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Friday, February 22, 2013

It's mango time!


It's almost mango season in South Sudan.  Something our team dreams of all year!  There's nothing like a sweet, juicy mango right off the tree.  I wish I could share one with you!  


Mango's also remind us of what Mango Ministries is all about.   
  • These incredibly large trees are supported by deep roots - and as Christians we need to be rooted and grounded in God's Word.  Understanding Biblical truths is the basis for building a healthy life.  
  • A mango tree without fruit is not living up to God's intentions for it.  As God's children we need to bear fruit, both spiritual and physical.  We hope to see people growing in their relationship as son's and daughter's of God as well as living dignified lives as God's Kindgom comes to earth. 
  • Each mango has the potential to multiply itself by producing another mango tree.  We believe transformed lives will touch lives that will touch lives.  The harvest will be multipled.  
Here is a report from my last trip to South Sudan.  Although it was too early to enjoy one of the mango's from the tree above it was not a fruitless trip.  


I met Tenwek's surgery team who were finishing up a two week clinic at Memorial Christian Hospital in Werkok.  They were able to perform almost 50 surgeries.  The last patient they operated on was a small girl with a cleft lip.  How exciting to have her name changed from "girl with a defect" to Monica!


Medical Team:  Dr. Gai (working at Memorial Christian Hospital), Dr. Elijah (a Tenwek surgical Intern), Paula (a visitor to MCH who helped in the OR), Philip Langat (Kenyan anesthetist), Deng Jongkuch (MCH administrator), Dr. Russ White (WGM missionary and Tenwek surgeon) and his nephew Gabe Ellsworth (helping with a little bit of this and that)

Incoming Team: Dr. Rick Morse, Adhanom, Jen Lavery - new volunteer, Whitney, Margit Mueller - new volunteer, Joy, Deng Jongkuch, and Dr. Rossi Shamir.

Most of the above team had come to Werkok to teach on Community Health Evangelism.  One of my favorite illustrations about community development is the "River Crossing."  Margit, Jen, and Adhanom acted it out below.


Here there is a river that is very high and dangerous to cross.  Margit knows where the stepping stones are but Jen does not.  Margit is giving Jen a lift to enable her to get to the other side.  Jen will need to find Margit when she wants to come back across the river.  She's dependent on getting lifts from people who know the river better than her.


Rather than carry Jen back the other way Adhanom wants to teach Jen where the stepping stones are so she can cross by herself.  So, together they are crossing the river as Adhanom shows Jen the way, step by step.

Post-war countries like South Sudan have a tendency to get locked into a mentality that the only way to cross the river, or deal with the problems in life, is to get a lift from someone rather than learn to cross the river oneself. (metaphorically speaking!) Mango Ministries is all about teaching people to cross the river themselves, one stepping stone at a time.  This is a hard paradigm to break though and we ask you to pray for changed attitudes as much as anything else.  A changed attitude will lead to changed behavior.


After leaving Werkok Jen and I traveled back to Juba.  Our travel plans were not exactly written in stone and we hoped all would come together - which it did!  Our next stop was in Northern Bahr el Ghazel in western South Sudan.  We flew to Aweil where Brian Mutai picked us up.  Brian and his wife Debbie, and their son Daniel, are Kenyan missionaries working with International Aid Services and the Africa Gospel Church.  I loved hearing Brian introduce Jen and I to people in their community.  He said, these women are from the church that brought the Gospel message to our people in Kenya many years ago.  The Africa Gospel Church is the denomination that WGM started in the early 1900's.  Debbie and Brian are just some of the fruit of WGM's missionary efforts over the past century.  And a spiritual and physical harvest is being multiplied as they take the Gospel to their neighbors in South Sudan.

IAS team in Nyinbule:  Titus, Emmanual, Debbie, Daniel, Brian and Peter

It was such fun to get to spend time with the Mutai's and their team.  Even despite the heat.


Here you can see that it's over 100 degrees Farenheit inside their dining tukel at 1:50 pm.


This might just look like your average mahagony tree but it's much more.  This is the church where Brian and Debbie worship in Nyinbule.  Brian helps give leadership to the body of believers in this community.  To be honest this is my favorite kind of sanctuary.  It's cool, catches a breeze, it's shady, and incredibly beautiful.  Unfortunately we weren't there on a Sunday to see people crowded beneath it's shady leaves and raising the roof with their exuberant singing and dancing.

Debbie in front of the IAS clinic in Nyinbule - holding one of the bricks she helped make

This is the clinic where Debbie works.  She came here when she was still single, and with another Kenyan missionary and 2 American women they helped build this clinic, actually helped build it by hand!  She told us about pushing wheel barrows full of sand up from the river.  One day Valentino Achak Deng stopped by. He is the author of the book about the Lost Boys entitled, What is the What.  His home village, Marial Bai, is not far away.  When he saw Debbie pushing that wheel barrow he said, "No, this is not right."  And he sent a truck to help them transport sand up from the river bed to the building site.


Debbie is a Clinical Officer and with a team of health care professionals from East Africa she cares for many people from this area.  Debbie herself grew up as a Missionary Kid in northern Kenya.  Her parents were AGC missionaries and still work with the Africa Gospel Church.  I have worked with Debbie's father, Rev. David Mutai, for many years in Kenya.  Debbie did her C.O. internship at Tenwek Hospital.  With all these connections it seems appropriate for WGM to partner with Debbie and Brian!!

We are planning to take Tenwek's cataract team to Nyinbule in October.  Pray for the mobilization and planning of this clinic, for the right people to get the message to come for physical sight, but more so that people's hearts will be ready to hear about Jesus and accept Him as Lord of their lives.  Jen is also helping the IAS team prepare trainings for children and teen girls.  These are great age groups to target with health and spiritual messages.


Maybe after cataract surgery the women will be able to marvel at this pink (or is it lavender?) flowered tree.  How cool is this!?


It's very common for Dinka women to carry crosses, especially to church.  While visiting Debbie and Brian's neighbors, where their son Daniel (orange t-shirt) plays quite often, we met the Grandmother (on the left).  Her cross reminds me that it's Lent.  The chorus, "At the cross. . . . " keeps going through my head, you know how it is when a little tune won't leave your head!  
The last stanza seems especially poignant to me.  I think giving myself to Him is all that I can do to repay the gift of "spiritual sight" it talks about in the chorus.  Giving ourselves away takes on so many shapes and colors.  What does it look like for you?


But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
’Tis all that I can do.

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
* Isaac Watts

Praying for deeper roots, more fruit, and more mango trees!

joy