12.31.2010

Happy New Year's from Nimule!

Hello all! This morning we left wonderful Adjumani and headed to the Sudanese border. This went much more smoothly than getting through the Uganda/Kenya border. Since we have friends who have friends here, we didn't even have to talk to anyone! Just take the passports and stamp!

So, we got here, had some goat and chips and a soda, and now we've headed down to the Cornerstone Children's Home in Nimule (Neh-Moo-Lay), Sudan. This is an orphanage that Jason helped to spear head back in 2004 when the place was decimated by the Sudanese Civil War as well as atrocities committed by the LRA. Jason worked to rescue orphans from the surrounding area and give them a place to stay, classes and food.

I am unable to post any pictures, but can't wait for you all to see these kids. They are absolutely wonderful. We have met some new friends here in Nimule and are going to celebrate the New Year with them tonight and tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we will board a bus for Juba, the capital of South Sudan. I will update you all at that time, but until then we love you very much and thank you again for our prayers. We are having a blast!

Randy (and Jason)

12.30.2010

Bus rides, coffee, dignitaries, sunburn, python hunts, and more bus rides.

Where to even begin? Since last updating you all, there have been too many developments and goings-on to possibly remember, but we will attempt to recount what has happened and where we are at.



First and foremost, we are safe in Adjumani (Northern Uganda). On Tuesday, Jason and I rode a coach bus from Nairobi to Kampala. It was a very long, hot ride full of near misses with nigh-unfortunate pedestrians and other buses. At the end of the ride, they were picking up random people and dropping them in the next town, which is clearly in violation of their policy, so they could make some money off the top. When we crossed into Uganda we got shaken down by every friggin' police stop. One guy asked if the medicines I had were drugs, which I vehemently denied. He let me back on the bus so all that happened was a spike in blood pressure. We made it to Kampala at about 9 PM with our new-found Canadian-missionary friend David and met up with John Kur, a young Sudanese Bor Dinka whom Jason goes way back with. We found a nice hotel to stay at and dined on some chicken and fries.


Wednesday began with a full English Breakfast at the Banana Cafe (following the obligatory police shakedown in the parking lot) with an immaculate cup of African Coffee (more milk). We then made our way to the Sudanese Embassy, where we began to see just how resourceful and industrious our young friend John Kur is. Within 1 hour, we were sitting in the office of the head of the Government of South Sudan's mission in Kampala. She wished us well and they were able to rush our travel documents, so we had that major objective taken care of (it is not good to show up at a Sudanese Border without a visa already prepared).


These things being addressed, we checked out and headed down to Arua Park in downtown Kampala, which is basically the most busy, chaotic, congested, muddy, diesel-fume-filled megalodon of bustling nonsenese that I could ever imagine. This is where we boarded our bus and waited for a couple of hours for it to leave, telling everyone that we didn't want to buy a fanta or a coup of mangoes, or a wrist watch. Jason got in an argument because they charged us to transport our luggage, which is not normal and was not done for the other passengers; oh the pleasure of being a mzungu in Kampala. It was entertaining none-the-less, and when Jason told the guy he would pay him if the guy would just stop talking, it was well worth the 4 or 5 bucks we were haggling over (LOL).


OK, so this particular bus ride was every bit as psycho as the last, as the driver careened down the highway at breakneck speeds. It was probably for the best that we were in back and couldn't see in front of the bus. The driver played wack DVDs of Ugandan hip-hop and UB-40 b-sides. You probably think I'm joking- but I'm not. Just as we were about to stab our eardrums out with our pens, the bus arrived at our destination, Gulu.


At Gulu, they tried to tell us that they were going to hold our luggage until the following morning, to which we responded with great chagrin. It's probably for the best that they don't understand common American vernacular. After we made them get our stuff, we found a gentleman who was willing to take us to Adjumani despite the fact that it was dark and we were well past the time of typical travel to destinations more than a few minutes away.


A bit of history- over the last 20 years, this road from Gulu to Adjumani was not passable save for military escorts because the Lord's Resistance Army would frequently ambush vehicles passing through. Because of the various atrocities committed by the LRA (child abductions, torture, rape, etc); and the fact that Northern Uganda has only been cleared of them for around 2 years, there is still a healthy fear of traveling at night in this area. That being said, they are gone and it is totally safe.


However, our driver was careless and tried to go too fast over the washboards and various divots in the road, which ended up breaking his transmission fluid line and leaving us incapacitated in the middle of nowhere, right in the middle of our two-hour jouney to Adjumani. We were a bit at a loss for words, however our salvation (for the moment, anyway) came in the form of a group of Congolese truckers on their way to the next town Attiak. I just love the fact that I have an excuse to use the word "Congolese."


What followed was an hour long bout of painfully-irritating failures by our driver to keep the appropriate tension on the towrope the truckers had so graciously used to pull us along; resulting in snap after snap and time after time of us having to honk, everyone getting out and pushing the car up to the truck and them griping at each other in Swahili while we stand around and look pretty. I should also mention that the soundtrack to this consisted of old Tupac, G-Unit and that horrible duet Mariah Carey did with Jah Rule. We couldn't help but laugh at this point.


