11.08.2011

Pushed Back

Hey all,

Just a quick note: our trip has been pushed back due to some unforeseen circumstances. We will be going in February as part of a larger group, but there are some exciting things in the works as always. The well is working finally and our friends have access to some awesomely clean water right near their homes. This also means it will be agriculture time soon! More to come as details develop further. Thanks for bearing with us.

Randy

9.20.2011

It's on. Like totally on. Seriously.



Hello to all of our friends. You may not remember us. You may have thought we dropped off the face of the planet or got swallered up by a giant rock python. Well, we didn't. I (Randy) was just being really lazy. Forgive us for the lack of updates, but for a few months, things have been quiet in Out Of The Dust/Hope Sudan Charity Organization - land.

Thankfully, that's all about to change. Jason and I are tremendously excited to announce that we'll be going back to Sudan at the end of October to lay the groundwork for the Hope Sudan agriculture project, wrap up some HSCO-related business in Juba, visit the orphanage in Nimule, and no doubt spend some time with our friends in Cueibet county. We couldn't be more excited and we will of course be keeping you up to date like we did in January right here on this blog.

We'll be posting specifics on what we're doing, our plan of attack, etc in the coming weeks. But it's good to know that we're going!

Grace and Peace

Randy and Jason







7.08.2011

happy birthday to the Republic of Southern Sudan!

We are a bit disappointed that we couldn't be there... plane tickets are too flippin' expensive right now, and unfortunately there's been some violence in Cueibet County as of late. However, we are praying that the birth of the world's newest nation would be the most peaceful in history, and we hope you are joining with us.

On the missions front: we are currently trying to plan our trip to implement the agriculture project in Cueibet County towards the end of October/beginning of November, right after their rainy season ends. More news to come on that in the following days.

Hope everyone is doing well. Thanks for your support as always!

5.22.2011

Water... at long last!

In lieu of a picture of the new well, we're providing you a picture from our 2009 trip where we gathered and prayed around the very spot where Samuel, Silas and the others at the church chose to plant the well.


We are overjoyed to be able to tell you that at long last, after 3+ years of planning, fighting, negotiating, wondering what's happening, and maybe even a little crying... there is a water well drilled and operational at the site of the Chumnyiel Lighthouse Church. We can't even begin to explain the significance of this development.

Water is everything. You may say "well, DUH." but the fact of the matter is, when we wake up in the morning, we get to go 10 feet to the bathroom or the kitchen and turn the faucet on. It's a different story in Sudan, and we can attest to it. Every morning you wake up, you (or the women, actually) get the containers and walk to the water well. Sometimes kilometers! You wait in line, sometimes for hours while the cattle camp guys get to cut in line so their cows can drink (you may even have to pump the water for them) and after your wait, you get to carry the heavy containers of oft-undrinkable water back home, only to do it all over again.

In addition, the people at the church can now begin making bricks for buildings and they will be able to implement the drip irrigation process to start the agriculture project and begin a local economy!


In other developments, please check out the new HopeSudan.net; the web-home of our international charity which will be the outlet of all the humanitarian aid.

We're hoping to make a trip soon to Cueibet to assess the specific needs of the agriculture project, meet with local leaders to discuss implementation and say hi to our friends. We'll have more specifics on the grandiose scheme for this year in the coming weeks.

In the mean time, check out HopeSudan.net and thank you for all of your support!

Thanks,
Randy, Jason and Awan

5.09.2011

The club can't even handle us right now.

Been a hot minute since we've updated you all on the goings-on with our friends and our work, so I thought it high time to make a post.

Jason and I had the opportunity to attend a wild celebration in Overland Park on a Saturday night in April. About 500 Sudanese (and a small handful of Americans) packed a small convention center for good food, speeches from SPLA officials and leaders of the Sudanese Diaspora, and most important: random outbursts of song and dance. It was truly something special to see. I took some video with my phone and I apologize for the quality, but I think it will give you a good idea of what it was like :).

video

In other news, we've continued working on planning the agriculture project in Abiriu; we have established contact with some people who are very knowledgeable in drip irrigation with experience implementing these types of projects. We are hoping to make a trip to survey the area planned for farming later this year and begin implementation by the beginning of 2012. There is a great list of needs for doing this (as one would imagine) and we will have detail on that soon.

We've given the Hope Sudan International Charity website a facelift and invite you to check it out. We still have tons of footage and pictures that we need to compile and post so you can get a real taste of the trips we make.

We'll have more updates soon on the projects and on the Hope Sudan site.

