Monday, October 7, 2013

an attitude adjustment

In the past two weeks I've been struck with the irony of the African security situation.

As I oversee ministry activities in South Sudan, a country that has a history of 50 years of war and insecurity, I'm always thinking about security.  Are the staff safe?  What is happening politically that could affect the security situation?  Are supplies getting in?  Are the roads flooded to the point of being unpassable.

The rainy season that is winding up has caused massive flooding in South Sudan this year

Or even just, Where is the President?  Two and a half weeks ago on a visit to Tonj I found that I was surrounded by gun carrying soldiers who were jumping out of technicals (camouflage colored pick-up trucks with mounted machine guns) while we, the passengers, walked onto the stiflingly hot tarmac to load our plane.  No jetways in South Sudan!  All because the President of South Sudan was in the area and possibly at the airport.

We expect to hear gunshots in South Sudan.  We expect to hear news of cattle raids and people being injured and killed.  We expect it because it happens.

But in Kenya, where I live, we do not really expect to have 'security situations.'  Despite being at war with Kenya's neighbor to the east in Somalia.  Despite US Embassy warnings about potential unrest and recommendations to avoid large gatherings and to be aware of our surroundings.  Still, we, or should I say "I", do not expect there to be insecurity.  I open my purse so the female security guard can peek in every time I go into my local shopping mall to get groceries, or buy airtime, or to grab a bite to eat.  Theoretically she is looking to see if I have a gun in my bag.  But still I do not expect that anyone will actually carry a gun into a mall intent on using it to kill and destroy.  To make a political statement.  I have the "it can't happen to me / us / this country" syndrome. But two weeks ago it did happen.

I have been told that Kenya made headline news in America as the terrorist attack on the WestGate shopping mall was reported.  Thankfully our WGM missionaries and colleagues are safe.  But many have died, many more are physically injured, and thousands are shaken to their bones with the reality that all is not right in the world and . . . . THE UNIMAGINABLE CAN HAPPEN TO ME / HERE / NOW!

For 4 days I sat at my desk scanning the internet for news.  BBC, the local Kenya news outlets, Al Jazeera, twitter.  I tried to work . . . tried to catch up, especially since I had been in South Sudan the week before making me even behindeder.  But every hour, or was it every 15 minutes, I just HAD to check and see if there was more news.  I desperately wanted to know what was happening across town.  Unfortunately news was not all that forthcoming which made the search for news all the more desperate and urgent.

And thus passed a week of watching and waiting.

To be honest, I'm pretty tired of being on the edge of my seat, waiting for something bad to happen.
I am glued to email, the newsfeeds, and twitter, waiting for news that something else is going wrong in the world or at least disrupting all my meticulous plans that enable the forward motion of Mango Ministry activities.

I'm sure it is time for an attitude adjustment.  It's so easy for my world view to slip into a Western and secular view that looks at what is wrong.  And there's always something wrong going on in the world, isn't there? Instead I want to focus on the way Jesus sees the world and on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  (Philipians 4:8)

One of the things on my 'to-do' list today is to write my monthly report for WGM Headquarters.  As I'm scanning through the monthly reports sent to me by Adhanom, Tiana, Margit, Nathan, and Bonnie I am absolutely reminded that God is good and He is at work in South Sudan!  

He is there.
His people are sharing Jesus.
He is working in the hearts and souls and physical lives of people.
His Word is powerful.

Bonnie Anderson, an FNP, is spending 5 weeks at the In Deed and Truth Clinic (IDAT).  She is challenged with the varity of patients coming to the clinic but also loves the fact that each patient receives prayer.

Bonnie prepares to inject a scorpion sting with lidocaine

Nathan Hitchcock, an Emergency Room Nurse, is spending 6 months in South Sudan at IDAT.

During a trip to 'downtown' Tonj Nathan found a friend

Margit Mueller and Tiana Duncan are Community Health Empowerment faclitators in Tonj working with In Deed and Truth.  Pray as they use CHE to build relationships in the community and encourage lives based on Biblical truth.

Adhanom (squatting) teaches CHE participants about Farming God's way to increase crop yields.

