Thursday, 26 December 2013

I Miss You

Dear Africa,

It's been 4 months since I left you. At first I was happy to go and see my home in America. Yet lately I keep dreaming of you. I hear your children laughing and...I miss you.

I miss your color. Splashes of red, purple and gold captivate my memories and I smile.

I miss your music. The fast pace beat of the drum and the emotional rhythm with clapping hands and body fully given to melody. I miss you.

I miss your Children, those dark eyes looking up at mine so deep, so full. The beautiful smiles that make my heart embrace life....I will never recover from their looks. Oh Africa, I miss you.

I miss your crazy, unpredictable nature! I never know when you will surprise me, your personal, community orientated schedule. I miss you.

I miss your dirt, that blanket that covers almost everything and paints your world in red.

I miss your noise, full of languages and activity, mooing, baaing, and clucking and song.

I miss your people, those I have grown to love and care so deeply about.

I miss you.

I miss you.

I miss you.

I will never be the same because of you and I love you.

See you next week!

Because Jesus lives,



Sunday, 1 December 2013

It's not about the Bull it's about the horns, antlers or whatever.

The dress code in November is camouflage if you live in Plains Montana, coupled with a bright orange vest. In fact if you do not wear this uniform with pride you may get some disapproving looks. It is, after all hunting season!  Everyone knows that the size of the man or woman is shown by the size of the antlers on the animal you shot, killed, gutted and posted on Facebook. Oh, the majestic head of a glorious buck or bull, which if shot must be thrown in the back of your pickup truck and driven around town, tail gate down, antlers showing and tongue out for a minimum of three hours.

Now, I was raised a Montana girl, but sometimes I fail to understanding the obsession with hunting season. So I set myself to understand it this week, and this is just a few notes of my research.. 

There is something that comes over a Montana man during hunting season...I like to call it "That time of the year."  The man becomes highly emotional and sensitive.
If you sat in a little cafĂ© here in Plains long enough, you more than likely would see men walk in after a long day of hunting, all clad in their armor of camo and orange.  They find a group already sitting around the table. "Where you been hunting?" says the one man to the next, looking away as he takes a swig of his coffee.  "In the woods, you idiot!" says the other (either that or he tells a falsehood about where his favorite hunting spot is; there is a lot of heckling and lies among this crowd.)

Now if you was not informed proper (sorry; I can't help but add some redneck rhetoric), then you might think this was a cruel and unkind response, and that it was perfectly okay for one man to ask where the other was hunting, when in fact it was completely inappropriate!  Pretend you're a cook right now and someone just asked for your secret recipe! How do you feel? I mean, that's just rude!  

Remember the whole, "men get over emotional during this time of the year?"  Yeah, well, this also happens when another man gets a big buck while the other is still looking. Apparently, getting skunked is like dying an old maid...apparently it's sad. I was consoling a woman the other day with my new found knowledge, as she expressed concern that her son would be jealous over her other son's buck.  I told her that, "It's like a girl getting married, on one hand you are angry that the girl is married and you are not, but on the other hand you're rather happy that the girl is off the market." I told her, just tell him, "The woods are open my son and you still get to look for bigger and better bucks, while your brother has filled his tag and now he just has to sit at home and cut up meat!"

I was trying to follow a conversation with two hunters the other day who were pretending to be humble. They had measuring tape out and the antlers of the white tail bucks they had killed. They were slurring out numbers, "Ahhh it's just a 122 (I really can't remember but there was a lot of numbers.) "Yeah, he's not that big, but he's all right," he says as he can hardly lift the massive tangled rack!

"I shot a two point once..." I wanted to say that, but I think they would have called me a baby Bambi killer. Yes, people will laugh at you if you don't come home with a 4, 5 point or whatever.

Bottom line...I'm not a hunter...and I would just like to confess that, with only one day left for hunting season, I still don't really get it, but just like the movie "Bambi" I find it entertaining.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

You might be going through culture shock if...

 Well, it has not quite been a month since I have been in the States eating meat, communicating in English and texting "lol" If I could sum it all up in one word it would be, 'crazy',  absolutely crazy and wonderful, Okay, that was three I know. :)  I just want to hold on to every moment of laughter, sunshine and dwell in the absolute glory of holding the hand of my little nephew.

