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Monday, July 29, 2013

Bittersweet

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."  


Bitter

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!


Sweet

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!!


Bitter

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


Sweet

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.  

Bitter

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?

Sweet

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.