Thursday, December 29, 2011

a word from my sister

Unexpected Journey

In mid-November I got an unexpected e-mail from Joy inviting me to accompany her on a trip to South Sudan in December.  In just four weeks I was able to get all the necessary arrangements made and was off for my unexpected journey to South Sudan.

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."  John Dewey

I knew a lot going into this journey.  However, experiencing things gave a whole new meaning.

I knew it was the dry season and there were no paved roads.

I experienced dust billowing, almost blinding us, as a truck passed our vehicle on the road.  I also had the dust, dirt, and grim on the inside of my shirt to prove how dry and dusty it was.

I knew it was hot and clean water would be scarce.

I experienced walking back to the compound at 3 pm, draining the last of my water bottle and thinking, "How much water do we have left? Where will we be able to get more?  Will we have enough?  I'm really thirsty!"

I knew the Dinka people were friendly.

I experienced seeing a lady just hand her baby to Joy to hold.

I knew that the church is not a building, but the people.

I experienced church with the Aduel Episcopal Church of Sudan congregation.  All 400 of us worshipping together under a tree.

I knew that the night sky and the stars were brighter when there was no electrical lights around.

I experienced the brilliant night sky that was just amazing.  I had no idea the milky way was so was bright, clear and beautiful.  It was better than any planitarium I've ever been to!

I knew that the instability in South Sudan had taken a toll on the educational system.

I experienced seeing a school with walls riddled with bullet holes, with classrooms that were empty - no books, no chairs, no tables, no desks, no pencils, no posters . . . nothing but a chalk board (children walk to school with their chairs and use their laps for a desk - also students are grouped by grade level not by age so you can have a 20 year old in 3rd grade).

I knew that things don't always go as planned . . . . 
I experienced the stress and uncertainty of "will we make it out?"  We had a driver set to pick us up from Aduel at 1:30pm and take us back to Rumbek so we could fly back to Nairobi the next day (on the last flight out before Christmas),  1:30 no driver, 2:30 no driver but word that he'd be there at 3pm to get us.  3:45 and still no driver.  It's now time for plan B!  We had to find boda boda's (small motor bikes) to take us and our luggage to the main road (about a 45 minute walk) to wait for public transportation to get us back to Rumbek (about 1 1/2 hours away).  All the while the clock was ticking... we knew it would be dark by 7 and travel would be too dangerous after that.  

5pm and we're finally loaded in public transportation to begin the journey back to Rumbek - only 7 stops later and we safely arrived at 7:15pm.

I knew that South Sudan has incredible needs.
As we departed Adol, the compound manager said to me, "We don't need people to just send money, for true development in South Sudan we need them to come and see with their eyes." 

I experienced, with my eyes, the vast needs (clean water, health care, education, food, and infrastructure).  I also experienced how Mango Ministries is working with the people and churches of South Sudan to help bring development and transformation through Jesus.

by Linda Phillips

It was great getting to take my sister into South Sudan with me as we visited Adhanom before Christmas.  It's fun to see something that has become everyday to me through someone else's eyes and I trust you have enjoyed seeing South Sudan through her eyes.  

As we begin a new year will you prayerfully ask God if He is calling you to 'come see with your own eyes' the needs in South Sudan?  On this trip we were made aware of so many opportunities for serving Jesus in South Sudan.  Some of the needs are:  tutoring elementary level students, teaching basic computer skills, teaching English as a second language, sports ministry, working with women and youth, discipling pastors, and the ongoing needs for short term and long term medical personnel.  Email me if you'd like to discuss the needs and possibilities for serving with WGM's Mango Ministries in South Sudan.  

Thank you for your partnership during 2011!  God is answering prayer as we demonstrate compassion and facilitate the building up of God's Kingdom in this new nation.  

Peace ~


PS - if you're looking for an end of year gift that will help bring transformation to the South Sudanese check out the bottom of my December 2nd blog for several giving opportunities!

