Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seasonal Floods Receding; DEO Team Proceeding

As Nancy and I prepare to fly back to Doro tomorrow, let me apologize for a woefully-kept blog site.  The blessings are many at Doro; the challenges likewise are many.  Our health team and SIM family are a great blessing.  The friends and fellow-workers among our Sudanese family are as well a constant encouragement to us.  The seasonal floods this month were extensive and damaging, but have begun to recede in the past week.


The attached newsletters will tell a piece of the story of our lives in 2012, as we prepare now for the arrival of a building team from Oregon, and a team of evangelists from Ethiopia during November-December.  These are exciting days in Doro!  In Christ,  Rob and Nancy

....looking back to July, and a 'NEW CAR' for Doro...

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate the first birthday of South Sudan, the news reports coming out of this country are replete with stories of tragic circumstances and frustrated expectations.

However, there are bright lights shining in the darkness.  The source of that light is God Himself, whose hand controls the destiny of the nations.  Scripture instructs us in the powerful words of Isaiah read by Eric Liddell’s character in the movie Chariots of Fire: “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales… All the nations are as nothing before Him.  He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”  He reigns.

I met a few of Christ’s bright lights today…  There was a well-dressed, gentle mother with her poorly-nourished, ill child, telling me she fled from Khartoum last month and made her way here, only to be confronted by even greater desperation.  There was a Sudanese Community Health Worker, Masir, standing in front of the crowd of patients in the early morning light, explaining that Jesus Christ is the One who knows and can meet our deepest needs and leading them all in prayer.  There was a Kenyan health worker, sharing in our clinic ‘morning report’ how God responded so graciously to a man like Abraham; and how the same God answered prayer a few nights ago giving breath and life to a breathless, gasping baby with severe bronchiolitis.   Finally, there was Neil, a missionary nurse from Scotland, sitting in the clinic with his blistered, infected feet up on a chair being ministered to by another nurse.  Neil’s feet are a bright light to me – a reminder what it means to be ‘shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.”  A week ago he walked with our son Stephen and some Sudanese fellows to a distant and neglected community more than six hours south of Doro, bringing spiritual encouragement and the promise of help during these days of malarial rain.  He suffered.  His feet are a mess!  But his feet remind me that even as Christ suffered in His flesh to redeem us, so our suffering is a light, revealing the glory and triumph of the Cross (Galatians 6:14).

True, the news coming out of South Sudan is replete with stories of tragic circumstances and frustrated expectations.  Might it be possible that the Lord has in mind a plan for this mass of 100,000 unreached and previously-remote groups of people who’ve gathered on our doorstep?  Must they simply suffer here for a year or two, then gather up what remains and return to a barren life in a remote corner of a country which does not want them?  Or have they come to this place, at this time, to hear the Good News that came to other shepherds 2000 years ago:  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings, of great joy, which shall be to all people!  For unto you is born this day… a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

One effective way to reach these crowds would be to empower a band of 7 or 8 Ethiopian believers to come over from Addis Ababa, the capital of our neighboring country.  In fact, they are ready to come.  The Kale Heywet Church numbers in the millions of Ethiopian evangelical Christians, and some of our most effective team members here in Sudan are from that fellowship of thousands of churches.  They’ve sent evangelistic teams to difficult places like India and Pakistan, and we wonder – Why not here?  Why not now?

Pray with us that a team might be mobilized to come for six weeks, from early November this year when the rains have ended.  Such a team would find help from their own churches for travel to Juba, but would need us to raise more than $10,000 for travel within South Sudan.  We’ll need to build concrete pads on which we can erect canvas tents we’ll purchase and bring from Kenya for $2,000 apiece.  Then we’ll need beds; plastic chairs and tables; a mud & thatched kitchen; cook-stoves; pots, pans, food to cook, and so forth; a pit latrine, bucket shower, and thatched shelter from the sun.  It will cost us $30,000 to see it happen.