SO we finally ended up in Attiak where we got out of the car in pitch-black darkness across the street from a lean-to shanty of a pub that was playing some futbol match. There were fall-down drunks stumbling in and out and it didn't take long for them to take notice that a couple mzungus and a Sudanese just rolled into town, completely stranded. We checked with a couple of them to see if there were any motorcycle taxis and we found none.


Luckily, John Kur again swept to our rescue. While Jason and I fended off the zombies wandering down the street and talking to us, he called the Ugandan Police Chief in the next town and we were told that he was going to mobilize some people to come to our rescue. In the meantime, we became increasingly paranoid of everyone we saw and we decided to put as much distance between us and Attiak as possible, lest we have to fend off some mob of drunken Ugandan soccer hooligans. The majesty of the stars and Nebulae that are visible in places with no streetlights momemtarily kept our stress to a minimum. What a sight it must have been for the locals- the three of us wheeling our luggage down a country road past their mud huts.


I will say that despite being slightly on edge at this point, we were still in good humor, cracking jokes and singing songs which I would be too embarrassed to admit that we know the words to. A couple of times people went walking down the road going to their huts (it was midnight-1 AMish at this point). One couple froze in their tracks when they saw us, and we asked them what was wrong. "We are scared," they replied. It became increasingly clear to me personally just what the impact was of the horrors that had occurred in these places. We assured them we were simply waiting for a ride and they could pass. They trusted us and went on their way.


We then began to hear a crowd of people wandering down the wrong road (possibly trying to find us) a mile or so away from us. Someone kept hooting and hollering, which kept us entertained for the moment, but our resolve was wearing thin as two or three cars passed us by, disappointing us each time as we thought our ride had arrived. Some vehicle had come down the road about half a mile away from us and shut off. We then saw two flashlights get out and go to the left and right, respectively. We got pretty nervous as we got no reply to our calls. Just as our paranoia reached epic heights, a nice SUV came down the road. Two civilians and a Ugandan Solder got out with his Kalashnikov and greeted us with smiles. We were ecstatic.


We finally arrived in Adjumani at 3 AM to our destination, the Zawadi hotel. We got a good three hours of sleep and awoke this morning to a nice omelette and cup of coffee.


Jason has been reunited with two of his old friends, John Kur (whom I previously mentioned) and Onek Brian Juma, both of whom he knows from his days running an orphanage in Nimule, Sudan. This is a whole 'nother story to tell some day soon, but just let it be known that these three had very close ties and it has been a joy getting to see them reunited and it has been a pleasure getting to know these two young gentleman. More to come on them in the future as they both have lived full lives at the ages of 26 and 19, respectively.


We spent the day on rented motorcycles traveling down to the Nile River and going on python hunts. We got some serious sunburns and we are seriously fatigued, but we are having some serious fun now. Today was the first day that was not constant business or travel in the last 6 days, so we enjoyed it. To be able to witness with my own eyes a place as historic and ancient as the Nile was amazing. I will post more on our experiences in the future, but let me say for now that we are so thrilled to be here and doing what we're doing with the people we are doing it with. There is still so much more to be done and it truthfully feels as if we've been here longer than we have.



We are about to dine on Nile Perch and chips and will be heading to the Nile tomorrow morning to take a ferry across into Nimule, Sudan! Jason will be reunited with the rest of the kids he cared for and as much as I have heard about this place, I am seriously looking forward to it. We should have some internet access and will update soon. We thank you so much for staying with us and keeping us in prayer.

Randy and Jason

12.26.2010

Habari yako! Formatting this blog is very frustrating!!!!!



English Breakfast..... mmmmmm

Randy in Brussels
Greetings from Nairobi! We made it here safe and sound after a solid 24 hours of travel. We were up and at'em early this morning and are making preparations to make our way to Sudan. Taveling was good, we were pleasantly suprised when our tickets were scanned for our flight to Belgium- for some weird reason, our tickets were upgraded to 1st class. This didn't happen with anyone else. So instead of your usual cramped standard fare, we were dining on smoked salmon loin (SERIOUSLY) and Starbuck's coffee. It was amazing. Thank you Lord! 
Java House.... mmmmm


Unfortunately, this was offset by the 12 hour flight that followed to Bujumbura, Burundi. I don't think there has ever been a longer plane ride- nothing to do but sit, nod off occasionally, and watch the teeny-bopper movies that were on the main screen. It beats Big Momma's House, which is what the movie was last time we flew to Brussels. We hope all of you are doing well. We are unbelievably stoked to be doing this, it's hard to believe that we are finally here! We'll update you as things progress!
Randy and Jason




Jason in Brussels

12.21.2010

The Final Countdown

Five days to launch. The last few months have been nothing short of wild. There have been so many variables that require immediate action and we have done our best to respond in faith. Truthfully, most of the time faith was the only option. From the inception of this mission we have moved forward as though all our needs were met even when reality said we have no options.