Friday, December 2, 2011

. . . . not again!!

It's been one of those weeks.  I wanted to get a blog update out last week but life got in the way.  Then this week it was number one on my priority list but again. . . . life got in the way. 

Here are a few of the 'divine' interruptions I had:
  • A painful farewell to a really good friend of 25 years who is retiring
  • An unexpected opportunity to visit with a Nuban pastor learning more about the suffering in Sudan and hardships in Kakuma refugee camp
  • I wrote an article for wgm's magazine The Call - look for it next spring
  • I wrote a ton of emails, despite the internet's on and off again temperament
  • Phone network bouncing all over the place creating many dropped calls
  • Failure to reboot my computer, a little hum but a black screen!!!!!
  • Thankful to be able to use an unused computer in a nearby office
  • Frustrating not to have my documents, pictures, or email addresses on this computer
  • What seems like constant power outages - it's not, it just seems that way
  • Issues with our back-up generator
  • Rain, rain and more rain
Unlike the uncertainty of my days and my sometimes whining attitide I have to smile when I remember how faithful God is.  Again, he is here, even in the midst of a seemingly bad day. 

Despite the fact that I've just spent a good amount of time complaining I hate to complain because I am smart enough to realize that I have nothing to complain about in the bigger scheme of things.  I see real suffering, hardship, and pain around me all the time.  These minor inconveniences are just that - minor inconveniences. 

As the Christmas holiday approaches the question I know I need to focus on is "What can I give Jesus for Christmas this year?"  I have been blessed in so many ways:  a supportive family, great friends, committed colleagues, a challenging ministry, a super support team, a great place to live and plenty of food when so many in East Africa are hungry and without shelter.  I am blessed!!

My plan for advent is to find ways to give gifts to Jesus through creative giving to others.  I'll let you know how that goes.  How are you celebrating Advent?  I'd love to hear from you.

If you're looking for ways to give creative gifts to Jesus this Christmas season read on for some exciting giving opportunities.

1. Community Health Empowerment training ~ What is CHE? 
"It is a church initiated, wholistic development ministry that trains and equips local volunteers called CHEs (Community Health Educators) to share God's love in their communities by bringing physical and spiritual teaching to the homes around them."

A group of CHE trainees learns how to build a safe stove

After sending 6 South Sudanese and our new staff Adhanom to Uganda this fall for session one of CHE training we think many more will benefit if we can take the training to South Sudan in 2012.  A gift of $500 will train one Community Health Educator by enabling us to fly a team of trainers to South Sudan and cover expenses for them and the trainees for 3 separate weeks of training.  Click here to give a gift of education and empowerment. 

2.  Help the Nuban Episcopal Church of Sudan in Kakuma Refugee Camp reroof their church
I mentioned all the rain we're having in Kenya this fall and you can imagine what it's like in this church when it does rain.  Would you like to assist these Sudanese refugees living in Kenya to reroof their church?  Give a gift for the roof online today! Pray for the many people who cannot go 'home' this holiday season!

3.  The gift of sight

The Tenwek Eye Team and Mango Ministries are gearing up for 2012.  Our goal is to hold two cataract clinics next year.  It breaks our heart when blind people get the message too late and miss receiving sight restoring surgery.  The need is overwhelming!

A gift of $150 will enable a man or woman to receive sight restoring cataract surgery, including the opportunity to hear about Jesus who loves them. 

4.  Joy's ministry needs

I've been blessed with a generous support team.  Thank you to all of you who make it possible for me to be a part of God's Kingdom building activity in South Sudan through your financial giving.  Gifts to my ministry account will go towards my support needs and various other ministry activities. 

If you'd like to give a gift through check here's how:
Send a check made out to World Gospel Mission to WGM, PO Box 948, Marion, IN 46952-0948.  Indicate which project(s) your gift is for.
1.  Community Health Empowerment (130-25790)
2.  Church Development (Kakuma roof project, 130-21790)
3.  Cataract Clinic (130-25791)
4.  Joy Phillips support & many other ministry needs (130-07338)

Let's pray that Jesus will show us some very creative ways to show His love to others this Christmas season.