Until then,
Randy

3.18.2011

breaking ground

It has not been that long since we started digging in and really pushing hard for the development of South Sudan.  So much has been done and so much more is needed.  We now have decent roads from Rumbeck to Cueibet and an excellent vehicle for transportation.  The local community has embraced us in every way and we have an open door to help change this entire community.  As I write this the 2 wells are being finished, one for the community and one for our next project... Agriculture.   I will be the first to admit that I personally know nothing about this issue.  However, what I do know is this; it has fallen on us to be the very people to research and develop a system of irrigation to coincide with our newly drilled water resources.  As far as I know we are still the only ones partnering with these beautiful people to assist in their personal rebuilding of their nation.  Each region is very different from the next and the needs of South Sudan are greater than I can list.  But we know what the Gok Dinka have expressed to us personally.  We are not reaching the whole of the south, only one region.  Water, agriculture, and education..... this is our vision.  I personally believe we can develop a system of agriculture that will far surpass anything the South has ever seen and empower the people to become self sufficient.  They have been running for the greater part of 5 decades and those who are now in place have never known anything except survival.  They have not been given the chance to develop.  But a new day has come.  South Sudan has successfully separated from the north and the iron grip of tyranny and control has ended.  Now is the time for development. Now is the time for change.  We have a wide open door to move ahead and give hope to a people that have never known anything but fear and insecurity.   Join us in this mission.  Help us change the face of a nation.  We welcome any input, thoughts, experience......  we need all the help we can get.   Against all odds everything that we have put our hand to has succeeded and I have no doubt this endeavor will follow suit.   Thanks again to everyone who has sacrificed to see this through.  Stick with us. 

3.07.2011

A very belated post

Everybody-

Jason arrived back in KS safe and sound, Land Rover delivered to Cueibet and all. I wanted to post this note that Jason wrote while waiting to come home in Nairobi. For the present, we are sifting through hours and hours of video and pictures. We have enough to make a seriously cool feature-length presentation. I'll update soon, but here's a word from Jason:

"I'm now back in the land of SUV's and over priced coffee. No not America, but Nairobi, Kenya. I just made it to the airport and will wait about six hours for the flight to Brussels. I has been a wild ride for the last few days but all is well.



One of the kids at the orphanage in Nimule

Our time in Juba proved to be very valuable. We arrived in the afternoon and met the man who had been directing me over the phone. Onek Brian Juma served as our driver and his knowledge of Juba (the largest village in the world) was extremely valuable. When we met Gabriel Mayel I had no idea how well connected he really was. He took me straight to the Minister of Finance's office and pushed us through the crowds to get into his office. There was standing room only, there were at least 50 to 60 people trying to see this man but Gabriel pushed us to the front. He explained what we needed and the Minister seemed to be put out and said we need to file with the appropriate channels. He then whispered in Gabriels ear and we left in a hurry. Gabriel's said we need to get a few documents together and he would do everything tomorrow morning. I went to the internet cafe and found it closed so we just went to the hotel and slept. I left everyone at he hotel and went to the cafe to download all the documents, however everything opened late that day. I went to the 3rd cafe and just decided to wait. After downloading the documents and getting back to Gabriel it was about 10:30. Se we left to go back to the ministry of finance and found a crazy scene. Now, I still don't have not watched the news so I don't have all the facts. Another minister working in the building was assasinated by some one close to him in the building. So this place was on total lockdown. The soldiers would not let us near the place. However Gabriel would not take no for an answer. In less than 15 mins we were pulled out of the crowd, walked through a crime scene and met the Minister of finance alone in his office. He made quick work of an exemption letter and we were on our way. You cant buy favor like that. We the took the letter to customs and cleared in a few hours. Gabriel has been absolutely amazing in all of this and there will be more to come on our new relationship with him. It was about 5 o'clock and we decided to head out for Rumbeck. I needed to meet with a few different people in Cueibet and had no time to rest. We drove off road through the night and made to Rumbeck about 6am. Now it may have been delirium or pure imagination but I almost ran over a few hyena's and a huge porcupine, who knows. I "rested" about an hour and forty five minutes and set off for Chumnyiel.


H.E. John Kur posed with the Land Rover
The scene there was beautiful. The church had gathered to celebrate our arrival. The people were singing as we drove up and the feeling is not something I have words to describe. All of the long days of planning and dreaming with Randy in coffee shops and car lots. All of the unreal expectations we placed
 on ourselves. All of the things that seemed too great for us and out of our reach, have finally come to fruition. Every official, every customs agent, every single person who has seen this land Rover in Africa has assumed it is going to some rich white man. All assumed it was business as usual where the foreign aid lives in luxury while the locals walk to the community meetings of "development" and "change" and the foreigners drive back to the good life and leave the African with empty promises. Not this time. Not this day. Today the local Gok Dinka have been lifted "out of the dust" and are walking among princes. No longer do the sick have to wait hours or even days to have an audience with a doctor. Or a woman giving birth have to make due in the village due to lack of transportation. This single act of service will change this community. This changes all their lives. They know that the Lord esteems them, that their faith alone has brought them blessings. This year will be a milestone for the Gok. This marks the beginning of community development and prosperity. Thank you to everyone one of you who sacrificed to see this through. It was not in vain. I dare say that even if it were only for this day, that it was all worth it, the sacrifice was worth it.