  I have my moments of finding myself outside with my tooth brush and water bottle brushing my teeth or pointing to things with my tongue (Didinga culture thing), or forgetting to flush a toilet or I'll be washing my hands for five minutes at the tap because first of all, it comes out and secondly, it comes out warm and THAT is stinking amazing! I WAS thinking  "I'm readjusting to this American world pretty well!"

But now I'm thinking "Or not"

 I'm having these moments of identity crisis where I'm walking down the street and think, "Who am I now, am I who I was before I left for Africa or am I who I became in Africa, or something all together different?"

Truth be told, since I've been back, I feel like I've been in this huge fog or like I am standing in the ocean with massive waves coming at me in quick pace and all I can do is stand firm because if one takes me down I might drown. I try to fix my mind to think clearly and help all the wonderful people around me to understand Africa, but the truth is, I don't understand Africa right now!

 I have all these weird emotions of duty, pride, anger, love, hurt, joy, anticipation, fear and trust, I find myself trying to fix other people's problems because I don't know how to fix my own (Why do we do that?!).

A couple of days ago I was in the children's isle of the library reading to my Niece "Born to be a Butterfly" for young readers.  Suddenly I just started tearing up, feeling so sad for the poor butterfly going through all that pain and venerability just to become a butterfly!

 Tears where streaming down my face as I read to her about how the butterfly first is born an egg then becomes a caterpillar.  The caterpillar get's so hungry because she needs to grow.  This desire causes her to eat and eat but the more she eats the tighter her skin gets around her and eventually her skin breaks open and she has different skin, this changing skin thing happens four times before she begins to develop this hard skin that protects her inside (the cocoon), and she just hangs out for awhile. (literally)

But inside a change is happening, she finally comes out of her cocoon with her wings all wet and vulnerable there she lingers on a leaf and can not move, she can not fly she must simply wait for the sun to dry her wings and when it does, she flies off with her translucent yellow and red wings in the sunshine.

I felt a little ridiculous crying over a little children's book, but God has put such beautiful illustrations in his creation! Since I've been back from Sudan, I feel a little messed up inside, a little confused and lost but I am confident that this is just a part of the transition God is doing in my heart. Aren't most of us just a little afraid of every stage of pain and glory? Of hunger and waiting? Well, I am, and sometimes I think I most likely will come out a moth rather than a butterfly.  I am so happy God knows what He's doing! That he did indeed create us to be more than we are and He will bring each transition on in it's own time.

So just wait, we may feel like little crawling things now, but one day we will be pretty glorious too.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Way Home.

The past few weeks in Nagishot were crazy! I went to two funerals, helped deliver a baby, stayed up late with friends and counted down the days before I could hug my baby sister.

Then, the day finally came to begin the journey. That journey  which would lead me back to Montana, the place of pine trees and bluegrass music! Back to my home in Montana.

  After saying goodbye, finishing up the dishes and packing the last few things it was nearing 3pm before I began the 10 mile hike down to Chukadum with my violin in hand and Nacorice, my escort carrying my backpack.

Saying goodbye to friends.

Nacorice on the way.

We reached Chukadum and visited with friends before the sun went down and there I had my first meal of day with three older woman. We feasted on roasted corn over the fire as we talked and laughed in Didinga. Then I was shown a mattress where I curled up into a little ball and fell asleep (somehow) to the sound of the three snoring older woman.

Waking up before the sun I gathered things together and found a vehicle to take me to Torit about a five hour drive into South Sudan over bumpy and muddy roads swished in-between four people and two chickens. 

Finally in Torit I was greeted by the three happy faces of the missionary children who live there and spent the evening catching up and talking with these amazing servants of God! 

South Sudan immigration
After going to immigration and sorting out all my Sudan visa issues, I got on the MAF plane to take the next phase of travel to leave South Sudan and head to Kenya.