The Tenwek Cataract Team is in Aweil this week holding a clinic.  They're off to a great start having done 31 surgeries last Saturday.  

High 5's with a satisfied patient from a cataract clinic in 2012

God is using each of these folks to further His Kingdom in South Sudan!  Excellent!!

I only carry water on my head for photo-ops!   Thankfully I have many creature comforts in the home I have been blessed to live in here in Nairobi.  Despite the fact that I don't have to carry water from a bore hole I am feeling burdened with the load of work I am carrying.  Please join the Mango Ministries team in praying for wisdom as we plot out the best way forward.

I don't know how to say this bigger, with more emphasis, and with more weight:

I am extremely grateful for each of you!
In addition to the people pictured above you are co-workers with Mango Ministries.  You are an important component of empowering South Sudanese to transform their communities and beyond!   I feel your prayers.  My ministry is sustained by your giving.  And I'm encouraged by your notes and cards.  Thank you!


Monday, July 29, 2013


There is a shelf on my fridge door reserved for chocolate.  I understand that a nibble every day is good for you!  At any rate the book review below caught my eye and then perfectly hit the spot.  Here's a long overdue catch-up post.  

"The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life.  Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.  'It's the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul.  Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.  Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.  Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy."  


Growing pains. I am definitely suffering from growing pains! Not physically, but Mango Ministries is in a growth spurt.  One definition of organizational growing pains is when there is a gap between the size of the organization and the capacity of it's infrastructure to support it's size.  In the past 5 years Mango Ministries has grown by leaps and bounds!

In 2009 we were working with 2 partnering ministries.  We sent 2 men to live in Akot to faciliate community transformation, we sent: one doctor to a partnering health ministry for 2 months, a videographer who produced a Mango Ministries video, and we facilitated a Biblical Storytelling training.  We were learning the lay of the land (and so many other things!), and building relationships.

Our small team in 2009: Billy Coppedge (far left), Reuben Kirui (2nd left) and Joseah Sang (far right)

This year we have 4 staff who are living in South Sudan.  We are actively partnering with 4 Ministries and have made lots more friends.  By the end of the year our plan is to have sent 6 medical teams consisting of 25 volunteers and lots of medicines and supplies, we'll have sent 3+ short-term volunteers, we will have conducted 6 Community Health Evangelism trainings and a few others on various empowering themes.  And we will have facilitated 2 official trainings on Biblical Storytelling (the 2nd is happening this week in Tonj) and several smaller follow-ups.

CHE trainer, Beth Muehleisen, and recent CHE participants with their mango seedlings

Lots of growth ~ yet our supporting infrastructure is basically unchanged five years into this.  As the Country Coordinator and the only full-time long-term WGM missionary involved with Mango Ministries I'm experiencing growing pains!


Introducing Nathan Hitchcock, Tiana Duncan and Steph Craker!  

These are our newest Mango Ministry volunteers and I'm so happy to have each of them participate with us in God's Kingdom building.  I don't think they could be any more color coordinated if they had tried!

Nathan was introduced to WGM Africa several years ago when he was part of a team working in northern Kenya with the Africa Gospel Church Missions Department along with Dr. Dan and Cindy Tolan.  Nathan is a nurse and will be helping at the In Deed and Truth clinic in Tonj for 6 months.  This is malaria season so he's getting a work-out with the high patient load.

Tiana is the daughter of Terry and Karen Duncan, former WGM Africa Regional Directors.  It's real special for me to have Tiana join our team as I've known her her whole life.  I was one of two nurses in the operating room ready to receive her and her twin sister when she was born.  Tiana is joining our Community Health Evangelism team and comes to us with a background in micro-finance.  She will be based in Tonj and will be with us for a year.

Steph Craker is joining the team for a month and comes to us with a background in Social Work.  For those of you from South Jersey you may know Steph's grandparents - Rev. Wilbur (Hoppy) and Donnabelle Hoffman and her parents, WGM missionaries, Denny and Michelle Craker.  Isn't it a small world!!