There is still so much work to be done in the next few months. Its always a bit staggering to think about the level of development that the newest country in the world needs. They have been left with truly nothing but now is the time to rebuild. Continue to stick with us as we give ourselves to this community. This will not happen over night or even in a few months but we can and will raise these beautiful people out of the dust."
 
 

2.09.2011

A Powerful Breakthrough

Randy


Ok. Where to start?. I left Nairobi last Wednesday headed for

Kampala via Busia border. Due to some delays we had to sleep in

Kisumu. So Thursday morning we arrived at busia border. We did not

clear customs and till 4:30 that afternoon and they only gave me 3

days to get out of Uganda or else we incur a huge fine. No problem

right? So i drove to Kampala and did not reach until 9:30, just in

time to hit massive commercial traffic jam. I managed to meet Ross

and Juma John that night. It was nice to be in Kampala with the two

of them. Just like the old days. The next morning i went to secure

visas for Silas and Christine from the embassy. Once again there was

a delay and we did not leave until about 5:00 pm. We drove north to

Gulu and made it by 9:45 pm. From Gulu until on we are no longer on

any paved roads, its all wild from here. I managed to navigate us to

Adjumani by about 12:30am. Totally exhausted I passed out quickly.

We left early Saturday morning and arrived at Bibia (Uganda/Sudan

border) around 8:45. it is nothing short of total chaos. Fortunately

we had John Kur (the most well connected man in all south Sudan and

northern Uganda) with us. He made short work of all the red tape and

we were soon in Sudan. Unfortunately John had to stay on the Ugandan

side and things got a bit tough. When we pulled into Nimule a barrage

of soldiers, agents, and customs officers approached the vehicle, all

anxious to collect the desired "taxes" due. Then out of the crowd

comes the beautiful face of Onek Brian Juma. He quickly took our

papers and moved to the front of the massive crowds, cleared our

documents and drove us to the imports office. I don't think any of

this would have worked without the help of these young men. Who would

have thought that the young orphan I found years ago would be the very

man to save me at the border crossings.... more than once.

Long story short - customs still wanted about $4000 USD which is

way more than I had and totally more than the legal tax. So I called

Awan AKA "The Godfather". I left the Land Rover at the border and

trusted that it would be resolved. of course it was. That night I

was phoned by a Governor, a General, and a member of parliament all

assuring me that there is no need to worry and they will take care of

it in the morning. And of course they did. The vehicle was released

with exception that the military carry my documents to Juba until I
get an exemption from the Minister of Finance. Let me stop here for a

minute and explain what was really on my heart while this was all

going down.

After leaving the vehicle at the border i went straight to the

orphanage. Upon arrival I found Morri in very bad shape. Morri is a

young boy who has epilepsy and my history with him is extensive and

his place in my heart is eternal. His fever was raging out of control

and he was unconscious. He was unresponsive at first. I prayed for

him by his bedside and was then summoned to speak to an officer. I

went straight back to see him. I asked the others kids and they said

he may have malaria and has not eaten since he collapsed the day

before. He finally responded to my voice but seemed out of his right

mind. I left him to go ask the compound manager about taking him for

treatment. Morri attempted to follow me and made it out of the house

but then collapsed again. I did not see him follow me i just saw him

on the ground. When i went to him it was obvious this was more than

his usual seizure. As we we trying to get him onto the transport

Pastor Juma prayed for him. When he had finished i saw many of the

other children had also gathered and had tears in their eyes. The

love these children share with one another is immeasurable.

No one was at the local clinic so we took him to a private

clinic. The doctor moved quickly to get some fluids in him. they

finally got a vein and started him on some kind of IV drip. Morri was

conscious but in a sort of coma. Eyes open but unresponsive. His

heart rate insane. He would go about 5 mins of what looked like

painful choking follows by 45 seconds of violent seizures. We had to

hold him so he would not bite his tongue or shake out the IV. This

lasted all night long and into the next day. Every time the seizures

would start my heart screamed. I knew if the Lord did not intervene

that Morri would not make it. The test for malaria came up negative

but the test for typhoid was positive. So the typhoid was spiking his

temperature and triggering seizures. I don't know how it is humanly

possible to suffer so much and yet still hang on. I prayed, they

prayed, and you prayed.... and He answered. His convulsions stopped

early hours on Monday and mid morning he came out of his coma state.