MAF Plane

The flight took all day but finally, late that night, I arrived in Kenya and got a good night of sleep at a hostel. 
Flying out of Sudan

The next day I went to the Doctor where I was poked and prodded. I found out that I've REALLY NOT been alone all this time!  Nope, I have three different types of parasites (and their children) living in me. I was given a prescriptions and by now should be animal free.

Doc in Nairobi

The next day, I took a taxi to the Nairobi Airport.

If you are up your world news you will know that the international airport in Nairobi burned down two weeks ago.  It was hectic, full of long lines and big white tents in which hosted the thousands of traveling people.

White tents working as the airport in Nairobi.
Going to Dubi

The first flight was 7  hours long to Dubi, the second flight was 13 hours to Seattle and third and last flight was only 59 minutes to Spokane where I saw my parents and sister for the first time in two years!

With tears, long hugs and flowers they greeted me and we talked the three hours to Montana, where I fell fast asleep, finally back, in my home in Montana. 

My home in Montana.

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Last Bible Study.

The past few weeks of Bible study were truly exciting as the chronological Bible stories finally reached their pinnacle of Jesus arrest, death, burial and resurrection! Seeing the fulfillment of prophecy, the coming of the long awaited Deliver from Satan, sin and death was so impactful! Jesus came and finished what he came to do! Praise God, praise God for this most wonderful, glorious truth!

Waiting for Bible Study to start.

The night after we finished the story of the Deliver’s crucifixion, Nacorice (the faithful translator for Church and Bible Study) was quiet around the fire.  Catching my gaze in his direction he looked up and said, “I’m just still thinking about Bible study.” So I let it rest. 

After some time he finally looked at me and said, “I thought I knew the story of Jesus. I thought I knew, but today I realized, I never knew! I never understood what Jesus did for me until today and it affects me so much.” 
Having a meal together after Bible Study

Marta at Bible Study.
He wasn’t the only one who was richly impacted. The past three weeks of Bible study have affected ME TOO, God’s word is so rich, so true, so wonderful! I have come to a deeper understanding of the Good News of Jesus! Jesus came because of MY sins, He came because of YOURS He is the the way to be free, to be forgiven. He is the way of true life.

 Praise God for His indescribable gift!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Youth Night!

It’s almost dark and I finally get my fire to a full blaze with help of a little kerosene. (I know I’m a cheater!) I go inside my kitchen and make the popcorn on my camp stove as I hear the voices of Merafu and Lobia already around the fire.

 By the time the popcorn is salted and and transferred to a big blue bowl, there are six youth which in the next hour multiples into thirty-five, twelve to twenty-one year old's laughing, singing, eating popcorn and talking outside my Hut. Oh yeah, it’s Friday youth night!
 Youth group officially started just three weeks ago. It’s been amazing! Many of the youth who have come are the junior counselors and older kids from the camp we had in June.

After a game of UNO or watching a bit of the ‘Sound of Music’ everyone has arrived and gets as close to 
the fire as possible, then we begin to look into God’s word together. The past few weeks we have been talking about what it means to be a believer/ follower of Jesus. 

 I turn my head lamp so that I can see the notes in my Bible and begin to talk about the cost of following Christ. When Jesus said “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” to his disciples, they left everything behind, gave up all, stopped living for this world and followed Jesus. And He made them ‘fishers of men.’ Their lives radically changed from the medial to the radical, from the necessary to survive to the purposeful life of trust, from a life of ability and control to one of suffering and complete reliance!  To be true follower of Jesus in Didinga culture (Well, in any) is very costly and yet precious beyond belief!

The hunger for God’s word among these youth, at this time, is just incredible! Many of them are involved in three different Bible studies every week and eager for more!

The other night around the fire I heard of few of the boys talking about what they learned at youth night, the subject that night was sexual purity, so hearing these teenage boys talk Joseph who ran from Potiphar's wife and about how they could be pure made me smile at the work God is doing in their hearts! 

Pray for these youth, who at this time seem so hungry for truth, pray for them!

And pray for me, that I would share God’s word accurately, passionately and effectively and not be afraid!  

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Missing words in Didinga…

Some words in our language have changed their meaning or take on another meaning as new generations emerge, such as gay, wicked or stoned, while some other words seem to disappear from our vocabulary entirely. Words are not simply how we communicate; they are also a vital part of telling us what is important to our culture and what is not.