Last week the President of South Sudan dismissed the Vice President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers from their duties.  To date this broad policitcal move has not resulted in a disruption of Mango Ministry activities.  But the potential for increased insecurity sure does exist!  Almost 3 weeks ago South Sudan celebrated their 2nd Independence Day.  Many news outlets have mixed reviews about how independence is going so far.  Despite the President's recent decree insecurity continues to be a very real problem.  Guns are used to settle far too many disputes.  Think, "The Wild Wild West."

July 9th Independence Day Celebrations 2012


The goal of Mango Ministries is to see lives transformed so that we are all living in full relationship with Jesus.  Investing in people's lives through training is one way that transformation takes place.  This year we've had lots of opportunity to train!  We are using Simply the Story (Biblical Storytelling) and Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training tools.  

Christine Stanfield and Andrea using Biblical Storytelling to train pastors in Tonj

CHE:  Making a map of their village helps participants understand community dynamics better

At the end of 4 weeks of training participants receive a certificate - maybe their first ever. 
This is the beginning as these empowered men and women will go out and train their communities with a focus on spiritual and physical wellbeing.  


I'm tired.  Not the kind of tired that a good Saturday morning catch-up on sleep will remedy. Some call it culture fatigue. I'm tired of the constant uncertainty of what is happening in South Sudan due to insecurity and changing politics, flight changes as I schedule lots of people to fly into South Sudan, unannounced changes in immigration policy, nightmare traffic and road conditions in Nairobi making it a major chore to do business, unannounced electric outages for up to a day at a time, poor phone connections with South Sudan.  Do you get the picture?


Faithful.  Jesus is so faithful.  I was able to attend meetings at WGM's Headquarters in Indiana in June. Times of spiritual encouragement and retreat were really soothing to my weary soul.  And I have always been in the minority in that I love attending meetings!  It was a lot of fun to be with many other WGM leaders.  

2013 Field Director's Retreat ~ World Gospel Mission Headquarters

I'm remembering that sweet without the bitter isn't really sweet at all.  I'm learning to take the bitter and rest in the assurance that God will use it for His glory, in His time, in His way.  And I don't have to orchestrate solutions to life's curve balls on my own.  

Please pray with me for strength and perseverance to lifes daily challenges.  Pray with me for fun times to re-energize my soul.  Pray with me for consistency in spending time with Jesus in His Word and prayer.  Pray with me and our South Sudan Executive Committee for discernment and wisdom in how to bridge the gap between our current limited infrastructure and the growing opportunities to be involved in ministry.  There are more prayer requests and praises in the sidebar - thanks for standing in the gap.  

To those who are champions of my ministry I want to say "thank you" for being so faithful.  Your prayers, financial gifts, and your interest in what I'm involved in and how God is at work in South Sudan really bless me.  And countless blessings are being realized by the South Sudanese as Mango Ministries grows.  I appreciate you more than I can express.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Celebrating Mothers

As Mother's Day is only hours away I wanted to capitalize on our collective interest in honoring our Mom's.  As  I coordinate and lead the many activities of Mango Ministries I come in contact with lots of Mothers.  Their roles are many and varied in this business of Kingdom Building.  Here's a glimpse of Moms in Missions

A big thank you to my Mom, Carol Phillips, as she and my Dad have given me their blessing to serve in missions.  Mom has always been supportive, if not exactly excited about where God has lead me!  That has resulted in lots of prayer, which is always a good thing. I could always count on getting letters from Mom when I first came to Kenya, years ago - way before email.  And now I've usually got an email  from her in my inbox with encouragement and news from home.  When I return to the US she always asks, "What would you like me to cook for you?"  Thanks Mom!  You and many other  Mom's of Missionaries are a huge blessing to those of us who are in ministry far from home!

my Mother, Carol Phillips

Some WGM Mother's are at the 'empty nest' stage of life.  While visiting South Sudan they take the opportunity to snuggle with other Mother's children.

Christine Stanfield, one of WGM's South Sudan Committee members

Other mothers are in the throes of child rearing and carry their small ones off to South Sudan with them as they serve in medical ministry.
Dr. Destinee MacLeod and husband Dr. Jono take little Zoe with them to Tonj

And then South Sudanese get the chance to cuddle with visiting babies!
Chloe, or is it Sophie?, Coppedge during a Biblical Storytelling training in Tonj
(sorry, Auntie Joy just can't tell you and your sister apart!)