Is it possible?  For the price-tag of a new car, a team of experienced African evangelists proclaiming the love of Christ, day after day, from one end of the camp to the other, seems too small a price.  But realize that one of those evangelists may be a woman named Tibarek, and some of you will recall that a few years ago we traveled with her out of Sudan with the lifeless body of her husband, who died of cerebral malaria in just their fourth year of marriage.  They paid a great price for the proclamation of the Gospel in Sudan. 

Is such an effort possible?  We think this is the Lord’s kind of project, and believe He will provide what we need to prepare the way.  If you want to give, you can do that online at www.sim.org and donate to Project #98103 South Sudan Church Discipleship Project and add a note “Doro 2012 Evangelism Team” so we can identify the gift.  If you’re more familiar with sending to our Ministry Account #11269 you can do that with the note:  “Congdon Ministry Account – Doro 2012 Evangelism Team”. 

Please pray that the Lord’s hand of blessing would be on this effort, preparing the right people even now for such a team, for such a time as this.

With love and prayer, from Doro.  Rob and Nancy

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Doro now vast Refugee Squatter's Camp

Every day brings news of developments from Sudan, and what has come today makes this an significant Tuesday for us.

The link below will convey you to a sad story. I discovered this interview of an Uduk man who had been living in the Northern town of Kurmuk, but last month was forced to flee with wife and children across into Ethiopia to escape the violent bombing and strife in eastern Sudan. Despite the anguish he must feel, returning to a bleak existence in a refugee camp where he spent two decades of his young life, his lament is for his elderly parents left behind in Chali, an important Uduk village just 30 miles from our clinic in Doro but well within the war-torn area beyond the new international border.


Suddenly, I recognize the name of the young man! Santino John!! He is the godly grandson of the first Uduk believer, a man named Mona whose black-and-white photo with son Kona Samuel graces the pages of Malcolm Forsberg’s 1958 book ‘Land Beyond the Nile’. Crippled from childhood, little Santino was carried 400 miles to safety in Khartoum during the long war, and there he received a good education before rejoining his people in an Ethiopian refugee camp and beginning a family of his own. The years passed. War finally ended in 2005 and Santino returned, limping, to Sudan where he became a key member of our first HIV-education team in Kurmuk back in 2007. He proved to be a man full of integrity and deep commitment to Christ. I’ll not forget his deep emotion in Kurmuk when I played for him old video footage retrieved from the mission archives, of the baptism of his grandfather.

Our hearts sank to think of Santino limping along muddy paths, heavy-laden and heavy-hearted, leading his children to an all-too-familiar refugee camp; now safe with his family in Ethiopia, but in anguish for his elderly parents in Chali. Did they escape the bombing? Are they still walking toward Ethiopia? Did they flee toward Doro?

We sent an email to Vicki in Doro: ‘Can you ask our health worker Masir to look among the 19,000 refugees streaming into the Doro area, in case there is word of the parents of Santino?’

Imagine our joy when we received this response yesterday: “Masir says that he saw Santino's sister the other day and she's in the camp with their parents!” Then today: “Had a wonderful visit with Santino's family today… They arrived less than a week ago. It took them a long time to travel from Chali… They hid in the bush for several days and collected as much food as they could… Samuel was quite pleased to hear that Santino was safe in Ethiopia. I gave them one small packet of tea and a small packet of sugar…”

