake, who kept peeking out at us. When I started my message, I told them how ironic it was that Satan would attempt this day, of all days, to distract us. Satan tried a long time ago to make himself higher than God and it didn’t work then. He was cast out of heaven and made to crawl on his belly. I pointed to the cross in the center of our church and told them that Satan would never be higher than the cross, not ever! He was defeated at the cross. The church went crazy and cheered. Ha! Satan was put in his place and I gave the message with this snake hanging over our heads and never giving it any mind.
After the service, two of the older boys climbed up in the rafters and struck it down and cut off its head!!! Such a perfect resurrection message and the power of the cross and Satan being defeated!! I loved it! Earlier this week I prepared 120 little gift bags for the children, which contained plastic laces for weaving, beads and stickers and a cross bracelet and candy. They were so happy and spent the entire afternoon working on their crafts, even the older boys. A very pleasant day.
The rains have come and planting has begun in earnest here in South Sudan. Well, not frantic, but everyone’s planting. For many, work gets set aside, school gets set aside, planting is what’s in right now. I am learning how to plant maize corn and moringa trees and onions and all sorts of things. No tractors or farm equipment except for hearty backs and arms and the sweat of our brows. It’s still very hot when it isn’t raining so the nights can be a battle with constant thirst and a swimming pool for a bed. But when the rains come, it is a cool 65 degrees! Crazy!
And now, an update on my last update. The lady who was pregnant and bleeding out that we sent to the hospital in the back of a pickup truck, well her baby was still in the hospital when I left to come back to Yei. And the baby who was on his last breaths because the mother was a drunkard, well we went back to give him formula and found that the grandmother was the one who took him to the hospital. The doctors found that he had alcohol poisoning, which means that the mother’s breast milk was so full of alcohol or she was actually feeding her baby alcohol. Our recommendation to the grandmother was to take baby formula from us and feed the baby herself, not allowing the mother to breast feed if possible.
The mother with the twins left by themselves all day, well we found encouraging news about her. The reason she leaves during the day is so she can go dig through trash to find food or bottles or things she can sell to care for her babies. She does not drink and when we last visited her, we found her bathing her babies and they were smiling and crawling around and seemed to be loved. She is married to a very old man who is also sickly. She was forced into marriage with him because he was able to pay enough cows to her father. That’s life here in Sudan. It’s all about the cows to some of these tribes. And so we brought her a new tarp to cover her hovel to keep the spring rains out. She will receive regular visits from Cathy to help her.
I arrived back in Yei right at lunchtime on Monday and the children came running and all were happy to welcome Abuba and myself home. Abuba is one of our mamas who traveled with me to Juba to visit her family. I entered my room and found a mess. I keep all of my dry foodstuffs in ziplock bags in a suitcase to keep the rats and bugs out. I accidentally left the suitcase unzipped and found that some rats had a great vacation inside my suitcase. I had to throw almost everything out as there was rat feces and food spilled from open bags. Then to clean the rat droppings from around my room I had to move everything out to clean. All this took about two hours as I had to clean everything with bleach and water.
That night I was resting and watching a DVD on my computer and I heard a rat in a box under my bed. So, I had to move everything out from under my bed and this rat went scurrying out the door. So, I moved everything back and settled in to finish my DVD. Then I heard another! Again I moved everything out and still no rat. Then I tossed my gumboots out and there it was, running for it’s life. And so I fixed a last supper for those rats and left it outside my door for them to enjoy, spiced up with a dollop of rat poison of course. The next morning, dead rat! And now there is peace in my room!
This week we have taken nine more children into our midst, three teen girls and six little boys, all without mothers as they have died. Tomorrow, Monday, we are taking in five more. I think we have about 120 children now. Again and again I am challenged by the resilience of these kids. These children have just been taken from all they have known and brought into a strange place, knowing that this is where they will stay. And yet they seem happy for the most part. The boys play and run and laugh and the girls have made friends and have become part of our family in just these few days. It speaks much of the culture here, which embraces strangers and makes them feel welcome. No one is a stranger for long.
Yesterday I was talking with one of our staff about the study habits of the children. The girls are so focused and the boys just want to play. I told him this is the same in most cultures I think. He then told me a great story about hard work and discipline. He said there once was an old man who was dying. This old man had great fields of harvest. He was rich in produce and the land was good. He had a lazy son and called him to his bedside and told him that when he dies, that the son should know that there is a great treasure buried under the dirt and for him to find it after his death. So the father dies and the son spends the next year doing nothing, just eating up the crops and enjoying the harvest.