And some Mothers have older kids giving them and their kids time to explore on their own.
 Jenny Roberts, wife of our eye surgeon Ben Roberts, helps out in the kitchen in Tonj

To round off her son's education Nate headed out to catch some supper in the nearby river!

Jenny's son, Luke, helped out during a cataract clinic leading blind patients from room to room.

Jenny also serves as her son's Teacher and continued the challenging job of home schooling - even during a visit to South Sudan.

Some mother's who work at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya leave their children at home with family and friends while they join Mango Ministries during our mobile cataract clinics.
Zipporah and Emily treating post-op cataract patients

And other missionary Moms live in South Sudan hosting many, many guests and short term visitors!
Suzy Kuj (center) , mother of 3, gives WGM'ers a tour of the In Deed and Truth compound in Tonj

Some mothers, like Helen, remain at home in Kenya caring for her daughters and praying for her husband as he ministers through Community Health in South Sudan.
Helen (on far right) is Adhanom's wife.  Her youngest daughter Shamna is on her Aunt's lap

Mother's Unions play an important role in most Churches in South Sudan.  

And of course Mom's carry out the same activities for their children all around the world. 
bath time

weeding in the garden to ensure there will be food for hungry stomachs

food prep - grinding millet

And ensuring there's enough water at home for drinking, cooking, and bathing. 

Unfortunately many Moms and Grandmoms in South Sudan are not able to help with these basic activities of caring for their families.  They are blind from cataracts.  

A daughter leads her Mom to have her bandage removed after having cataract surgery the previous day

Often the elderly are afflicted with cataracts but sometimes young people are as well. It was exciting to witness this young Mother examine the eye chart after her cataract surgery.  Next for her was seeing her child that she had never laid eyes on because of her blindness!

Moms and Grandmothers are so important to us.  Mango Ministries is blessed to have the opportunity to partner with the Tenwek Eye Team.  This year we have three trips planned.  Our goal is to bring physical eyesight as well as offer spiritual wholeness to hundreds of women in this hurting nation.  

Read a past blog post about this Grandmother's journey from being blind and destitute to restoration of sight, fellowship with her church, and contributing to her family and community. 

Will you consider giving a gift to a South Sudanese Mother this year?  For only $50 (thanks to financial help from a generous foundation) World Gospel Mission and Mango Ministries is able to offer sight giving surgery to hundreds of Mothers.  Will you make a commitment to pray for one of the Mother's who comes to us for help?  As you have been blessed will you consider blessing a neighboring Mother in South Sudan.  She will be most grateful!  To help financially checks can be sent to:  World Gospel Mission, P.O. Box 948, Marion, IN 46952-0948 for account no. 130-25791.  Or click here to give a gift online.  

Here is our 2013 schedule for Cataract Clinics:
June 4 - 8, Memorial Christian Hospital, Werkok, Jongelei
October 5 - 9, IAS medical clinic, Nyinbule, Northern Bahr El Ghazal
November 9 - 13, In Deed and Truth, Tonj, Warrap

Thanks to the many Mom's who send us off to serve the South Sudanese.
Thanks to the Mom's who minister in South Sudan, bringing the example of Godly families with you.
Thanks to the many Mom's who lift up the process of Kingdom building in prayer.
And thanks to those who pray and give financially in order to bless the Mom's of South Sudan. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Living better ~ Loving better

I'd like to introduce you to Denny and Angie Schwartz.  I met this couple years ago, so long ago I can't remember exactly when it was, when they came to Tenwek on a work team with their church.  The following year they headed up their own work team.  And later they came by themselves and worked with us at Tenwek Community Health and Development for 8 months.  

Gladys, Joy, and Angie and Denny Schwartz at Tenwek Community Health & Development, 2005

I've loved getting to know this family and seeing their commitment to missions in action.  Two months ago Denny traveled to Akot, South Sudan to minister with his church alongside the Akot Medical Mission, who we've worked with on occasion as well.  He's given me permission to share his thoughts with you from his recent trip.  His insights are spot on. 

