From Home

20/Jan/2012

Ok, I wanna say something and hopefully not have you judge me. I promise it gets better!

Sometime in November, I had friends and family tell me they were sending care packages to me from America. Great! They didn’t come and didn’t come. And quite honestly, I didn’t really care, too much. (that’s the cringe inducing “please don’t judge me” statement of the warning) I just didn’t. I didn’t really NEED anything and so thought it really wasn’t a big deal. I mean, I was upset that people I cared about had spent money and it was seemingly wasted. But I was more upset about the fact that I had to have that conversation with my family every time we talked than I was that I didn’t have this stuff. “No they aren’t here, yet. No, I don’t know why. It’s probably because of Christmas and a lot more stuff in a sub-par postal system.” (we say a lot about our postal system in America but believe me, I will be HAPPY to have it back!) Anyway, I was getting to the point that I was dreading that part of our conversations every time. Just waiting until I had to say those words.

But then, it happened. An MLK miracle! (it’s the closest holiday) Yesterday, Kaya came back from Moyo bearing two large boxes with my name on them. YAY! My family will be elated! I opened them and kinda glanced through but didn’t want to unpack them as we were still at the seminary and I’d have to pack it back up to go home. We didn’t leave for home until 8:00 pm and it was Dan’s last night in KK. So, I really didn’t properly open them until this morning.

Let me just say, I’m glad I walked to the office today so I had some time to pull myself together, thank God and quite honestly confess a bit. For those of you who took part even in some small way in these care packages, I would like to give you a very heartfelt THANK YOU! I really cannot tell you how much they meant to me. As I sat there this morning pulling out yarn, coffee, gum, girly things like smelly lotion and lip gloss, toiletries and a wide variety of well thought out treats of every kind (including a lovely tin of homemade peanut brittle from Jean Mathias – THANK YOU!!!!!), I realized just how much these kinds of packages mean to me. I honestly had it in my head that it wasn’t that big a deal but boy was I wrong!

I was totally planning on only opening one package and saving the other so I had something to look forward to later. Um, that didn’t happen. I did, however, refrain from eating everything at once. I even refrained from opening everything and eating just a little bit of each. Here, once something is open, it’s gone. I know that’s a problem in America, too. But I mean that once it’s open, you either eat it within a couple days or get used to eating stale, mushy, or possibly bug infested food. (believe me, I’m not above that but still, I have SOME discipline….)

The comfort of having things from home is very small compared to the feeling that people have been thinking about you, care enough to choose things they know you’d like and took the time to put it in the mail to you. It’s a humbling feeling.

So over my cup of Pecan turtle coffee this morning, I thanked God for all the loving people in my life. I truly don’t deserve y’all! But I am SO grateful. There aren’t really words to express that. I’ve already used 546 words and still don’t feel like I’ve scratched the surface of telling you how grateful I am!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Happy New Year!!!

09/Jan/2012

Never in all my wildest dreams did I think that one day:

1. I would celebrate the New Year in the middle of Africa.

2. I would be learning another new African language (sort of).

3. I would get so used to seeing the Nile river everyday that it lost it’s specialness.

4. Some of my best friends and adopted family would be in South Sudan (or because of South Sudan).

5. I would learn (a little bit) to be comfortable in my own skin because of life in a foreign country. (still not completely there but, ya know….)

These are things I was contemplating on the eve of a new year. So far, holidays and special occasions have passed relatively uneventfully. But that’s ok. It helps me not miss my family too much but still enjoy the holidays. New Year’s eve was no exception. There were no fireworks, no confetti (although they are burning fields right now so we considered the fires in the distance and the ashes falling from the sky our fireworks and confetti), there were no noise makers or shouts of “Happy New Year!” We went to bed pretty early and celebrated by sleeping. However, that evening I was sitting there with old friends, new friends, and my Sudanese dad and thinking, once again, how did I get here? Steve Grote and Dan Kim had come from America. Kaya and I picked them in Juba and headed to Nimule for a week of checking on churches, meeting with pastors and encouraging Tolbert. Dan was there to check on the progress of the Seed Effect office in Nimule. Sadly, it’s taking much longer to get set up than they’d hoped but some progress was made.