Soon the harvest was finished and there was nothing left to eat. He began to fret because he would starve. Then he remembered what his father had said about the treasure. And so he got the hoe and began to dig looking for this treasure. He dug all day. He dug all the next day. When he surveyed all that he had done and still no treasure, it was then that he realized that the earth itself, which grew the harvest, was where the treasure was found. It was up to him to plant the seed and the earth would yield the crops, the treasure.
Many times, we as Christians, we enjoy the harvest of the Word of God and we enjoy seeing the result of another’s ministry and even partake of the fruit of it. Yet when we are then asked to go out on our own, to dig for the treasure, we continue to partake of what is already there. Soon we find ourselves hungry and dissatisfied and we don’t know why. We start looking around for a different diet, a new wind of refreshing for our souls, food from another’s field. When all the while, the treasure is there, if we would just put our hands to the plow and dig. We are all called to go to the fields and find treasure. Those who put their hands to the plow will find it and be satisfied. Those who continue looking at what is planted by another will soon become dissatisfied. It is only a matter of time.
My friend told me another “parable” about how when a young tree is planted, you must tie it to a stick so that it does not fall or break when the winds and rain come. The young tree remains with this stick until it is strong enough to stand on its own, then the stick can be removed. This is the way of a father who raises up his child. The child remains close to the stick, tethered to the stick, the stick being firm and seasoned, yet leaving enough room for the small tree to grow. This way the young tree is not allowed much freedom to bend the wrong way or be broken by standing alone.
So many times in the Bible God talks about trees. He says we are the planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:3), and we are planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:3), and we shall be called oaks of righteousness (Isaiah 61:3), we will have the right to the tree of life (Rev 22:14). In Genesis 2:9, God told Adam that he could partake of any tree, even the tree of Life, but he could not partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because then he would surely die. The Tree of Knowledge represents the Law. Deut 21:23 tells us that anyone hung on a tree is cursed. Jesus allowed Himself to be hung on a tree so that we could again have life, the life that was lost in the Garden of Eden.
When this friend told me the parable of the stick, I thought about Jesus and sin and Law. I thought about how in the Old Testament man tried to follow the Law standing on his own and he couldn’t. It was a stick tightly bound, leaving no room for growth or grace. Jesus became that stick that we need to have life. He brings discipline and growth, not through laws and regulations, but through mercy and grace, allowing us room to grow, yet still tethered to Him so that we won’t fall when the storms come. As long as I am walking on this earth, I will remain “as a” child so that I can remain tethered to that Stick, to the cross, to Jesus.
Three weeks ago, we went to the village to visit the father of two of our children who was diagnosed to die. I gave the testimony in that update how the two boys prayed for him and how we declared life over him. This week, one of our mamas talked to him and he was walking around, the swelling all over his body almost completely gone and he feels good! Praise Jesus! What a testimony to these children about the power of their prayers. It was a great testimony in church this morning and they were excited to hear the news.
This week we also received permission from the Yei County Hospital to hold training twice a week with any nurses or doctors who would like to attend on how to heal the sick through prayer. The first day we had 12 come. The second day we had 17 come. After each session we pray for those who need healing and many of them receive their healing. This is such an amazing opportunity to bring prayer alongside medicine in the healing of the sick. This is just amazing that we even get to do this on hospital time and property! Only God! All this came about because for three months we have gone every week to pray for the sick. There is so much that God wants to do.
This week I have continued my training on how to plant and harvest things in the earth. Yesterday I learned how to sift sorghum. Sorghum is what is used to make posho, which is a staple with every meal. It is doughy and great to fill the belly. It grows as tiny seeds on bushy branches. When harvested, they are set out to dry for days and days. Then we beat them with a stick until all these tiny seeds fall off and we remove the branches to see all these millions of seeds. Then we have to take the seeds and fill little woven half shaped baskets. We hold the baskets above our heads and slowly pour out the seeds as the wind catches the chaff, or hulls. We do this at least twice, even up to three times. Then we take these seeds in these same baskets and gently shake them back and forth until the remaining chaff comes to the top and we blow it off. It is a tedious and hard process in the hot sun.