"Why Do I go on Mission Trips? Yesterday I returned from my 6th mission trip to Africa. As I think about the details (and contend with the jet lag) of that trip I find my old answers to my question are not sufficient. I have visited Kenya 5 times and I fell in love with the beauty of the people and of the land. I worked on foundations well developed by a hundred years of faithful servants from around the world that answered the call to work there. I worked on projects that were fulfilling to me and beneficial to those I served. I never thought that any reason to serve could be more worthwhile than that.

Then I took this trip to South Sudan. I will just be honest – it is not a pretty land. It is a place that is deeply scarred from 30 years of brutal civil war. It is a people that have come to rely (maybe too heavily) on “assistance” from the global community. I confess – my primary objective on this trip was to provide “assistance” as well.

Then I saw the church. It wasn’t a building (most of the churches we visited met under a tree). It wasn’t the great programs being carried out by followers (although we saw a handful of critical projects such as schools, hospitals and community health programs being administered by followers of Christ). I saw the church when I saw her people – and I was encouraged by what I saw. As I learned more about the state of the small but growing church, I could see the impact it was making on the country of South Sudan. In a place that has known only war for 30 years and violence for even longer, it is the church that is changing that culture. It is the church that is encouraging its members to be responsible citizens of this new nation. It is the church that encourages it members to treat their spouse and children with the love, dignity and respect that God intended and not with the harshness that has been the cultural norm since these tribes were formed. It is the church urging her members to care for the many orphans and widows created by 30 years of war. It is the church that is encouraging parents to send their daughters, as well as their sons, to school. It is the church that is urging its members to not let their hands be idle but to work in all things as if working for the Lord. In short, the church is teaching the people to love better. And how are they doing this? By loving others as Jesus loves them.

There are many great “assistance” programs that are helping the South Sudanese to live better. But let me be honest; living by definition is not difficult. It only takes a heartbeat. Loving, on the other hand is harder. You must know what your heart is beating for. So, if you are still reading this extended post and you want a report of our recent trip then here it is. We tried to help people live better. We hope we helped people to love better. And I know that this (suddenly) beautiful church of South Sudan has taught me to love better."

Mango Ministries continues to love the people of South Sudan.  

Adhanom, from Eritrea, is building relationships with pastors and many others in Lakes State.  He is an encouragment to all he meets. 

Adhanom chats with some youth in Tonj

Whitney, from Alabama, continues to follow up with CHE participants and builds discipling relationships with several women and girls in Tonj. 

Whitney gets to know the girls serving kerekede in Tonj

Margit, from Germany, is at Memorial Christian Hospital in Werkok to help and encourage the hospital Administrator and Medical staff.  

Billy, from Kentucky, is planning a follow-up Biblical Storytelling training in Tonj this July and is excited to hear reports that the pastors trained in March are telling stories and diving into the depths of the Word by themselves. 

Billy trains pastors in Biblical Storytelling from around Tonj

 Joanna, from Indiana, and Billy's wife, is mainly at home in northern Uganda with their 4 young daughters reaching out to African Moms and their children.  But she's not always at home!

Joanna teaches a lesson on Biblical Storytelling in March

Here's a story of transformation from this recent training: 
While the In Deed and Truth team was driving home from a mobile clinic a pastor, who we'll call Paul, who had been in the Bible Storytelling training started telling a Bible story that he had not learned from the training (which means he learned it himself!).  He did a great job asking questions and everyone thought he was finished when he started asking more questions at a much deeper level.  Whitney reported that it was amazing and God really spoke to her through Pastor Paul's presentation of the story. Not long afterwards a young man came up to Sabet (founder of IDAT Ministry) and asked, "How can I be like Pastor Paul? I love it when he shares a Bible story because it is so good. I want to share Bible stories like Pastor Paul."  

 Jen, from Michigan, is preparing to train trainers for children's ministry in Nyinbule in June.  

Jen meets the government school teachers in February while touring Nyinbule

Some of the local children who will benefit from a children's ministry

Sharon, from Nairobi, Kenya, is getting adjusted to the In Deed and Truth Clinic in Tonj as she uses her Clinical Officer training to minister to women and children. 

