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