All week, Steve, Kaya and I visited churches in the Nimule area. All you Nimule peeps, let me tell you, those churches are growing wider AND deeper. You should be proud of the seeds you planted! It was so exciting to see the changes that just 5 months can bring.  All the churches have plans to build a building, there were many people (including MEN) and each of the churches has a good pastor, a strong deacon and usually a choir leader, a women’s leader, a youth leader, and a sunday school leader. Can you imagine? These little baby churches are quickly becoming mature and already thinking about planting another church. I will say, this is a testament to God but also to Tolbert. He is pretty much amazing! He has been working SO hard to build into the pastors and train other leaders. I cannot tell you how encouraging it was to see the changes.

BTW: We stayed in Paling which is up by Loa and Pagere. So we were in tents (MUCH COOLER THAN SLOPEY CITY) and drove down the mountain everyday. Hence, seeing the Nile at least twice a day. Totally old hat, now!

I can’t believe that my time here is half over. I feel as though there is so much left to do and I’m not sure how it will get done! I would be worried anyway but now there is an extra hurdle. There is no diesel. None. Not one drop anywhere in Kajo Keji county. Even in Nimule, there was only one place with diesel so Kaya topped off everyday just in case they ran out. This means that going out into the field is cancelled for the time being. Steve and I brainstormed about new possibilities. I think we came up with some great ideas and things that I’m really excited about. I’ll let you know more about these as they get a bit more fleshed out but please be praying about this new direction. God knew this would happen. He knew that I would be forced in a new direction and has been guiding this ministry. Pray that I rely on Him and follow His lead so that this new venture will be as successful as it can be in Him.

What a crazy ride!

I can tell you with all certainty, they do! It was a wonderful experience to worship with friends and (Sudanese) family on Christmas. Everyone was decked out in their new Christmas cloth (most people got one gift for Christmas, a new outfit), and we worshipped the God who loved us so much He sent His son to this earth to be born in a place for animals so He could die on the cross to save us from our sins. This is what I discussed with the kids. I made sure they knew the whole story of Christ’s birth then we talked about the reason He came to the earth. We give gifts because we like to remember that God have us the biggest gift of all on Christmas.

Then, we came home from church and had meat and soda and just relaxed in the knowledge that God’s love is huge. I gave everyone the gifts I made for them. The girls all got two washcloths, the ladies got shawls, Kaya got bookmarks. The boys got gum because, well, what boy wants a knitted gift?! It was so much fun to be able to give something back to this family that has taken me in as one of their own.

I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year! I will “celebrating” the New Year in Nimule. I’m headed there with Kaya, Steve Grote and Dan Kim on the 28th and return to Kajo Keji on January 5th. So if you don’t hear from me until then, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I pray it lives up to its promise and potential. May God richly bless you and show you great and mighty things this New Year!

Back in the ROSS

14/Dec/2011

I have to say, it’s good to be home in the Republic of South Sudan. The new rules make it a long trip home but I’m here. (what should be about 1 1/2 hour flight is now a half a day of travelling) However, once again God provided a friend for the travels. I am consistently blown away by the little ways God shows us His huge love!

I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to post this but we’ve had internet problems pretty much since I’ve been back.

It’s been an odd couple of weeks. Andrew is now winging his way back home for Christmas. Stephanie and Emily have gone for good and the Water Harvest people are slowly dropping (to America) like flies. Soon, I’ll be the only gelletat left. I didn’t think this would bother me too much because Kaya’s girls are here and they keep me pretty busy. However, I don’t mind telling you, I’ve spent a day or so feeling sorry for myself. It doesn’t help that with fuel issues (prices and scarcity) we are having to put the ministry Johnson and I do on hold. You forget just how important it is to have a purpose. So, I’ve been praying that God will reveal His plan for me during this time. He isn’t caught off guard by any of these issues and has a plan for this time. I just have to be patient and see what that is. Don’t I sound so spiritual and Godly? Believe me, I am not as centered as all that. I can just talk a good talk!  =o)

Christmas is coming. I know this is true because my calendar says so. But it does NOT feel like Christmas. I think this is actually a good thing for me. If it felt more like Christmas I think I would miss my family so much more. So far, it’s not too bad.

Oh, I have to apologize to y’all. I went to a wedding yesterday! It was so cool to experience a wedding here. However, I was sitting there as it was starting and realized I had left my camera in the office! Terribly sorry. My description won’t do it justice and no pics. Tragedy!

Kampala, baby!

21/Nov/2011

I know. You’ve been on the edge of your seat. What has happened to Rebecca? How is her Kampala trip going? You haven’t been able to eat or sleep for worry about me. I knew it! =o)

I cannot even tell you how differently than expected and WONDERFUL this trip has turned out to be!