O come let us adore Him,


Monday, November 14, 2011

A city in the middle of nowhere

Kakuma is the Kiswahili word for 'nowhere.'  Two weeks ago several WGM leaders, Deng Jongkuch - a South Sudanese Lost Boy, and I traveled from Logichoggio in northwestern Kenya to Kakuma.  You can see that we are headed . . . . nowhere. 

As the hills rise out of the scrubland, so a city was raised up 20 years ago to meet the needs of the thousands of Sudanese who were walking south out of Sudan, looking for a place to lay their heads and call home.   It is called Kakuma Refugee Camp.

 When given a chance to speak at a function a common way to begin a talk here in Kenya is to start by saying, "I don't have much to say!"  Today, I don't have much to say because Tim Rickel, one of our team, has already said it really well.   Please go to his blog and meet Deng, pictured below.  Here are just a few pictures to accompany his thoughts about our trip.

Deng stands in front of the gate where he heard his name called, telling him he had the opportunity to go to the United States. 

 Deng sits in Pastor Mubarak's church in Kakuma Refugee Camp.   Pastor Mubarak is from the Nuba mountains where fighting is currently going on.  

Team members Vera Steury and Karen Duncan meet with the women and pray for their needs.

Nothing is wasted, not even the tins from cooking oil distributed by the United States Agency for International Development.  An entire church was roofed with these homemade shingles.  Is that 'going green' or what!?

Deng showed us where his tukel (hut) used to stand. 

Although it had been many years since his last visit many excitedly remembered Deng and crowded around when he showed up unexpectedly in his old neighborhood.  

As Thanksgiving approaches here are a few thoughts:
  • If you haven't had to leave your home due to threat or persecution - thank the Lord.  Pray for the 42 million men, women, boys and girls uprooted worldwide.  In Kakuma Refugee Camp alone there are twice as many people than those living in Marion, Indiana where WGM has it's International Headquarters.  
  • Pray that the pastors ministering in the Kakuma Refugee Camp and town of Kakuma will be empowered to share light and hope.  Those WGM has met are: Pastor John, Pastor Kenneth, Pastor Mubarak, and Pastor Benjamin.  
  • Pray with WGM as we continue to explore what God might have us do in light of these incredible opportunities.
  • Have you had a "hunger" day this month?  (see Tim's blog for the definition of a hunger day) If not, praise the Lord for keeping hunger at bay.  Consider giving a gift to WGM's crisis relief fund to help the Church reach out to people in crisis on one of WGM's fields.  
  • Pray for the people of the Yida Refugee Camp in northen South Sudan.  Over the past several months people from Kordofan which is now part of (north) Sudan have fled their homes due to bombing. And last week the refugee camp where they have sought refuge was bombed too.  
  • To learn more about the Lost Boys of Sudan read, What is the What by Valentino Achak Deng or watch God Grew Tired of Us.  

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His contenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Numbers 4: 24-26

Friday, October 28, 2011

Faithful men

In this blog I'm going to introduce you to two men who have committed their lives to serving Jesus Christ.  I hope you're as challenged as I am by the commitment they exhibit as they follow Jesus.

People frequently ask me, "How are things in Sudan?"  Along with Dickens I am tempted to reply that, "These are the best of times, these are the worst of times!"

Security in South Sudan is always at the top of people's minds.  In the sites where WGM is working the security situation remains fairly calm - a good thing.  But that is unfortunately not the case for everyone in Sudan and South Sudan.  Read what Nicholas Kristof has to say in last Sunday's New York Times about a former colleague of mine when I worked with Samaritan's Purse, Ryan Boyette.

The article is entitled, "The Man Who Stayed Behind."

Please pray for the people of the Nuba Mountains and along the border of Sudan and South Sudan as they persevere through much hardship.