Of course, I thought about a parable to relate to all this. You know me! God takes us through this same process of refining and shaking off things off of us. The winds of change must come to blow off the things that won’t produce a good result. Some have to go through it again and again until it is finished. And then there is a final shaking, a cleansing, to bring forth that good fruit. Hebrews 12 tells us that God will shake everything that can be shaken until only He remains. I want to be good posho, good tasting to God, a delight to His lips. I welcome the sifting and gentle shaking when it comes. It is a good thing.
This week brings us closer to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us go about doing good to all so that when the day of celebration comes, we can say with confidence that He lives in us and through us. May the Lord bless you and keep you and be gracious unto you. May He cause His face to shine upon you and give you much peace this week. Shout GRACE to your mountains! Halelujah.
I left Yei on Monday morning to travel to Juba, the current capital city of South Sudan, the seat of the current government. I was dropped at the “taxi park” and found a ride in a Landcruiser with 11 other passengers. We were packed in like sardines, it was crazy. At one point the guy was going to shove another passenger to sit on a two person jumpseat where two people already were, one of them being myself! I got out and demanded my money back and wanted to go in another vehicle. The guy refused! Simply refused. That’s how it is here. Corruption! The guy finally relented and didn’t put another person in probably because he got tired of my persistence. They don’t usually give up the making of more money that easily.
The taxi park in Juba is out of control crazy. There were so many taxi vans that I couldn’t begin to count them. The city is also slowly paving its roads and it felt so nice to be on a smooth surface after 10 weeks on dirt roads. I am staying at a guesthouse where the owner also has a street kid ministry on property. The area where they bathe and eat and play at small desks is literally one step outside of my bedroom door. The girls are here for bathing and breakfast at 0730 and then off to school except for two smaller ones. They all return a little after 1200 for lunch and stay until after dinner, going home before dark.
These girls then go home at night to severe poverty, to parents who beat them, neglect them, or are drunks and/or prostitutes or all of the above and some go to shacks made of tin or old tarps and care for themselves. There are two sisters currently with us in Yei who were living alone, ages nine and three years old. Three of the smallest girls at this Drop In Center live in “The Dying Place”, which I will tell you about later in this update, and Abuba, the resident grandma, cares for them as best she can. One of the girls I am pretty sure has some form of cerebral palsy or something like it and has just started walking this last year. She is seven years old. She came to us yesterday with a 2 Sudanese Pound note, which is about 30 cents USD. She said that a man gave it to her after he had sex with her on her way home. That is the going rate for sex on the street, 30 cents. She left for the Iris Children’s Village the very next morning. She is now safe.
Today I went to visit these slums all morning and then again tonight. There are shacks and hovels everywhere and the people are living in filth. We went to this one area where a little girl sat and there were so many flies on her I could not count them. I peered into another hovel and there were twin baby boys sleeping, covered with flies, and small piles of feces next to them and even on the foam mattress. These boys were not even two years old and their mother was nowhere to be found. She leaves them all day alone because she can’t cope and who knows where she goes.
We visited another place where, again, the kids were so covered in flies it was hard for me to hold them, but I did. I found one little treasure and carried her around and had flies all over my face because she had them. I couldn’t put her down though and I hugged her even closer so she could bury her face in my clean shirt. It broke my heart and I fought to control my emotions. The people here don’t understand crying publicly and it wouldn’t help things and so you have to hold on to your heart tightly. In this place there was a hovel that had beds and sleeping mats and nicer cloth throws. It was the brothel where young girls earned their money at night.
There was also a tarp and tin structure with a grandmother sitting inside holding a severely malnourished baby, who was on his last breaths. She said that her daughter, the mother of the little baby, was a drunk and didn’t care to stick around to breast feed the baby boy and so they are just waiting for him to die. He had flies all over him and he was so weak that he couldn’t even cry, just a tiny squeak. I almost lost it right then.
And then a very old looking grandma came hobbling up on a cane, barely moving, her shirt unbuttoned. She was wrinkled and emaciated, and she sat down in the tiniest of hovels. You couldn’t even kneel in it because it was so tiny. This was her house, about three feet by five feet. She sat on the front mat in the muddy pathway, half in and half out, puking her guts out, her daughter helping to wipe her mouth. I wanted to just cry and cry and cry at the injustice of it all! I have seen such poverty and filth all over Africa. The filth is mostly due to no sanitation because there is no sewage, water or trash disposal system in place. We left the grandma and visited another place in the market. There are so many back alleys in the market that one could so easily get lost.