Years ago when we knew we were to go to a remote area in Sudan, find a local man of peace, take him to another country for a year to train him, and then take him back to his people to change his community, we just went- not knowing where the money would come from to fund such a commitment. Needless to say, the mission has been successful. When we met the 9 Gok boys living in the slums of Nairobi in a one-room shanty with no money for food, let alone school fees, we knew we had to intervene. We put them in boarding school by faith alone and to date they have ben sustained. When we found the Land Rover that fit our needs, after fierce negotiations, we wrote a hot check to the car lot and told them we would have the money the following day. The Land Rover is outfitted and en route as we speak. These are just a few of the many situations in which we have seen the hand of God move to help these people.

I was recently given a copy of the personal journal of of a man named Hatashil-Masha-Kathish. He was a Gok Dinka who saw his family killed and was sold into slavery as a young boy. He documents much of his life during his years as a slave and I will not go into the details. He is eventually rescued by British missionaries and taken back to England. He was given the chance to attend school, then college, and eventually became a minister.

Throughout his journal he tells of a longing for his people to be free from the slavery and oppression of the North. His drive for education and passion to know Truth is simply inspiring. He eventually gets the chance to fulfill his dream and go back to Sudan to educate his people both physically and spiritually. Unfortunately after months of travel he and his team were unable to make it back. This took place in 1888 so you can imagine the rough travel and insecurities.

The following is one of his last entries: "The great regret of my life is, that up to the present, no open-door has presented itself by which I may return to my own people-the Dinkas- or any of the adjacent Tribes with whose language I am familiar, to be to them Christ's Ambassador, proclaiming the blessed news of Salvation. At times this saddens my heart. It is not easy to explain to the general public the difficulties that bar the way to the fulfillment of my hearts desire; but those who have followed the course of this narrative will see that these obstacles are real, and that it is not without reason that I say that humanly speaking, my return to the Sudan as a missionary is, at present, impossible."

We were told by Gok Dinka historians that no one has come to them since this time and successfully started an evangelical church. We were also told that by chance the man we found, Samuel Maciek, who had the vision in his heart to help his people, is a direct relative of Hatashil-Masha-Kathish. I cannot express myself well enough to convey how honored we are to be a part of impacting this area for eternity. His desire for the Gok is great.

We have a unique opportunity before us. We get to see the answer to years of prayer. Before Hatashil ever knew anything of the Bible or the name of Jesus he and many others cried out "How long, oh God, will this injustice continue?" God has heard them and He has answered. Januray 9th, 2011, South Sudan will vote for independence and decades of oppression will begin to melt, and I believe the Light of His Truth will flood South Sudan and raise them out of the dust and sit them among princes. What a great privilege and an awesome responsibility we have to be His hands and feet.

We leave on Christmas day to start our travels into Sudan. There have been many twists and turns but we our confident in the Faithfulness of our Father. To put it as plainly as I can, we still need lots of money to keep this mission going. This may sound like poor judgment to some or lunacy to others, but, we have enough money to get us into the country and last a few weeks but not enough get us back out and to the coast to pick up the Land Rover.

We then have to drive it back into Sudan and get back out once again (all during the birth of a new nation). We know what the Lord has led us to do. Money will have no place in our decisions to do what He has placed in our hearts. That being said; I am inviting anyone and everyone to partner finically with us. I know times are tough right now, believe me I know, but if we all just spare a little it goes a very long way. Thats all I will say on that.

I will leave you with the last entry in his journal. It struck my heart like a hammer. "All the events of my life have been a full confirmation of this Truth: Even in the days of my ignorance- Jehovah, as my 'banner' went before me, and as my 'shield' protected me. As time advances, I realize that HIS 'banner' has been and and is still going before me; and that HIS 'shield' has been and is still my protection. Following that 'banner' I anticipate greater service for the Master in the future than in the past. Confidently I will abide under HIS 'shield' for the loving protection HE affords to all them that trust in HIM. As to the future of my beloved native land and its people, I ask my readers to join with me in the prayer that soon 'Jehovah-Tsidkenu- the Lord our Righteousness,' may be their motto."

Lord help us.

-Jason Sheafer






11.24.2010

Meet Samuel and Deborah Maciek!

Meet Samuel and Deborah Maciek!

                         

We thought we'd take the opportunity to introduce you to the pastor who we were led to on our original trip to Sudan. He and his wife, Deborah, had been praying and waiting for an opportunity to begin a local church independent of the Anglican church in Cueibet. Samuel was a chaplain in the SPLA during the Second Sudanese Civil War and has had some remarkable experiences.

When Tim, Jason and Tiffany went on their first trip at the urging of the Sudanese diaspora, they didn't know who they were going to run into. However, they specifically had direction through much fasting and prayer that they would go there and find a "man of peace."

Tim Speaks with Dinka Chiefs
When they arrived, they were not met with a warm welcome. Instead, the airport officials tried to put them back on the plane Kenya immediately. Only after pleading for an audience with the local government were they taken to a one-room hotel for the night. The next morning, they were escorted to the office of Lakes State Governer Daniel Awet Akot in Rumbek.