I drove down with some of the Seed Effect team and hung out with them for my first couple of days. Nice hotel RIGHT downtown, as in, I wouldn’t leave the place by myself! Still worried about what I would do without the guys but getting more ok.

Then, God smiled down on me when they decided that Bulton, the Seed Effect IT guy and Kampala native, would stay to do some things. He was more than willing to show me around town. YAY! A friend! Bulton had been complaining of pain for a couple of days. He said it was because of the bumpy ride and a surgery he’d had a few years ago. Kinda gives him pain every once in a while.  He decided to make a doc appt while he’s here. I checked into a different hotel since the guys were leaving and then we hung around the mall just checking it out and eating GOOD food. (really, I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. This trip is mostly about the food for me!) Bulton’s doctor appt was late in the afternoon so I went back to the hotel and internet. I have to say that the hotel I stayed at for the rest of the trip is amazing and fun. I met some great people that first night that have become friends.

The next day, Friday, Bulton and I were going to go somewhere but hadn’t decided what. I didn’t hear from him but didn’t really mind because my stomach had been rebelling a bit from the good food. So I just hung around the hotel knitting, surfing the interwebs and watching The Office. 😉 By the end of the day I was getting a bit worried and thought I should call him when suddenly he called me. Bad news from doc. Bulton has appendicitis! So I ask if he’s at the hospital (selfishly thinking “how am I going to navigate a hospital here, to visit him?”) No, the doc just gave him some tablets until he can get back here. I do not understand Africa sometimes! I tell him he needs to rest and not to worry about me. I’ll just do sightseeing on my own like I originally thought. I’m a big girl, right? I can handle that, right? (note my own skepticism)

However, once again, God had other serendipitous plans. The friends I had made the first night invited me to church on Sunday with them. SO thankful! But still not sure what to do Saturday. The next morning, one of them mentioned church again and specified what time then said they’d be going to the craft market (one I’ve been to on past trips) and 1,000 Cups (amazing coffee place) if I’d like to go with them. Wonderful! They are two families adopting Ugandan little girls. I have so enjoyed getting to know them and their girls (who are, of course, adorable and helping me not to miss my Harmony quite as much).  I have been SO thankful for these people! They’ve just taken me under their wing and shown me the ropes of Kampala. I would have probably chickened out and stayed at the hotel the whole time without them!

So, off we went on my first boda ride which was not NEARLY as frightening as I thought it would be. However, I still haven’t been in just CRAZY traffic which makes a difference. I figured if they could get on the back of one of those motorbikes with a baby strapped to them, I could handle riding by myself! We had a nice time kicking around the craft market then, we hit 1,000 Cups and I bought some coffee grounds to take home to South Sudan with me. (YAYAYAYAY!!!)

The next day, the plan was to go to church at 2:00 pm. So, we just puttered around the hotel playing with the girls and chatting about their families, etc. Then, off we went to church. I wasn’t sure what to expect at this church, however I def wasn’t expecting it to feel like North Point or some other mega church. Very Hillsongy music and the pastor used an iPad for his notes and Bible. Unreal! However, it was a great service and nice to sit through and be fed instead of running off with the kids.

After church, we stopped at Nakumatt mall and grabbed pizza (wonderful) then, they went to get some coffee while I stopped to pick up some shoes I’d seen the other day with Bulton. (7 buck fake Chuck Taylors that I couldn’t pass up) Seriously, once a shopper, always a shopper!

Which brings us to today. The families had important adoption appointments all day so I knew I’d be on my own. But now I feel empowered. I can do this thang! =o) I knew I wanted to go back to Nakumatt to get food (thinking it was just a grocery store) So, I walked out to the main road, motioned to a boda, haggled my price and off we went! Got to the mall in one piece and discovered that Nakumatt is actually like a Super-Walmart, yo! How amazing is that!?!?! So, I wandered soaking in the glory! Then, started piling things in my basket (trying to keep in mind that I only have 33 lbs for my flight back!). But I’m just telling you there are many snacks (including Ferrero Rocher) that are flying back with me. If I have to leave clothes or my laptop, those are coming with! =o) As I was finishing my wandering I heard my name being called. The families had stopped there to pick up some things between appointments. So, we checked out and headed to the coffee shop. I heard how things had gone and played with the babies then, we headed back to the hotel. They had more appointments and I had an appointment of my own with a steak! So, they went off and I found a boda and went to the fanciest restaurant I’d been to in a LONG time even back in America. GOOD steak and mashed potatoes and a Pear Alvaro which is the best soda in the world. I was by myself in a fancy restaurant and I was totally ok!