We made our way back to what Cathy calls, “The Dying Place”. This is a small area, about 20 x 25 square yards, enclosed by a ragged bamboo fence with one large covered area under a ragged tin roof and mats strewn about. This is where the older alcoholics come to drink until they die. They come here to just die. There are three old men who lie on mats outside and when it rains, they just stay there soaking in the mud. They don’t care anymore. Inside there is a wonderful lady, very healthy (fat) and jolly, called Abuba, which means grandma. She takes care of everyone. She lives here in this poverty stricken place to care for everyone! She loves these people and stays with them.
There was a lady sitting behind a thin curtain who was in labor. It was the mom of one of our children in Yei. Saida’s mom….. I went to pray for her and we found that she was bleeding out. The Abuba and a couple of other ladies said that they could do nothing for her and she will probably die there. We asked someone to go get a taxi and take her to the hospital. I paid 100 Sudanese pounds for the pick up truck and the hospital birthing fees. That is about $31.00 USD. So this bleeding pregnant lady has to walk through alleys to get to the truck and then climb in back. Not a whimper or grimace. I prayed over her and the baby and off they went.
We then made our way back through the market and stopped to buy some clothes for the children. I also purchased two skirts and two blouses for the old grandma in her small tent. We came back to the guesthouse and I spent the afternoon doing beads with the girls. After the girls ate their dinner, we went back to the market to see about Saida’s mom and if she had the baby. The Abuba told us that she had the baby but it was born not breathing. They were able to resuscitate him and mother and baby are okay, praise God. Now I am praying for Saida’s mom who is an alcoholic. She couldn’t even care for Saida and her sister and now she has a baby boy.
I cannot look at all of this and think, “What the heck can I do to make any difference when we get the kids away from these people and they just have more????” I have to take one child at a time and believe it makes a huge difference. I see the transformation in the kids we save. Until something drastic happens, one kid at a time is the only way to survive and keep my mind and heart intact. Otherwise I would fill up with grief and despair.
Wednesday I hopped on a minivan bus and headed further into the city to the ZAIN office to get my modem fixed which I bought last September that has never worked. I arrived in the inner city and got out and just walked, asking for directions until I found the place. Problem solved and now out to explore some of the city. I walked all over, down trash littered dirt alleys where the real treasures are hiding and up paved roads, by myself. There was a group of old people sitting on the side of one road in the dirt, eight or nine of them. They were all missing limbs or were blind or deformed. They obviously lived on that corner as they had ragged tarps and basins for washing and a small cook stove and some pots. I knelt and visited with them for a bit and left them with some money for food. My heart again wrenched and broke for these broken people.
I then hopped in a minivan bus and actually found my way back to the guesthouse without asking directions. I was amazed because all the streets look the same, filled with trucks and cars and rubbish and razor wired walls and all the side roads are still dirt. I am so glad that God has given me a spirit of boldness to go places by myself, yet common sense to know where not to go. In all my travels I never see white people walking anywhere. I am not exaggerating here. I am just so amazed because you miss so much of what is going on and who the people are. The white people mostly go from point A to point B in a taxi or organizational vehicle. I guess what I am saying is this, don’t be afraid to get out and walk among the people in a foreign country, even a place like Sudan. That’s where real life is happening, not behind the glass window of a car. Ah there is so much life on the streets. And death…..for those who are dying there.
Last night Cathy and I actually did the unthinkable. We went in her car to the market to visit a couple of children’s hovels. The streets were practically lined with groups of chairs in half circles to form makeshift drinking places. The streets are alive with alcohol and very loud music being blasted distortedly from generator powered speakers. We drove down back alleys where the little car barely fit and parked and got out and walked a little ways to our destination. People come up and ask for money to buy alcohol and are almost in shock to find us in their midst, especially me, the kawaja, and we go on our way untouched and even respected. Some places were so dark that you couldn’t make out facial features. The people were actually friendly toward us. I never once feared because I knew God was with me.