Initially, they were met with a cold stare across the desk of Governor Akot. However, as they told their story and all of the things that led them there, the governor began to finish their sentences. They shortly discovered they were of one accord.

Spear Masters (OG Goks) put on a show for the crowd
The next couple of weeks saw the Americans being ferried around Cueibet County (where the governor and the KC Sudanese were from) and treated to much hospitality. After a few days, they were at a gathering for peace talks between two sub-tribes of the Gok Dinka. These two factions had been fighting for almost 40 years, killing each other in cold blood. Jason and Tim found themselves suddenly being called to the microphone to speak to the crowds. Next thing they knew, Tim was being referred to as the man who brought peace between the Pan-dut and Pan-awar!


Tim and Jason with an SPLA Garrison

It was there that Samuel Maciek approached the three and said "I'm the man you're looking for." They hadn't made any announcements, and most were oblivious to why they were really there. As they spent the next couple of days meeting with Samuel, they realized that this appointment was divine. Samuel was trained by Far-Reaching Ministries in Nimule and has a degree in Chaplaincy. He was working as a Payam Administrator (kind of like a County Commisioner) at the time- a highly respected position. Samuel is revered by the local people despite what the Americans came to find out about him.

Samuel's last name, Maciek, means "deformed one." Though Samuel had been in a respected government position, he had lived with the stigma of not being able to have children. This is a huge deal in the Gok community, as having children is a measure of what kind of man you are. Initially, he asked for Tim and Jason before they left to pray for him and his wife, that they might conceive. At the time, Tim and Jason had no idea what his situation was or what his last name meant. So they prayed. Deborah conceived within 10 days.

It was only during the next visit that Tim and Jason found out about his not being able to have children for years. "If we had known the full extent of his situation, we might not have had the faith to pray for it."

Samuel and Deborah are now the happy parents of two beautiful children, Grace and Emmanuel. They shepherd Chumnyiel Lighthouse Church, where we visit. They are an amazing group of people and we can't wait to be with them this January.

The time draws near. We still need your help in the form of prayer and finances. Invest in an awesome group of people through a group of people that you know here. Thanks and have a happy Thanksgiving!!


11.12.2010

6 weeks and counting/Meet the boyz

Would these guys not make the ultimate entourage?


Not a whole lot of new developments, but thought I would take the opportunity to let everyone know that the vehicle is out to sea and before long, we will have the ability to track it. As the time draws near, we get more and more giddy and can taste the dust, smell the smoky air and hear the chorus of thousands of roosters that greets one each morning they wake up in the cool air of Cueibet County. We're stoked. 

Anyway, meet the boys. Jason and Tim first met these boys by coincidence in Nairobi in 2007 when they were on their way to the first Cueibet visit. The boys were alone, not one of them over 20 years old, all living in a tiny one bedroom "apartment" in one of the worst parts of Nairobi. It's not easy being a Dinka in the middle of Kenya. It's next to impossible to find any employment and make money. Food is even more scarce than it would be normally.

The boys "just happened" to be from Cueibet and were Gok Dinka. However, what made their brotherhood so unique is that they all hail from different sub-tribes of the Gok; sub-tribes that have experienced fighting and animosity amongst each other for decades. These boys are all going to school and returning to Sudan educated and ready to take place in prominent government positions as well as being teachers, engineers, businessmen, etc. They will serve as a positive example and bring unity to the Gok.
Being able to meet these guys has been such a blessing. When you hang around them, you just get the feeling that you are in the presence of great men (or future great mean, that is). They have awesome hearts and are so appreciative of the fact that people care about them.

Your donations go to pay for these boys' school, food, clothes. They appreciate it more than you can know. Here's an excerpt from an email that Peter (standing, 2nd from left) sent me. Peter's the oldest and kind of the ringleader:

"Dear brother Randy,

We are so sorry for not sending you our photo very soon. We are confined in school that is why we have no time to come out and do something in the computer. Now we are happy that we finally sent it.

Our studies are going on very well and we owe you everything for rising our world by doing what

seems to be most impossible thing, but with God all things are possible. we promise and call upon the help of God to assist us changing the lives of our people.

Since you people started paying our school fees, we feel loved and now we have so many visions of what we would want to be as God has planned.

Like me my fist thing to do is to build a largest Church in South Sudan which I must name after the Olathe House Church over there. I'm very confidence and sure about this trust me.

We are aware that you and Jason are coming,we are very excited to seeing you again, you know, when we think of you, we see you playing a guitar, but for Jason, we see him catching a very big snake and for pastor Tim, we see him praying for every one of us anointing us to a very great task. You mean a lot to us and our people as whole. So we truly miss everyone of you and can't wait to see your faces again.

Greet your family for us and tell them we love them.Reply if you have received.

Your brother

PETER MALOU."

11.05.2010

Dude- what are your plans tonight? We gotta get to Baltimore!




Our shipping company (who shall remain nameless) altered the terms of our agreement. Now, they won't give us a reliable window for when the ship arrives, so if we get to the port in Mombasa on December 27th and it's been there already for __ days, the Kenyan goverment has themselves a new Land Rover. OR we might get there and sit around in Mombasa for 10 days because the ship hasn't made it! Lame!