I'd also like you to meet Adhanom Hidug.  Adhanom joined our Mango Ministry Team in September.

He has just finished up a Masters in Public Health at a University here in Kenya and is also a Clinical Officer. He and his wife and their two small daughters have been living in Nairobi but this is not home for them.  Adhanom was raised in Eritrea.  Who knows where that is?  I'm guessing most of you will have to get googling on that one.

In Adhanom's testimony he explains that he was a good Catholic for much of his growing up years.  Later he came to know Jesus as his personal Saviour and joined an Evangelical church movement.  Life isn't easy for Christians in Eritrea.  Operation World  states that "persecution and restraints on personal freedoms test believers sorely."  Adhanom can personally testify to this yet his faith remains strong. 

For awhile he lived in Khartoum, Sudan then came to Kenya to further his studies.  While in school he became friends with a nurse from Tenwek Hospital who was attending the same school from Tenwek's School of Nursing.  Adhanom shared his interest and call to serve the people of Sudan and Philip shared with Adhanom about WGM's new work in South Sudan.  Can I say the rest is history!

During the past two months Adhanom has been getting oriented.  He spent some time with the staff at Tenwek Community Health and Development.  He attended a week long training in Uganda on Community Health Empowerment (CHE).  He worked at a busy clinic in Tonj, South Sudan getting to understand the health needs of the people, and we visited the area where he will be working most of the time - East Rumbek County, Lakes State.

Today Adhanom is flying back to South Sudan.  We have many questions:  where will he live, will he be able to clean out the carburetor of the motorbike and get it started,  will the people warm up to the ideas of community transformation after forming a relief mentality about development during decades of war?

Starting off on a new venture is exciting too.  We have prayed that God has gone before us to pave the way.  There are new people to meet, new customs to learn, learning of the Dinka language, and really understanding people.

Adhanom's goals for the next two months are these:
      Begin learning the Dinka language
      Learn as much as possible about the community and it's people - in otherwords, he's going to be taking a lot of tea under the mango trees!
     Begin to implement the strategies of CHE - with a seed project
     Encourage the 6 other Sudanese who attended the training with him from Tonj and Lui
     Form a team of champions who will pray for him and contribute to his support needs.

Would you like to be one of his champions?  Shoot me an email if you'd like to be part of his prayer team or if you'd like to contribute to his support needs.

I feel really blessed to be doing what I do and with such amazing people, men AND women.  We could use some help though.  There are incredible opportunities to be a part of God's Kingdom building activities in South Sudan.  Is God calling you to go . . . .  to come and join Mango Ministries?

Here are two hot opportunities:  join a team facilitating transformational development or get involved in training of church leaders.
faithful men and women
is God calling you?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Seeing Sudan

Seeing a child leading adults who can't navigate on their own due to blindness just breaks my heart.  

But that was countered by a vist to one of our cataract patients after his surgery.  How exciting to see him take out his Bible after getting home!  And a special bonus was that his Bible came from the Bible distribution I was involved with in 2008.
Girls will be girls and I will have to say that I always enjoy a little shopping, whether it's in a modern mall in Nairobi or in rural South Sudan.  Unfortunately, I didn't see anything that caught my eye and I came home with all my Sudanese pounds unspent.  

My friend, Heather, who is working at Tenwek was able to join me and experience a little of South Sudan, including teaching under a mango tree.  David (to her right) is a pastor and is helping her with translation.  He and 6 others are on their way to northern Uganda, even now, to attend a training facilitated by WGM Uganda on Community Health Evangelism.

Judah, another pastor from Tonj (assisting a cataract surgery patient below) is attending the training as well.  Please pray for our new staff, Adhanom, and 3 men from Tonj, including David and Judah, and 3 from Lui who will be introduced to many new ideas this next week.  Pray that they will return home transormed and that the new and exciting ideas they are exposed to will spill over into the lives of others within their circles of influence.

