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

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