It's 2:00 PM on Wednesday and I hung up the phone with Jason. He's in a hurry to drive to Topeka to try to get a hard copy of the title for the vehicle, becuase UNLIKE WHAT THE OTHER COMPANY HAD TOLD US, the copy of the registration alone wouldn't work!

In addition, all the other shipping companies he had called (except for about 3) told him there was NO WAY that we could get a vehicle there by Christmas! What is happening?!? If there was any hope of getting the vehicle out, it had to be on a ship by Friday. We had to get to Baltimore!

I got off the phone with my boss and verified that I could move everything on my schedule back, keep up on emails and drive that night to Baltimore. We would be negotiating and working out a deal on the way and on a hope and a prayer, we would have something secured when we got there.

We drove for 20 hours straight. Jason, myself, and Charlie (who is going to Africa in January for the first time) arrived in Baltimore Thursday night with no idea where to stay. After driving around aimlessly we finally arrived at a hotel and crashed.

This morning, we went to the harbor. We were told at the first place we stopped that we had reached the military wing of the shipping yard, and that we would have to forfeit our licenses, have a search of the vehicle done, and then turn around and proceed to the next entrance.

Charlie "Chuckles" K.


We got to the next entrance and were then told that despite the fact that we had arranged passage and had confirmation manifests, we would have to find an "escort" in order to get the vehicle into the port, inspected and finally put on the boat. Again, the vehicle was inspected and directed back out of the port. 
 
OK... at the nearest gas station, one lady looked at us cluelessly when we asked about an escort (probably didn't sound the best), and the other said "I think there's a place around the corner that you can find someone." 

Jason eyeing the port with chagrin.

We knew time was running short as we had to get this thing on the boat. The contact with the shipping company who had gracefully arranged everything ahead of time told us the deadline was TODAY. We pulled around the corner into a suspicious-looking gravel lot. A dingy trailer sat
near the entrance. Next to the door, a chalkboard had the following scrawled in chicken-scratch next to an awkward smiley-face:

DRIVERS CHECK IN HERE ---->

We were kinda weirded out. Jason went in, while I tried to pretend I didn't notice the portly guy standing in the window staring at me like I was going to steal his bike. 10 minutes pass and Jason returns. "It's getting a little weird."


Randizzle

He proceeds to tell us that he has to drop us off and he has to return, alone, to the office where some guy with a thick Russian accent is going to help him. He would have no ride back from the shipping yard, and there was no telling how long it would take.

We went to the nearest hotel, got a room, and sat in a McDonald's, waiting.


ANNNNND the rest of the story is anti-climactic. Jason went back, the inspection went super-smooth, and now the vehicle is on the boat waiting to go. He didn't work with the Russian guy- instead, he got the big dude who was standing in the window staring me down. His name was Elvis. No joke.

We spent the rest of the day drinking copious amounts of coffee, eating seafood and sushi, and checking out all that downtown Baltimore has to offer. Very cool town! We definitely plan on coming here to ship all of our vehicles! Sorry- no pictures of the dock. It was crawling with intense-looking people and I didn't care to run the risk of getting my wife's camera taken from me.

It was a surreal feeling, getting this vehicle here and getting it on the boat. We won't see it again for another 7 weeks, when we pick it up and begin the psycho road trip. We are so excited and grateful to see all of this come to fruition. Thank you so much for your continued support. This just gets cooler and cooler by the second! 

Until next time,


Randy Jason Charlie

11.01.2010

Getting closer dot dot dot

All right- first and foremost, my apologies for being lazy about updating the blog. I have had several people ask about the progress of the mission, and there has been a lot of progress, so here we go.



We have upgraded the Land Rover with the following:  
  • Air cushions in the rear suspension that allow us to raise the ride height when the vehicle is weighed down so we won't bottom out. This allows us to carry and additional 1000 pounds. It's all powered by a compressor switch under the dash (see picture)
  • Hard core knobby swamp crawler tires. Nuff said. Limo tint that will keep our profile low and fool would-be "obstacles" into thinking we're government workers- not a couple of crazy mzungus/khawajas (white guys depending on what language you're speaking) driving through East Africa.
  • A custom-built (thanks to Rice Precision Manufacturing) steel cage that sticks onto the back of the Rover that will hold a TON of weight (probably literally).

Basically, this thing looks mean now. It is ready to tear up some bush, jungle, mud, whatever you throw at it. 
 

Other developments:
  • We've secured arrangements to ship the vehicle to Mombasa.
  • We all have plane tickets purchased. Jason and I (Randy) will leave Christmas day, secure the Land Rover at Mombasa and begin the drive to Rumbek/Cueibet County.
  • Hope Sudan Charity Organization is officially recognized in Sudan as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). This will allow us to make our way through Kenya, Uganda and Sudan with a lot less hassle than if we were just trying to ship it for pleasure.