Here's an exciting testimony from the cataract clinic. The man below was a soldier during the war.  He had an accident when his gun exploded and he lost his right eye.  That accident also left him with a traumatic cataract in his left eye.  There was a chance that surgery could leave him with less sight than he had and the doctor originally refused to operate.  This man was persistent and pleaded with the doctor to do the surgery.  He had never clearly seen his child.  The doctor did the surgery which was successful and this man could now see out of his one eye.  During this process he was very open in discussing the animistic beliefs he held and eventually prayed to give his life to the Lord.  Not only that but he asked the doctor who did the surgery to cut off the charm that was around his child's neck.  

This young woman (below) had cataracts at an early age and had never seen her young baby.  The Tenwek staff were so anxious for her to be able to see again, as they could imagine what it was like to have young children and not "see" them.  Everyone was happy the day this woman's bandages came off.  She was not an emotional woman but you can see the relief in her smile as she easily passed the visual acuity test!
To see how some of our patients expressed their excitement after being given their sight watch here!

How is God working in your life?  Do you sense a call to South Sudan and Mango Ministries?  Maybe God is calling you to join a team involved in transformational development?  Or to volunteer for a short term medical assignment at a mission hospital.  There is an pressing need for short term medical doctors and surgeons at Memorial Christian Hospital.  Interested?  Let me know. . .  I'd love to chat.



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seeing Eyes . . . .

In three and a half operating days 137 cataract surgeries have been completed here in Tonj where Mango Ministries is partnering with In Deed and Truth Ministries. 

“I can see your teeth.”  These were the first words out of our first cataract patient when the bandages were removed the day after surgry. 

We’ve had an incredible time here in Tonj since arriving mid-day last Saturday.  In this blog post I’ll walk you through what's been going on. 

Planning for this one week cataract clinic started in April with the logistics of getting here – a half day of flying.  And the staff of In Deed and Truth started looking for cataract patients.  Dr. Tom (kneeling) and Dennis (in black) found many patients to refer to us this week.  Also pictured are Dr. Dan Gradin (left), Richard Tonui, and Dr. Ben Roberts (on right). 

On arrival Saturday we were greeted by our friends Suzy and Sabet Kuj and were wisked off to the government hospital which has some unused rooms they have allowed us to use for this clinic. 

We brought about 750 pounds of equipment from Tenwek including 2 operating microscopes (being assembles above), lots of eye drops, drapes and even the operating tables. 

Registration of patients came next.  Besides the clinic referrals the news of our coming had gone out on the local radio so we have seen an incredible turnout.  That and the fact that no one can remember eye care ever being offered in Tonj before. 

Next the staff examine each patient to see if they are a surgical canditate.  

Wilson (pictured below) checks each patient’s eyes to ensure that the right lens is inserted after the cataract is removed. 

Scrub sinks are improvised.

Instruments are boiled in between cases to sterilize them and Richard has been running between the gas jiko and the operating room where he circulates.

I have beem doing odd jobs trying to keep things moving.  Here I’m folding drapes to prepare for sterilizing. 

It is rainy season in South Sudan which is great as it’s been relatively cool with daytime highs about 85 degrees F.  But that blessing is countered by the difficulty in drying the drapes to keep ahead of the busy surgeons!

Patients receive a local anesthetic block and are then taken to the operating room.

With a patch over their eye each patient is led to the ward where they rest until morning.

Eash evening the wards are bursting at the seams, 43 patients were operated on one day. 

The local staff  have helped immensely with translation, washing operating drapes, running between the clinic and hospital to bring forgotten items, and cooking delicious meals for us.  The South Sudanese pastors who are studying at the pastoral training school here at In Deed and Truth are sharing Bible stories, doing one-on-one counseling, and praying with patients and family members all day long. 

I’ll share some of the patient’s stories in my next blog as well as some “day after surgery” pictures when physical sight is restored.  