This afternoon, Wednesday, I hung out with the girls and we made African clay stuff. A guy comes once a week and brings his dirt mix which is the mud here and water mixed to a consistency resembling clay. It was quite cool. I have been watching the girls and am almost shocked by their behavior sometimes. I don’t show it but inside I cringe. They change here and wash their street clothes and hang them to dry each day. A few of them pose and shake their hips in front of the mirror acting like they are dancing for men, real sexy. These are girls that are only ten years old and a little older. They hang out at the street bars at night and dance and sell their bodies for money and attention. I tell the girls that they are beautiful to God and they don’t have to do this. I hug them and tell them they are treasured no matter what. They smile and let me love them.
I am only here a week and so I love them as much as I can, giving so many hugs and holds, and pray for them and spend the days with them. They all want to go back to Yei with me but that is not possible. We can’t just take them from their families, and they bring in money so their families won’t let them go. And so I continue to pray and love.
Yesterday, we went back to visit the dying baby who’s mother is a drunk and won’t feed him, to bring him some formula. We arrived after dark because of the urgency of the situation. We found that the baby was taken to the hospital as he was on his last breaths. I thank God that the mother at least did that, or maybe it was the grandmother. We also brought some food for the grandma who is living in the small tent. She is also blind and so she didn’t even see me standing there waiting to hand her the bag. I had to say, “Abuba, inni”, Grandmother, here. She then took it with a grateful smile.
I am amazed at the places I found myself this week after dark. I never saw any white people in these places in the daytime, much less after dark when the drinking starts and such. The people were so nice and welcoming to me. I felt safer in these places than most places in downtown USA at night. I never felt threatened or frightened. I even had to be outside by myself to guide the car in the dark for it to back up and not get stuck. People would come and shake my hand and kids would run up and hug me. When Jesus sends you on a mission, He goes with you. The people know it and they welcome you most times.
We also went to visit the mom of the twins and found her very pleasant and sober, which was a very good thing. So, I don’t think she left the babies to go and drink. I think she just goes to find work and find ways to earn money to support herself and the babies and has no choice but to leave them. They looked happy and I tried to hold one but the flies were so bad that I had to set this one down. They were trying to go up my nose. Had to draw the line. We also learned that the lady who was in labor that we rescued, well the baby is still in hospital.
Tonight is Saturday night and there is one of the small girls from this Drop In Center standing outside my window literally wailing because she does not want to go home. It is now dark and she is still wailing loudly and I am sitting here with my heart in pieces tears running down my face because I DON’T know what to do! All I can do is think about the terrors that will now face her on her walk home. I don’t have a car. She won’t tell me where she lives. She won’t quit crying. I can’t have her here in my room because she has to learn not to do this. Then the lady who I have been working with all week comes to my room and says, “Let’s go and take her home”.
I hurry out to the dark street and scoop her in my arms and we are crying together. We take her deep into the market where there are so many drunk and mean people. There is a man in the middle of the path, pants down to his ankles, and he is scooting along in the dirt because he is too drunk to stand. There are a group of men fighting and swinging beer bottles. We get to her alley and there are three men standing there. I have been praying the whole time for Jesus’ angels to surround us, and the little girl, because these are the mean streets. We tell the little one to run down the dark alley to her home, “Jeri jeri, guam, Jesu rua itta!” Run, run quickly, Jesus goes with you! As soon as she gets out of the car, the three men are already leaving down the trail, totally unaware of us, and her. Jesus is already there. As we are driving out, the man scooting on the ground is still there trying to pull his pants up, still sitting in the dirt, people still walking casually by him. It is impossible to describe the craziness here in this place.
I am so upset inside for these babies. I even feel somewhat depressed and so terribly sad. I have to keep my gaze upon Jesus and His grace or I couldn’t continue to do this. My heart can’t contain this hurt for them. I am so angry with the adults who are so negligent, from the government down to the parents to the drunks and pedophiles. I literally felt helpless tonight and I hated that. I hated that I couldn’t help her and I put my hands to my face and cried, asking Jesus what can I do and He came. Jesus is breaking my heart all over again for these broken lives. Even the drunks who are so addicted that they would leave their babies in filth to go party or crawl naked through the street. I am asking God to break me even more. I don’t ever want to become immune to all this or to harden my heart toward anyone, whether the adult in the wrong or the victims, the tiniest ones.
Today I am spending the day with 17 girls singing and making beads and dancing and watching one last movie before I go. Tomorrow I head back to Yei, back to paradise compared to here, but I know that soon I must come back to this type environment and stay and minister. The Lord and your prayers strengthen me. I love and bless you all in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is able where no man is.