Things aren't all set, however.
Jason man-handling the poor
tent model at Bass Pro Shop


  • We will need 3,000 for the boys' tuition in Nairobi. We covered the last semester with the church fund.
  • We'll still need cash for various things like entry, duties on the vehicle (even under NGO status), fuel, other arrangements.
  •  
  • WE NEED PRAYER. God has provided so much but empowers us to be stewards of what He's blessed us with. If you feel led, please give by donating through the paypal button on the right. You can also generate money just by clicking on the ads!




In addition to your prayers for finances, we also need it for safety. In all the excitement, it gets really easy to forget that we are driving a vehicle into one of the most war-torn areas of the world that is preparing for the possibility to go through another war. We don't believe anything will happen, but we definitely need your prayers.



Thanks to everyone for standing with us in so many ways. Just think about it- three months ago this seemed like a pipe dream, and now it's happening! It's an unbelievable feeling.

Until next time,
Randy on behalf of the group



9.11.2010

A new way to donate- Killer Music (cough cough shameless self-promotion).... and more Land Rover stuff.

Hello all,

I am going to take this opportunity to let everyone in on what I have been working on for about two years now. The debut full-length album from my band, Proxima Machina, is now available. I made this record with the assistance of some brothers from past and current musical endeavours, and I am highly pleased with the record. Please take this opportunity to listen to the record in its entirety before you possibly buy by checking out the "widget" on the right. Please spread the word by sharing this widget on your facebook page or blog. We will be playing some benefit shows in the near future, but for the time being, you can purchase this on iTunes and 100% of the proceeds are going towards Hope Sudan Charities and this trip to Sudan. Thank you so much!

On the trip side of things, the Rover is in the shop for some upgrades to the suspension. Many thanks to our friends who are contributing in myriad ways with their automotive skills and prowess. After that, Mr. Steve Rice (who also happens to be the bassist for Proxima Machina) will be fabricating a steel cage to go on the back of the Rover for transporting various and sundry goods. The time is narrowing down and there are great needs, so please keep us in your prayers and we know that the need will be met!

Thanks!
Randy

8.30.2010

We're Legal! or something like that.....


Yet another flurry of activity over the last few days. Remember that twelve-hun that I said was going to have to magically fall into our laps? Well.... it did. Not from the place it was expected- but does that really matter? All that matters is this- Hope Sudan Charities is now an official NGO (or "non-governmental organization") in Sudan. Remember the bit about "logo design" amidst the "Starbuck's addiction?" Feast your eyes on the fruits of a few hours of jury-rigging between powerpoint and a 15 year old version of Photoshop. This logo (or some future, more-tweaked incarnation of it) will adorn the sides of our prized Land Rover as we trek through east Africa.

As an official NGO, we can get the vehicle registered ahead of time in the name of the charity and not have to pay out the wahzoo (sp?) for a tag. This means we'll get our tails out of the capital city where there's probably going to be some capital chaos going on. Not the place we want to be at the time. Our friends in Juba tell us there's already street demonstrations and marches going on.

So this is yet another major roadblock taken care of.

In addition, you may have seen it mentioned once or twice that there's a group of Dinka boys in Nairobi who are currently going to school and have every intention of going back home to Sudan when they are done to become leaders and teachers. Well, Jason, Tim and Tiffany met these boys in Nairobi during the first trip to Sudan in 2007 and it just so happened that these boys were from Cueibet, the place we do our work.

The first time I got to meet them was in January at our hotel in Nairobi. The next day we went to the place they were staying; a 2 bedroom concrete apartment in Kibera (do a wikipedia search). I was crushed as I saw the conditions that these guys dealt with. Imagine being in your late teens to early twenties, a thousand-plus miles from home, living in one of the most dangerous slums in the world. One look at you and everyone knows tht you're an outsider from a war-torn country, and you will be treated as such. You have no idea if you're going to eat and if you do, who knows where the meal will come from?

Yet these guys are so happy to see us. It just crushes you and shames you. Another one of those moments where you think your heart is changed and that things will never be the same.

We have managed to pay for another semester of their schooling, which begins next week. We hope to have a new picture with all 8 of them in it up soon. We talk to them regularly and they are all excited to get back to school. The money doesn't just go for their classes, but room and board- 3 hots and a cot. The boys have quickly learned English as well as Swahili. The amount of information these guys take in blows the mind! More to come on these guys...

One last update: this weekend saw a Sunday car wash with a skeleton crew. Though we didn't see as many cars, we still raked in over 200 bucks. Thank you all so much for your donations. It will be so awesome to be able to post pictures and videos from the Sudan so you can all see the difference in people's lives that you are making!

We'll be planning some more car washes, speaking engagements and benefit shows. If you haven't yet, please follow this blog by clicking on the link in the right-hand column. It's easy! Click on some of the ads and generate some revenue for the trip! There's lots of ways to help out that are easy to do. You have no idea how much every little bit helps.

Thanks and until next time,
Randy on behalf of the group

8.27.2010

A word from Jason (it's about time!)

There is so much that  can be said but ill try and focus.  First I want to thank everyone who has given of their time, talents, and treasure to help further the cause.  And there IS a cause.  Sometimes I get so caught up in all the crazy logistics that I need to be reminded of  the "why".  Why are we doing this?  
 
