Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Christmas Poinsettia

It may be a little cheesy but I love Christmas poinsettias! Having them in the house at Christmas is kind of like eating comfort food. So, last year at the annual Christmas Craft Fair in Nairobi I was excited to purchase a small planter with several blooms as a table decoration. After the holidays my thrifty nature took over and I vowed to keep the plant viable until this Christmas. After all, poinsettia plants grow into bushes up to 10 feet tall here in the tropics. How hard could it be?!

Without doing any research I thought I was providing the right ingredients for this to happen. Water, sun, a bigger pot, and sweet nothings whispered over them each time more leaves would drop. But drop the leaves did and after a year of struggle I barely have a living plant. It's actually smaller than it was last Christmas and there are no flowers on it, but there are a few small green leaves. I have just googled poinsettias and see where I maybe didn't do everything quite right, so there is hope for next year!

"But as for me, I will always have hope." Psalms 71:14

As I've pondered what Mango Ministries has accomplished this past year I've felt a little bit like my poinsettia plant. First there was the clash in Akot between the army and the civilians producing chaos and suffering to that community for months. Then our two Kenyan staff finished their contracts and didn't renew for various reasons. And the approaching referendum vote in January kept us from starting something new. And the footnote, ". . . by the way there may be a war in less than a year," is less than a stellar recruiting technique.

Another day last month I was pondering what Mango Ministries had accomplished in 2010 as I wrote up a short report for my boss. This isn't what I expected things to look like at the end of this year. That's one of the hardest things I have to deal with working in Sudan. I keep coming to the point of realizing that I don't have control of things and I need to allow God room to work His plan, not mine. As I thought back over the year I was actually encouraged by what God accomplish through us even though it's not exactly what I had in mind last December.

Pastoral Training

  • A formal follow-up meeting and informal times of encouragement were held with those who attended Mango Ministry's storytelling seminar in the Akot area
  • Visits were made to church leaders, Bishops, and other missionaries for networking, learning, encouragement, and prayer in Akot, Lui, Mundri, Tonj, and Arua, Uganda
Transformational Development
  • These activities were most affected by the clashes in Akot a year ago. To express our concern in a tangible way we were able to assist in a small relief distribution of cooking equipment to those most affected.
  • Learning continued about the Dinka people and their animistic beliefs and relationship building continued in the Akot area.
  • Missionaries, staff, and friends working in Sudan attended a "Community Health Evangelism" (otherwise known as CHE) and Samaritan Strategy training seminars.
Medical Assistance
Dr. Carol Spears at Lui Hospital
  • Placement of short term volunteer medical staff at 3 mission hospitals including the cataract clinic where 101 eye operations were done.
  • Consultation with several health facilities and development of a new partnership with Lui Hospital
  • Along with short term volunteers our Mango Ministry team currently consists of myself, Billy and Joanna Coppedge who are working with Sudanese 40% of their time, based in northern Uganda; and Whitney Smith, a new appointee who is on homeland ministry assignment. Many partners heard personally about what is happening with Mango Ministries as we were all in the U.S. for part of the year sharing about this new work. If you'd like to learn more check out the Mango Ministry video.
  • We have been blessed with short term medical assistance through the Kenya Africa Gospel Church Missions Department and Tenwek Hospital.
I feel that part of our work this past year has been to "watch and pray" (Matthew 26:41) as we anticipate the referendum vote that begins a week from today, January 9th. This will be a historic occasion. All sources agree that the South will vote to secede.

South Sudan waits with bated breath for the cutting of the umbilical cord that will give birth to the world's newest nation. As in the delivery room this birth could be a bit bloody given it's complex situation. With only one week to go before voting begins don't stop praying for this precarious situation.

Pray for:
  • continued peace between tribal groups, north and south Sudan, and Sudan's neighbors. And if there is fighting pray that bloodshed, suffering, and loss will be minimal.
  • resolution of contentious issues such as the north-south border demarcation and Abyei, the Nile basin water rights, governance of north Sudan with new allegations against President Bahir concerning his finances, and the myriad issues that will need to be addressed in the days ahead
  • the process of re-integration of Southern Sudanese back into South Sudan as they return from Khartoum in the north and neighboring countries
  • Church leaders to be Godly witnesses and beacons of hope
  • the people of Sudan to understand that hope and dignity do not come from a new government, wealth, or power but from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
  • reconciliation of the Sudanese with 1. God, 2. each other - as horrible atrocities have been seen and participated in by peoples on all sides, and with 3. the resource rich land God has given them.
In church this morning the words of this song rang true in my heart. Let's pray this with the Sudanese as we continue to watch and pray during this final week before their world changes.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

(Amazing Grace by John Newton)

As Mango Ministries looks ahead to 2011 we've prepared plan A and plan B ~ we're ready to minister to the Sudanese in Sudan or in neighboring countries. There are literally thousands of Sudanese in Kenya and Uganda. Next Sunday I plan to worship with a congregation of Dinka believers in Eldoret here in Kenya. Whatever unfolds, please pray that we'll be on track with God's plan.

Your prayers, financial giving, encouragement, and participation are accomplishing His purposes in Sudan.



PS - for more information check out the Satellite Sentinal Project. "Help stop a war before it starts."

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