Mother and child receiving care from the In Deed and Truth Clinic

And my office is filling up with hundreds of eye lenses, medicines, 5 liter jugs of povidine, rolls of gauze, sterile gloves, and material to sew surgical drapes as we prepare to send out cataract and surgical teams from Tenwek over the next few months.   

Thank you for partnering with Mango Ministries through prayer, financial giving, and even going ~ as we assist/share/facilitate/teach/model living a better life in Christ.  Living better begets loving better!

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."  John 15:12

Monday, March 4, 2013

Changing of the guard

My ministry focus is in South Sudan but I live in Kenya.  Today is a big day.  

Today is a historic day in Kenya.  Presidential elections are being held and Kenyan's are voting for one of 8 candidates to assume leadership of Kenya.  Hopes are high that peace will prevail! Churches across Kenya yesterday prayed for a transparent and fair election process and acceptance of the results.  After post-election violence rocked Kenya 5 years ago some are holding their breath as scattered incidences of violence and threats have made their way into the headlines over the past few weeks.  

Pray for Kenya today as people are voting.  Pray for Kenya in the days ahead as the votes are tallied and announcements are made.  There may be the need for a run off election in April.  Pray for the man or woman who will become the 4th President of Kenya!

Another change in leadership has taken place in WGM in the Africa Region.  Long time friends and colleagues, Terry and Karen Duncan, left Nairobi last week to reposition themselves in the US. They will be missed!  From being in the operating room when their twin girls were born at Tenwek Hospital, to working with their son, Brent, in the Bible Distribution project in South Sudan, to traveling to West Pokot in northern Kenya with Karen to do immunization clinics I have a lot of memories with this family.  They came to Kenya in 1977!  Pray for this transition in their lives and ministry. 

On the way to the airport with Duncan's.  

Many people carry tissues, hand sanitizer, and lipstick in their hand bags.  Missionaries carry duct tape!   Terry and Karen have certainly gotten their money's worth out of these suitcases as they have traversed Africa and the Atlantic Ocean lots and lots of times.

You might be asking, who is taking their place?  Last week the new WGM Africa Regional Director and his wife returned to Africa after a short Homeland Ministry Assignment.  Jon and Vera Steury are settling in this week.  I also have a long history of friendship and work with Jon and Vera. We worked together with Tenwek Community Health and Development, have sat in many meetings together, and they have hosted me in Maasailand many, many times.  Pray for Jon and Vera as they ease into their new roles of overseeing all that WGM is doing in Africa.

Another changing of the guard will take place this week in Tonj.  WGM will be facilitating another Biblical Storytelling training.  Some of the men who will be helping lead sessions have been trained and mentored over the past few years by Billy Coppedge and are Trainers-in-Training.  It is our hope and prayer that a cadre of South Sudanese will soon have the ability to train other South Sudanese in the use of Biblical Storytelling.

The training team will fly from Arua, Uganda to Tonj tomorrow.  Training of up to 30 pastors will take place Wednesday through Friday, March 6 - 8.

I'd like to introduce our Biblical Storytelling training team who will be involved in this training.  Please pray for the team's safe travels, good health, ability to tolerate the heat, and clear communication with the pastors and trainers-in-training as they explore God's Word together.

Joanna and Billy Coppedge lead this team:  their 4 daughters will accompany them to Tonj this trip! 

Christine and Jeff Stanfield are part of WGM's Uganda leadership team

Adhanom Hidug, Mango Ministry staff member, focuses on Church & Community Empowerment through Community Health Evangelism and Biblical Storytelling

Whitney Smith, WGM VIA (Volunteer in Action) is doing CHE training and follow-up and is becoming a Biblical Storyteller as well

Please also pray for Sabet and Suzy Kuj and their family, founders of In Deed and Truth ministry.  They are hosting the Biblical Storytelling training as part of their Pastor's Training School.  Pray for them as they lead this vibrant ministry that is training pastors as well as operating a busy clinic.  Both ministries are bringing transformation to this part of South Sudan!

As I look at Mango Ministries and other ministries in Africa and around the world there are quite a few shoes to fill.  Are you the new guard?