This past Sunday we had the privilege of listening to Awan Ater,  a Sudanese refugee and the chairman of Hope Sudan Charity Organization, tell his story.  Awan has been in the United States for over 12 years. Like many others he had to flee  South Sudan to an Egyptian refugee camp due to the war.  He spent many years there and over time he was granted passage to the U.S. and eventually his family joined him.   He was the first refugee we made contact with many years ago.  From the very beginning he showed himself to be a man of integrity.  Although extremely poor himself, he always seemed to lead us to those who were a little "less fortunate" than himself.  He assisted in directing any relief that was brought to the local community. Over many years he proved himself a faithful man and a selfless servant to the local refugees and the Dinka worldwide.  It was Awan who first approached us about going to South Sudan. 
 
We first went to the Gok community in October of 2007.  Everything that Awan had told us about his people was right on.  This group of Southern Sudanese called the Gok Dinka simply stole our hearts.  I will never forget the kindness and acceptance we were shown.  In a country completely ravaged by war and indifference we found a people with an unmatched resiliency.  From the  Governor to the girls fetching water, Members of Parliament to military personal, everyone welcomed us with open arms. Awan's reputation allowed us to walk into a closed nation and immediately receive great favor.  We came as strangers and left as family. 
 
We planned our next trip for January of 08,  this time Awan was to return with us.  Due to his refugee status he had to travel through different routes to reach Sudan.  I remember being in Cuibet and seeing him approach for the first time. In the U.S. Awan lives in the inner city, works night and day and is just as stressed as any of us trying to make ends meet.  But in Sudan he is a hero, a living legend, one of the first ever educated, and a great teacher for many years before his exile.  We were sitting in the Commissioners compound  trying to hide from the heat and i saw him from a distance.  There was an elderly man next to me who had the look of one who had endured much but who's eyes were as youthful as a child's. This old man stood to his feet to receive Awan with an embrace that did not end quickly.  As these two men continued to shake hands and exchange words of endearment I began to realize the love and respect in their ancient friendship never ceased to be.  It challenged me in many ways.
 
As the next few days passed we went with Awan to many villages all the way back to his "hometown".  Nothing short of a hero's welcome.  To call it a wild party would be a gross understatement.  Another story for another time.  
 
After the days of celebration, the trip took on a much more sober undertone.  We had been here before but had not truly immersed  ourselves in the culture.  We began to meet with the local chiefs and listen to the desperate cries for help.  Water, Education, Food...  all the things that come so easily for us are ,more often than not, non existent for them.  It was at this point we really were able to see the clear need for basic necessities.  There are over 400,000 people in Cueibet county and humanitarian aid is almost non existent. There are very few wells, no secondary education, and the ONLY medical presence is pulling out in December.   Is there not a cause?  Standing in the midst of the bombed out structure that used to be a school and hearing story after story of the total chaos and terror of war,  I could not help but feel a bit overwhelmed.  What can I do?  I'm just a wood floor installer from Kansas. What do I know about humanitarian aid? What do I know about rebuilding a nation?  With all these questions plaguing my mind there was still a small voice that was saying "Why cant you change a nation?"  "If you don't then who will?"  It was decided there that I would do whatever it took to help these people.  Awan is the one who birthed Hope Sudan Charity Organization, we are just coming along side to help him in any way possible.  This vision is much greater that just the mission at hand.  The delivery of this Land Rover is just a small step is the master plan to establish a community of agriculture and to create an economy so the local people will be self sufficient.  This is worth sacrificing for.  This is worth being exhausted over.  We have a chance to alter the the future of a specific people for many generations to come.  
 
I am forever grateful to Awan for introducing us to these beautiful people and for his heart to see this through.  This is only the beginning.  There is so much work to be done.   If I think too far ahead I actually get exhausted.  We can do this though.  No, we must do this.  We have been united with the Gok DinkaGok Dinka.  There will be a day when water is easy, education is local, and food is in plenty.  But until then, we have a lot of wok to do.  Thank you all for your consideration.
 
-Jason 

8.24.2010

NGO status, more carwashes, logo design and Starbuck's addiction....

The great Pagor Akot
It's seriously getting to the point where we are all feeling like if we went a night without doing something for this cause, we're feeling lazy. Where to even begin?

Saturday we had a very successful second car wash to raise funds for the Gok Dinka in Cueibet. Altogether, we raised another 375ish bucks! We were very excited to have some of our Gok friends down from NKC to help with the car wash and intimidate people into giving a little more... just kidding! We are very thankful to all of the people who came through and gave towards the cause- know that you are investing in the birth and building of a new nation!

We have had some things fall in line with our plan of getting the Land Rover to Mombasa. Through multiple contacts and phone calls with those on the other side of this lovely rock we call Earth, we have found out the best process for getting our vehicle to Africa, and encountering the least amount of hassles once we are in Sudan. This involves registering the vehicle under Hope Sudan Charities PRIOR to our voyaging over there, and more specifically it involves 1200 bucks like 30 seconds ago. It has been brought to our attention that we would be much better off having the vehicle pre-registered vs. trying to get that done days before the country tries to vote for it's independence. It will likely be busy, chaotic and we won't want to be in Juba (the capital of S. Sudan) for too long during this time. We will be working to raise these funds over the next few days and will  be happy to see how it comes about and falls in our lap just like every other little step of this adventure. God is good!