Sometimes we lay awake at night, wondering if we are up to the challenge ahead. We consider our limited resources, the vast needs, the complicated situation. But returning to Forsberg’s thoughts encourages us tonight, as we trace the gracious hand of the living God in the lives of Forsberg and the first Uduk Christians. Those early years passed and Santino’s grandfather Mona became the leader of the young Uduk church. Forsberg moved on to Khartoum, but returning to Chali for a visit he attended church, and recalls (p.231): “The communion service followed. My head was bowed. Two African hands holding a dish were stretched out to me. I took the bread and ate with thanksgiving, and when the same African hands were extended to me again, I took the cup and drank. The bread and the cup were memorials to the Savior who died for me, but the hands that served me were Mona’s. I remembered the communion service when I first served the bread and the cup to him. Then he was surrounded by missionaries. Now he had served me and I was surrounded by Uduk Christians. Many books have been written about unity and brotherhood. Our only source was the Bible, and we had found unity with some of earth’s most unlikely people. We had found that unity at the cross. Mona had first come to us because the birth of his son had made work taboo for a while. He had sat on the floor of our house while we gave him the bread of life, the Word of God. He had reached out to understand. Now I was sitting low on the bamboo slats, the pews in Chali Church. Mona was bending over me and I was reaching out to understand… The communion service brought it all into focus… We (missionary and Uduk alike) had sought to make God Himself our goal and He had embraced all our need.”

The living God who revealed Himself to Mona, carried his family through decades of bitter war, and entwined our path with his son and grandson, is for us also our goal and the One who has embraced all our need. His gracious hand, through much travail, has transformed their lives; His grace will do the same for us.

Forsberg closes the book, as we conclude this letter: “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages.”

Love, Rob and Nancy

Thursday, September 16, 2010

#4 TBC Team October '10

A final tour around the Maternity Ward is in order. You have seen the steady progress in transformation of the Ward: Here is a view of the double-doorway leading into the labor ward, followed by a look as the paint goes on, looking through those same doors. What a difference a coat of paint makes!

When you look up, the ceiling is open over the ward to allow heat to dissipate.

The lab is of special concern, and there is much to be done. The countertop will be applied, sinks plumbed, tiling installed. Where Kevin is painting, at counter level we'll want to build a small blood-drawing 'station'. The windows and doors will need special attention to prevent dust (and critters) from blowing in freely. Note the fairly-typical gap under this metal door:

James, a Kijabe Hospital lab tech and friend, brought out the laboratory instruments, tested them, and placed them back in safekeeping until the lab is completed. He has returned to his employment at Kijabe Hospital, and we're thankful for his willingness to help in such a practical way. He is squatting next to the under-counter spaces where a few cabinets and open shelves need to be built.

And this young man is excited and happy, watching the excellent forward progress!

Now let me share a painful glimpse into the reality of life in Doro, expressed well in a note today from Grace Womack at our Nutrition Village:

"Yesterday one of my outpatients came very sick and had lost a lot of weight: Vomiting, diarrhea, fever. I told mama she needed to stay with him in the Village. She left the 1-year old (who weighed 11 pounds) with another mom in the Village and walked 2 miles home to bring back her 4-year old to stay with her. When she returned (without the other child), she was crying. Evidently, the father, a man from the North, was drunk and beat & kicked her because she left the baby and was planning to stay in the Village. She tried to reason with him, saying if the baby didn't stay at Doro he might die. Dad said, 'Let him die'!"

"I gave her milk powder and medication with instructions, and told her if she ever wanted to return we would welcome her. Also, I told her to bring the child on Saturday. So disheartening... I know this is nothing new under the sun, but still hard." (Grace Womack, RN)

And, other items of interest to you as you prepare for this adventure... walking distance from the old hospital site is our compound; this picture is from overhead. If you look closely, you will see the solar panels on the tin roof of the dining building. The large building is the storeroom.

The other tents and brown-thatched houses or 'tukuls' you can see are where we live - about 20 people inside the 300 yard perimeter - with small cooking shelters, showers, pit latrines, and every comfort imaginable. No hot tub, yet. But most of the year, that would be easy to arrange...
By early October, the rains will stop falling and 7 months without a drop will follow. However, the floods have been serious this year and the mosquitoes are out in force right now. Bring some DEET and at least one long-sleeve shirt to protect your arms at night. And remember this promise, if the task seems daunting: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." 2 Cor 9:8