 So far I have discovered six different words in the Didinga language for ‘carrying something on your head,’ In English we don't even have even one, why?  Because, we don’t carry things on our head, therefore it holds no relevance to us.

For a woman in Didinga, who almost constantly is transporting something on her head, having a word for a carrying a heavy load, or a light one, or for carrying something for a long period of time is significant because these words are a part of everyday life to a Didinga person.

As I have studied and asked, I have found missing words here in Didinga. Some have little to no significance, for example there is no word for dessert (thanks to the missionaries, it is known as ‘goody-goody’) Also, surprisingly, there is no word for flower yet there are thousands growing wild.

There is also no actual word for ‘ugly’ in Didinga. What does this tell me? Well, where most the world hangs great value in clothes, hair and a slim waistline, to a Didinga person, these things are just not as significant.

Some missing words throw us for a loop and cause a difficult time or a long time in translation as you cannot simply say the word (as it is not there) you have to describe it.
Like the missing Didinga word for faithfulness

I discovered this missing word one day as I was telling a friend about God’s faithfulness; he turned and translated for me but he used the word "love." I asked him later how to say ‘faithful’ in Didinga. He said, “Just use the Didinga word love.” However, feeling strongly that this was not a proper translation caused me to go on a search for this word ‘faithfulness’ and yet, I could not find it anywhere. The answer I received from everyone was "Maybe long ago we had a word that meant this, but we have long since forgotten it."

Coincidently, faithfulness is not only a missing word among the Didinga people; it is also a missing concept and action. No one trusts anyone with anything! There is a Didinga saying that goes like this, ‘Keep it in the dark, don’t tell your wife,’ in other words don’t trust anyone and sadly, it is often said with good reason.
One of the ways I explained faithfulness to my language helper was by explaining faithfulness in marriage (also no word for adulterer). She looked at me and laughed, yet with sadness in her eyes and said “Impossible, I have never met a man faithful to his wife.”

This is not simply a Didinga phenomenon, faithlessness is epidemic in the lives of people all over the globe. Because of my Didinga ‘faithfulness’ word search I have been studying the Old and New Testament for definitions of faithfulness. I have come up with so many references in God’s word that it would take pages to write down the findings, let alone what there is yet to find in its wealth.

I have been challenged. 

Am I faithful? It’s hard to tell, as time seems to be a critical test. I look back at my life and I have been passionate, I have made huge obedient decisions for Christ but in the every moment with unseen thoughts and behaviors have I really loved God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?  O God, refine me so that your faithfulness is also in me!

Please pray with me that I would be faithful in every aspect of life. Pray for faithfulness in Didinga believers, pray they would let the Holy Spirit do His work in them and praise God for his unfailing faithfulness to the world!

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Magnificent Wonder in Answered Prayer!

How do I begin to describe to you the way I feel right now? I am so full of wonder and thanks, so full of treasures in my heart! Thank you for praying the past month. God most assuredly answered in many specific ways.   

Colorado team:  I was so insanely blessed and challenged by the teams maturity in the Lord and their humble hearts toward God and each other. They had a deep willingness to learn and be spent in the service of Christ. They were greatly used by the Lord and blessed Kim and my hearts greatly! We could have never have done these camps without them...They were simply wonderful!

        1 Tim 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down of you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity"  

Ethan and Campers
Nicole and campers
Craft time!
Tim and Campers

Playing soccer.

Nicole, Ethan and Nacorice teaching.
Our last meal with our Colorado group in Nairobi, Kenya

Weather: Being in the middle of rainy season the possibility of rain hindering these camps was in actuality, quite inevitable. Miraculously, for indeed it was miraculous, we had beautiful sunny days the entire first week of camp. 

The second week, as farmers where complaining about their crops drying out we were emboldened to pray more specifically that God would hold back the rain for the teaching and allow it to rain at night. God answered these prayers in that the rain never hindered the teaching and yet gave enough rain at night to keep the crops alive. Our team flew out of Nagishot on Saturday and shortly thereafter the torrential rains began. Praise God for this incredible answer to prayer!!

"Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this." Jer. 14:22

  Health: Even though most of our Colorado team, our national translators and myself struggled with some fowl stomachs, severe colds and general weariness God always provided enough strength to preform the daily duties. No one missed a single lesson, though none could not stray too far from the outhouse. :)

 The sickness provided a constant reminder to lean not on our own strength which was puny but rather to lean fully on the strength of God Spirit which he provided in full measure.

 I am happy to report we are all feeling much better today! 

Hiking to camp #2

Hiking to camp #2

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Cor. 12:9

National support:  Though it's never been done before and everyone was telling us that it was impossible we had AMAZING national volunteer staff for both camps!!!!

While planning for these Bible camps, Kim and I were repeatedly warned that Didinga people, even those in the church, would not freely volunteer their time, energy or services for the church. 

In the past, we have repeatedly experienced and been frustrated by this pervasive selfish attitude.  However, we felt quite strongly that without a call to selfless service, our Didinga church body could never spiritually mature.

So, it is with a very happy heart that I share with you the news of our incredible national participation in both Didinga camps!!! Our translators, junior counselors and cooks all served with their whole body, heart and soul!  In fact, after the first camp, we had young ladies asking if they too could join the service party! 

The national staff far exceeded our expectations and anything we have ever seen in South Sudan – they truly served with joyful spirits.   Praise GOD!!!

Nacorice cooking Gazari (beans and corn) for lunch.


Junior counselors: Lololang, Lojia, Lucy Yaya, Lobia

Pointing to our main man: Nacorice.
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.." Eph 2: 19-20

 Unity - It was amazing to see God unify our Didinga/Western team.  Whether it was playing volleyball or UNO, teaching God’s word or hiking with heavy loads on our heads across the hillsides to camp each morning – there was an overpowering spirit of love and harmony amongst the team.  People were truly one-anothering, helping the least of these and doing it all with an seemingly unexplainable joy.

It was one of the greatest joys of my time in Sudan, being a part of this team and experiencing its unity! 

Lomidical taking a picture of the staff.

Well, he got most of us.
All the men Staff.

Our Camp Staff at camp #2

Last meal in Nagishot was a goat feast with all the camp staff.

Everyone playing Uno deep into the hours of the night.

"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."  1 Peter 3:8

 Campers We had no idea how many children would actually attend camp.  We were hoping and planning for up to 80 children at each camp for a total of 160 little ones.  We were blessed with between 90 to 100 plus campers at our first camp and around 60 at our second. 

Camper Joshua making a candle.

Young campers listening to lesson in camp #1

Playing games outside in-between lessons.

Line up for lunch

          "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!" Ps. 96:3

The last couple Sundays at church have been filled with the little bodies of camp children. Many who have never been to church before. We are so thankful for the foundation that the camps brought and excited and hopeful for the opportunities it has opened for further ministry to these children.  

Thank you for praying!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Two days down and about a million prayer requests!

We just finished our 2nd full day of Vacation Bible Camp.  We are busy, busy, busy... so, I will have to make this quick.

Our short-term team from Colorado arrived safely and is, to say the least, amazing!!!  

The Bible camp is going well - what a joy to serve!!!

Here are the latest prayer points:
  • Health - A nasty cold is going around.  I'm not feeling great myself, some of our American short-termers are feeling physically down and our Didinga translator is feeling weak.  Pray for renewed strength.     
  • Weather - The weather has been sunny and warm - absolutely beautiful!  Thank you for praying! Though we are technically in the middle of rainy season, it has not rained for more than three weeks!!!  We thank God for His provision in regards to the weather, but also do pray for the rain to return this weekend (while the camp is not in session).  Crops are getting quite dry.
  • Teaching - Pray that we would teach with authority and Christ's love.  Pray that God would equip each and every one of us with culturally relevant illustrations/examples which bring God's Word to life, so that each camper would truly grasp a hold of the truth.
  • Pray that we as "teachers", despite the craziness of the camp schedule,  would live in communion with Christ - taking time for individual pray and devotion to the Father.