That being said, we've all made a bit of a sacrifice so far to have this thing done. The thing most people mention when talking about going to the third world is something like this: "man, I bet once you see what it's like over there, you're never the same..." - or something to that effect.

And it is the truth. I remember on my first trip to Kenya in 2007 when I was riding a van back to get on an airplane and go home. I had enjoyed my visit but the whole time I was fighting what you would probably call common anxieties: "am I safe? am I going to make it to the airport? is this old van going to break down? will we get robbed? what is this that I'm eating?" Me, me, me.

We were driving through some town and I saw along the side of the road, some kid playing with a bicycle rim and a stick- I have no idea what the fun is in that but then again, I've never tried it. For some reason, seeing him so happy with so little caused me to well up with tears inside. In fact, it was all I could to do to keep from bawling right there in the van. Just typing about it brings it all back.

And then there's this plastic Starbuck's cup to the left of my keyboard right now. Venti Iced Coffee with two pumps of Classic Syrup and just a SPLASH of two percent milk. If you put too much milk in it, I'm going to ask for another one. After all, I'm shelling out 2.91 a pop for it. When I order it in the drive-thru, the manager of the Starbuck's (Tony) tells me that we've been over this, and I need to just say I want the "Randy Special." It's pathetic.

And here I am, asking everyone to give of themselves for this thing. "Surely you can spare 5 bucks- it's nothing to us! It's everything to them." Yet I turn right around and think to myself "if I don't get a coffee, I'm going to have a rough morning." I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I need to have my heart changed and live a bit more sacrificial.

I guess it's not totally selfish. I am about to pass out and face-dive into the keyboard because I'm trying to design a logo with a 15 year old version of photoshop and powerpoint and I think the 300 mg of rocket fuel is the only thing keeping me going at this point... so tired. I'll probably review this post tomorrow and it won't make any sense because I was half asleep and in a dream. I better wrap this up because I have a lunch meeting with LBJ and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Anyway, enough reflection. I hope some of you feel called to join us and drink a little less Starbuck's, maybe eat out one less time a month or something like that. I hope more people feel called to give to this thing because that is what's going to have to happen. As we stated, it's become far too large for us to sustain now.

We really appreciate all of the assistance and donations. You have no idea how much it means to the people in Sudan that there are those who care enough to part with their hard-earned money and time to make their lives better. Thanks to everyone who's been contacting us about this and telling their friends. Please spread the word!

Until next time
-Randy on behalf of the group (except for the stuff about LBJ and Sonic the Hedgehog of course)

8.15.2010

We're well-done and 700 bones closer!


Awan Ater
What a busy week! This has fast become another full-time job for the lot of us, as plotting and scheming for this trip takes up the lion's share of our time. Every night is spent driving around the metro area to look into different needs, making phone calls, drinking coffee- you know, missionary stuff.
We've begun pondering how we could pull off just planning this stuff as a full-time job. Can't think of many things we'd rather do.

James Ater
We had been looking forward to taking the vehicle out to Awan and James Ater for them to see. The excitement in their eyes and their joy at knowing their friends and family back home will have the nicest vehicle in Lakes State is worth all the time and effort alone. How glorious it will be to pull into Chumnyiel and see the looks on everyone's faces!

Saturday rolled around, and we found ourselves baking in the hot sun and workin' hard for the money. You better treat us right.

Jason, Randy and Kevin workin' it
A crew of about 12 of us spent 5 hours in the 100-degree heat and the time was WELL worth it. By the time 3 PM rolled around, we had generated almost 700 bucks to go towards the trip AND passed out flyers to every person who came through. We are extremely thankful to everyone who came out and donated- know that your money is going to the poorest of the poor and is making a huge difference in people's lives.

We did some further research on what we need to beef up the suspension on the 'Rover. This thing is truly built to do what we need it to do. The undercarriage is heavily protected, so we need only add some air-cushion things to the shocks and construct our basket that will mount on the back of this beast. One other consideration is that we will need to get a more aggressive tire for the off-road-type stuff we're getting ready to do. However, we have these 18-inch rims and apparently off-road tires are hard to come by for that size of rim. We'll probably have to sell the ones we have with the nice new tires on them and get some smaller rims and tires. If anyone knows anyone or anything and wants to help us out- please hit us up with an email.

Other than that- the next major expense is the shipping of the vehicle to Mombasa. Timing plays a HUGE part in this as we have to be there when the ship docks or else we can get charged buku bucks for storage. That means that we can't purchase our plane tickets until we know when that boat is supposed to pull in. It's likely that we will have to fly out on Christmas day. Can't think of a better way to spend it!

Looking forward to next week's car wash as well as whatever things God has in store for us. Please spread awareness and keep us in your prayers as we work this thing out detail by detail!

- Randy on behalf of the group