Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dancing in the street

Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the street.

You remember Martha and the Vandellas, don't you?  From Chicago, to Philadelphia to Akot, South Sudan.  OK, maybe Akot wasn't part of the original song but there was definitely celebration and singing there last month.  

About 25 patients had been discharged and left the Akot Medical Mission in a group.  As they walked the short distance to town they were jubilant as they entered the shopping district which is about a block long with small shops along each side of the road.  The patients began sharing about the miracle of new sight with the shopkeepers and dancing.  The shopkeepers were so thrilled they joined in the celebration with the patients and even gave out money to help the patients get public transport back to their homes.  

Watch a little bit of dancing from our clinic last September.  The phrase that is being repeated says, "Change has come and we're so happy."  I feel a dance coming on to celebrate the good things God is doing in South Sudan!

However, South Sudan is a hard place to be and to do ministry.  There's not just the language barrier but the way we think is different.  The South Sudanese are steeped in cultural animistic beliefs that can conflict with Biblcal principles.  It's not infrequent that we wonder if our messages are getting across.  

Adhanom, practicing his facilitation skills, at the Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training in April.  

CHE participants doing an exercise during training

CHE can be a great tool used for community empowerment and transformation.  It can . . .  if God is behind it.  Will you join us in praying that God will continue speaking truth into the lives of 20 men and women who have been identified as leaders in their communities. The first week of training went really well.  We need you to join us in praying that these men and women's lives will be changed and they will make a difference within their circle's of influence. 

In one lesson the plan of salvation is explained.  Our training team had come prepared with chalk only to find that there wasn't a blackboard in the open-sided grass thatched hut.  So the next best thing was to draw in the dirt with a stick and that is what Pastor John did as he shared the illustration of the Four Spiritual Laws.  This is a testimony from one of the participants. 

“I had gone to different trainings. But, this was very special. I benefitted spiritually and physically. There is a lesson that I can’t ever forget. Never! Even if I get very old, I can’t forget it. I used to believe that salvation is from my side. I was thinking that I can reach God. But when Pastor John explained to us, I realized that I was wrong. I realized that it was God who can reach to me and save me. I can’t forget this lesson all my life – Never!” 

This man's 'lightbulb' moment is cause for dancing in the street!  
I'm so thankful we serve a God who reaches out to us, in spite of where we find ourselves at times.

As life begins to take on the rhythm of summer I pray you and I will really see the goodness of God and offer a dance of thanksgiving.

I look forward to sharing with some of you this summer about what God is up to in South Sudan while I am home for a short Homeland Ministry Assignment.  Most of my time will be in South Jersey.  Let me know if you'd like me to send you a schedule.



Monday, May 14, 2012

guest blogging, take the challenge

"I'm carried on the shoulders of those who can't see the landscape I can see."   Jim Erdman

I am so priviledged that I get to see what God is doing in South Sudan. Thank you for making transformation possible through your financial support and prayers for me and Mango Ministries.   Many of you prayed for our cataract clinic in Akot from April 27th through May 3rd.  And many of you gave financial gifts.  THANK YOU for helping 124 of our South Sudanese sisters and brothers see with their eyes and their hearts. 

Here are a few glimpses from the clinic. 
Dr. Ben Roberts reports  . . . .
"This man was led to the Akot Medical Mission by his brother.  He was blind in both eyes with multiple advanced ocular problems.  Initially I refused to operate on him because of the low probability of improving his sight through surgery.  Richard, the Kenyan who screens all the patients, came to me a second time asking me to reconsider doing surgery, which I did.  When we removed the eye patch the man began crying, giving thanks to God that he could see!  I continue to learn what it means to trust Jesus with the impossible."

One of my (Joy) goals was to try and talk to at least one of the patient's who had been operated on when we had our first Cataract Clinic in March 2010.  Although we missed connecting several times we finally met up with the woman in pink.   If you've been reading my blog since that first clinic you've already seen her.  She's pictured in my March 9, 2010 blog entry - as she is lead from the ward to where the bandages were removed the day after surgery.  
March 2010
Her story is amazing. . . when blind Adut was abandoned by everyone in her family except her 5 year old grandson, who led her everywhere, even to the bathroom.  She couldn't afford the few dollars registration fee so one of her neighbors who works at the Akot Medical Mission paid it for her.  She told us that after having surgery in both eyes she was able to take care of herself and her grandson.  She collects lulu nuts to make oil to sell (lulu nuts are what shea butter comes from!) and cuts grass to sell for people to put on the roof of their homes.  She even built herself a new hut to live in with her grandson.  When blind she had stopped going to church because it was too much trouble.  She now is able to join other believers in Church each week. In many ways, Christ has restored her dignity, one of the goals of Mango Ministries.

April 2012

My Marion College (Indiana Wesylan University) friend, Cindy Hawkins McEvoy, was able to join us.  

"As I reflect on my week long visit to South Sudan----many descriptions crowd my thoughts.
Cindy McEvoy in Akot - enjoying a mango!

They vary greatly from:  extreme poverty to unfamiliar smells to EVERYONE wanting to touch your hands in greeting (whether they’re caked in mud or not), to children everywhere you turn being held by --children.  But ALL of these descriptions lead to one thing----it’s HOT in South Sudan.  I tried to keep my mouth shut and not complain but…as an American who is used to air conditioning and “cold” drinks to refresh the body---all I could think of was how uncomfortable I was.  As the days went by---I remained uncomfortable by the heat index but I realized how skin deep and temporary my discomfort really was.  The people of South Sudan have bigger issues to deal with than body temperature!  Every day is another day of sheer survival.  Whether it is a lack of water or food or a fatal illness or even the threat of violent war----their constant, never ending “discomfort” is a life long curse.  One that they bear with huge smiles on their beautiful faces and fathomless hope in their eyes.  Eyes.  That was the focus (no pun intended!) of our week long trip to Akot, South Sudan.  The Kenyan eye surgical team from Tenwek Hospital in Kenya came to this extremely impoverished area in Sudan to perform cataract surgery to anyone who was in need.  

And boy----there are a lot of people “in need”!!!  The daily transformations that this team performed was jaw dropping.  Only God will know just how many people’s lives were changed for the better after our week in Akot.  Only I will know just how transformed MY life is after having the priviledge of taking part in such a miraculous endeavor.

Would I do it again?  You bet!  It was by far the MOST humbling---magnificent and EYE opening (again---no pun intended!) experience I’ve ever had.  I highly recommend it to EVERYONE!!!  Whether you need it or not."

Our next cataract clinic is scheduled for the first week of November 2012.  If you'd like to make a financial investment in the life of a South Sudanese that will pay out huge dividends to the family of a blind loved one as sight is restored don't miss your opportunity to get involved.  And please continue praying that those who regained sight will recognize and worship the One who gives sight and life - Jesus.

Mango Ministries - WGM South Sudan has urgent and immediate opportunities for medical professionals to serve for a few weeks to a year or more at several mission health centers in South Sudan.  It's do-able ~ ask Cindy!  Are you available?  Will you be my next guest blogger??? 

Contact me to find out more about these life changing opportunities.  Get your hands dirty, sweat a lot, and experience hope like you've never seen before!