A HUGE thank you  to those who are praying and those who have given to make this cataract clinic possible. It's still not too late to give a gift of sight to one Sudanese.  A gift of $150 ensures one South Sudanese receives sight giving surgery and hears about God's love through Jesus Christ.   God is definitely at work!  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

8 days and counting . . . .

It's almost here!  
The 2nd Annual Mango Ministries Cataract Clinic.
Months of planning are coming together.  
248kg of equipment, meds and supplies were flown up to Tonj today.
Tenwek Eye Department staff have received their yellow fever vaccinations.
Paperwork for South Sudan travel passes has been accumulated and sent for processing. 
The doctor and clinical officer at Tonj have scheduled over 100 blind patients to come.  
Radio announcements are on the air.
The missionary team at In Deed and Truth is ready to receive our team of 9.
Chartered flights are booked to get the team to and from Tonj - it's a little bit in the middle of nowhere.
The Tenwek team leaves Tenwek on Friday, September 2.  After spending the night in Nairobi we fly to Tonj on Saturday, September 3 and will begin operating that very afternoon.  The team will leave Tonj on Friday, September 9th and return to Tenwek the following day.  

None of these details will matter if God is not in it.  The Eye staff at Tenwek are mobilizing their colleagues at Tenwek Hospital to pray for this outreach that will offer both physical and spiritual sight.  This is the sign-up sheet where over 150 staff have committed to pray for this outreach.  

Will you join the staff from Tenwek in praying for God to work miracles in the eyes and hearts of the many Sudanese who will come looking for help?  Join our virtual prayer4eyes2see team by leaving your name in the comment section at the bottom of this blog entry.

Mr. Geoffrey Langat, the CEO of Tenwek Hospital, one day said to me, "it's payback time," when talking about Tenwek Hospital sending volunteers to help in South Sudan.  If you've been blessed with sight and want to bless a Sudanese with 20/20 vision and the opportunity to hear the Gospel message click here.  A gift of $150 will bless one Sudanese.  

Rev. Emmy Mugisha accompanied the eye supplies that flew up to Tonj today.  Mugisha is a pastor with the Africa Gospel Church in Uganda.  This is his second trip to Tonj this year.  He will be working with a group of pastors who are in training.  They are learning how to use stories from the Bible to teach and apply Biblical truths to our lives.  They might be working on how to tell Mark 10:46-52 this week.  

I love what the disciples tell blind Bartimaeus.  "Cheer up!  On your feet!  He's calling you."  Whatever burden we are calling out to Jesus with today let's cheer up, throw aside our wrap, and run to Jesus.  Jesus wants to hear from us!

Thank you for taking our concerns and praises to Jesus!  A prayer praise is the addition to the Mango Ministry team of Adhanom Hidug. Pray for a good transition as Adhanom joins us next month.   I'll be sharing Adhanom's testimony and how he fits into the Mango Ministries strategy in an upcoming blog.  A few weeks ago Pastor Simon and I were warmly welcomed to the home of Adhanom and his family.

Good to Great Governance
The WGM Sudan Board took advantage of Dr. David Stevens being in Kenya this summer to lead a team from the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.  David, a former WGM missionary and colleague at Tenwek, taught us about Board Governance.  Several other WGM colleagues and the two largest Africa Gospel Church institutions in Kenya joined us.   Implementation will be the challenge for the Boards present.  Pray for us!

Tenwek Community Health and Development Directors (in order of service from L to R: David Stevens, Susan Carter, Joy, and Jonathan Bii) enjoyed a meal together at Jonathan's home.
Some of you met Jonathan when he visited the US with me in the fall of 2003.  Here is his family!  He is married to Joyce, who is a teacher, and their children are (clockwise from L rear) Amaris, Alan, Angela and Aileen.  Jonathan stays very busy leading the Tenwek Community Health and Development project.  The staff have "adopted" one of our project sites in Sudan so it's been fun to reconnect with everyone there.