God is good, isn’t He? He has taken such good care of me even in my unbelief and fear. He provides at the time of our need and gives us the courage we need to do even silly things!

I’m headed home to Kajo Keji tomorrow on MAF and actually a little sad to go (which I NEVER thought would be the case) but so thankful for this time and these new friends! It will be good to be home.

Don’t worry, I’ll call (post) to let y’all know I got home safely.

Travelling

07/Nov/2011

Just call me the travellin’ (wo)man!

This week has been difficult and refreshing at the same time. Thank you so much everyone for your support. I know it probably doesn’t seem like much but it really means a lot to a girl halfway around the world from her family to know that you care and are praying for me. Thanks!

However, this week has been the Pastor’s Conference for all of South Sudan (and a few guys from Congo and Uganda). It has been such an interesting week. What a great way to meet people from all over without having to leave “home!” I’ve met Dinka from Malakal and that area, people from Yei, Toposa from Kapoeta and all these places I’ve wanted to visit. Also, there have been some IMB missionaries from Kapoeta, Ethiopia, Kenya, etc. Many of these people stayed at Kaya’s compound so it’s been a crazy and fun week.

Next Monday, (the 15th) I’ll be heading to Kampala, Uganda for my R&R. I have to say, for some reason I’ve been more trepidatious of this than looking forward to it. However, I think I’ll be sort of with a few people for the first day or two which helps a lot. I’m trying to remember that this is SUPPOSED to be relaxing so don’t stress out about it, already! =o) (I don’t listen to myself very well)

Like I said, I’m just a travellin’ woman!

With Hope

04/Nov/2011

Today is a sad day in my family. We have lost one of our own. My Aunt Lavonne has died. I know that we do not grieve as those who have no hope but it is still painful. There is still a hole in our family where once stood Aunt Lavonne. Even though I am sure she is now in heaven. Even though we are of good courage because to be apart from the body is to be at home with the Lord. Even though I know she is not in terrible suffering any longer, I still grieve.

I am selfish in my grieving. I so wish I could be there. I feel guilty for being here, instead. I know this is where God has me and knew going in that I probably wouldn’t see her again. Yet, I wish I could be there. I wish I could wrap my arms around my loved ones and be able to say “it’ll be ok.” It will be. It will take time, like all losses do, and things will never be the same but it will be ok.

We know that if we choose to believe in Jesus and accept His payment for our sins. If we choose to follow God with our whole hearts that we can see her again. We have the hope of heaven that bolsters us in these difficult times. It is not always easy to follow God but He is always strong. He is always full of mercy and grace and pours those out on us when we need them. I don’t know how I would make it without Him. I do not grieve as those who have no hope.

So I grieve but He grants me His mercy and grace as my comfort.

I cry but with hope.

Random Tuesday

25/Oct/2011

Having another random day.

1. I think I’m driving people around here crazy because my brain just can’t stay on one subject very long! I call it spaghetti brain. You know that book “Men are like waffles, Women are like spaghetti?” It totally explains my lack of the ability to stay on one subject. I’m tired lately and so I can’t keep my mouth from following my thoughts. Needless to say, I jump from subject to subject.

2. Last time I mentioned that I LOVE that I can download music from Amazon. I ALSO love that I can download movies on iTunes. It’s expensive-ish (to someone used to being able to stream whatever I want for $7 a month) but still, I’ve splurged on a couple of movies that are faves so I know I’ll watch them enough times to be worth the money.

3. I would just like to say that Bill Shiflett is a LIAR! There ARE printers here and guess who gets to use them?!?! I blame Guillermo!  =o) (Ok, not really but thought my blog needed something controversial to up the numbers. Trying to do things like a TV network)

4. Pray for my family, if you think about it. There has been a lot of sickness and hospitalizations lately. Also, just turmoil and difficulties. So, if they come to mind, pray for them.

5. Have I told you that we’ve taught Alice to make a couple of American dishes? It’s kinda funny but it’s really nice to have home-like food every once in a while.

6. I think I should be getting all sorts of extra credit points for the amount of spiders there have been lately and my lack of running/screaming/looking for a boy to kill them for me. I have been rather “live and let live” with them. (I don’t know what the extra credit points go toward but they should be stored up somewhere)  =o)

7. What is the deal with people getting engaged and married while I’m gone? I veto that and posit that everyone should wait until I am home. (not really because that is just selfish and mean but I’m just sayin)

I’ve put more pics up on FB the last few days so feel free to stop by and check them out.

That’s all I have for today. But know that I’ve been really thinking about you lately. Believe me, whoever you are, I’ve been thinking about you (like I said, my brain had been ALL over the place) and I miss you. Feel free to email me or FB me to update me on your life. I want to hear all about it! =o)

 

Random Monday

17/Oct/2011

Here’s another post about any and everything. Can’t quite pull my thoughts together for a proper post, today.

1. Let me tell you, I should have brought a LOT more yarn. I have been screaming through my knitting. (I have a lot of down time) I brought (what I thought) was a lot of yarn for specifically long projects. Things that would take a lot of time…..not so much. I’ve finished two shawls, countless washcloths and am starting my third shawl. Luckily:

2. There has been a team here this week. As I’ve said before, I LOVE it when there are teams here. I think I appreciate this one more than ever before since it has been so long since there has been a team here. Talking about movies and music and random things that Andrew and I are missing while here has been fun.

3. The new Switchfoot is awesome! Of course, I am one of the crazy people that have loved them from the beginning and they could sing names out of a phone book and I’d probably love it! =o) Being able to download music here is GREAT! I splurged on Switchfoot but have been downloading free music from Amazon like a boss.

4. Dry season is on its way but I’m SO thankful it’s not here, yet. It can get pretty hot during the day but it is still cool at night. And even during the day, there is usually a nice breeze that keeps if from being ridiculously hot. YAY!

5. Can I just tell you that Skype and modern technology is amazing! I cannot imagine what it must have been like for missionaries/soldiers/exchange students, etc before the internet. Being able to regularly communicate with your family is pretty much a lifesaver. Skype, I love you more’n my luggage! =o)  (name that movie)

6. Also, being able to keep up on current events and even silly things like my favorite blogs and such. priceless.

7. For those of you who didn’t see it on my Facebook, I’d like to share a (new to me) music group. The Wailin Jenny’s. Andrew (one of the other gelletats) is who got me obsessed with them. Especially this song. I could (and do) listen to it jillions of times in a row. It such a great throwback to when we were EXCITED about heaven. I think we’ve lost that as American Christians, which makes me sad. (plus, how can you not love their harmonies? Amazing!)

8. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been thrown back to the 70’s. I’ll have to remember to take pics sometime to illustrate. However, the way the men dress here, so deliciously 70’s. The slacks, the dress shoes, the colors, the HATS, Oh how I love the hats! I’ve failed Justin from the Nehemiah team. I promised I would start a blog about the hats of South Sudan but my phone got run over by a land cruiser putting a severe dent in my picture taking. Suffice it to say, that accessories here are AWESOME! And I will try to do better to show them to you.

9. I feel like I should have ten things but I believe I’ve run out……

I hope things are going well stateside. I miss y’all but I do love it here. I wish we all could be in both places. The world is small but sadly, not that small, yet. =o)

Known

05/Oct/2011

Being known is a powerful thing.

The need to be known drives us to do crazy things. To be known on the job, we find a hole in the group and fill it. We become the one that brings donuts, the one that bakes, the funny one, the gossip, etc. To be known amongst friends, we go to extremes to be liked. To be known at church, we join groups we may never have wanted to join just so we can meet knew people and feel more spiritual. It’s a crazy thing, this need to be known.

When it happens, it can bring you to your knees. The first time I truly enjoyed my walk to the church/school/seminary compound, it was because I realized I’d made friends along the way. I was able to stop and chat with a few people and it made the journey SO much shorter.

Anytime I am on the compound, I can never just walk from one part to another. I have to stop and greet people all along the way (and I LOVE that).

The thing that gets me the most is a spot in Wudu. There is a place in Wudu that every time we drive by, I hear my name called. Not just the typical “Gelletat” (white person) but “Rebecca!” It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It’s not just that people know my name but they are happy to see me and want me to see them. I’m home here. I’m loved and I am KNOWN.

It’s a heady feeling! But the thing that brings me to my knees is remembering that this is not my homeland. South Sudan is not. America is not. Earth is not. No, the Kingdom of God is my homeland and the King loves me. I am KNOWN, there. I try to explain this to the kids. The Creator of everything, The One who can measure the entire universe with the span of His hand (Isa. 40:12), the One who can weigh the waters with the palm of His hand loves each of us. He knows the number of the hairs on our heads (Mt 10:30). The God of the universe loves YOU. Truly think about it for a moment.

I’ll wait.

God loves you and He truly KNOWS you.

Here, have a tissue. It does that to me, too.