It will be burned in my mind forever, he opened his eyes and looked

into mine and smiled with a small giggle. I don't know if he knows that

i was with him when hes was sick but he knows i was there when he woke

up. It is nothing short of a miracle. His fever broke and we were

able to give him juice and some broth that day. He has not seizured

again and is gaining strength rapidly. In 2005 his father ( too old

and weak to care for Morri) came to me and said "If he dies it is not

your fault, but if he lives it is to your glory." I say not to mine

but to the glory of out loving and merciful Father. During the days

of this sickness I watched as the other children came just to sit with

him, hold his hand, wipe his head with cool water, simply to love

him. Thank you to all those who joined in to pray and fight on

Morri's behalf. From that side its hard to see the fruit but over

here its blinding.

During all this my phone was ringing off the hook from both sides

of the world. Lots of people were now on the move to assist me with

the clearing of the Land Rover. After a few big men called the

customs officers i was cleared to travel to Juba. So here I am.

However i need every paper that was taken back to the states. The

constitution, by-laws, everything. It is now Wednesday morning here.

if i don't clear today and start driving i will not make it to Rumbek

in time to catch my flight back to Nairobi Friday morning. so once I

clear here i may have to drive through the night and into the morning

to make the flight. Pray for favor. At this point though we should

just realize the Lord is in control and no matter what the

circumstance may be, He is going to see us through. Ill update again

once the package is delivered.



Jason

2.08.2011

Surely I can't title too many of these "quick update," but....


Just 'cause these don't look right without a picture... This is from the 2010 trip.

Just a quick update here. There, I said it.

Jason has made it out of Nimule to Juba with the Land Rover. We sent him some paperwork he needed today to get registration secured. After that he oughta be on his way to Rumbek and then to the final destination for a mission accomplished!

We also need to mention that while in Nimule, Mori Luka came down with what was determined to be typhoid and narrowly escaped out of it. We are thankful to God that Jason was able to be there at the time and get him to the hospital to be taken care of. A couple of the other children came down with it and it was thought that it was due to the water supply. Please keep them in prayer so that it will come to an end.

In other news, results from the referendum appear to be available and an article on Sudantribune.com indicates the president of the North is endorsing the independence of South Sudan. This is a bit unbelievable, but if this transition to independence for South Sudan goes peacefully, it will be absolutely unprecedented and a total shock to many.

We'll keep you updated as we hear more from Jason. He should have the vehicle at the final destination and be getting on a plane by the end of this week!

Randy

2.01.2011

We have the Land Rover- and we're in the news


Jason and Mori Luka in Nimule

Just want to post a quick update to you all from Jason, who is still in Kenya:

Hey sorry for the delay. I made it to Mombasa early Friday morning and spent almost 14 hours at the port. At the end of the day i was able to leave with the land rover. I went to the hotel recommended by our good friend Timothy and it was perfect. Cheap and secure. I went back to the port on Saturday and waited for bout 6 hours only to be told to come back on Monday. So I spent Sunday doing absolutely nothing. I did go to the beach but its not the luxurious white sands you see in the magazine. But it was good to relax. When Monday morning came i was the first person at the port. I thought i had more paper work to acquire but oh no. All i had to do was get some Lady "Port Master's" signature. That's it. I was a bit irritated because i saw the lady both days and all she had to do was sigh the bill of lading. No problem. So with the help of John Moyi we got a local "artist" to paint a piece of metal to resemble a license plate. Works for me. Its crazy, i spend so much time looking at the maps of all the streets of every major city we would be travelling through i made it out of Mombasa and to the Methodist guest house in Nairobi without missing a turn. I was actually shocked at how simple it was. I had two legit customs check points which were a breeze and about 7-8 police road blocks. Every stop was just like travelling through Sudan, they would signal me to stop and as I slowed down and rolled the window down they would all just smile, salute and wave me through. Keep up the prayers, the favor is good.



However there has been a major tragedy. Both the ipod and the iphone have shorted and all music is lost. I wanted to cry. I am now left with the local stations and let me say its pretty bad. It will go from traditional Kenyan to Huey Lewis, To horrid 80's emo, back to Kenyan, then to nine in nails. After 9 hours of that I was done.


I leave tomorrow for Kampala. I am taking Silas, Christine, and another elderly Sudanese lady who has not been home in many years. Conversation should prove interesting.


Ill email again today to give you a run down of the next week. all is well and i appreciate everything you guys are doing on that side. God bless

Keep him in prayer. It's a long drive from Nairobi to Kampala, and then a longer, more brutal drive from Kampala all the way up to Rumbek and Cueibet.

Also- there was an article in the Hutchinson News (the newspaper from the town I grew up in) about our trip. You can check it out here. A special thanks to Kevin Hardy with the Hutch News for the article!

We'll keep you updated as we hear more from Jason. Thank you all for your prayers and support!
 
Randy

1.22.2011

From sweltering heat to 5-7 inches of snow...

Yo,

Hope things are treating you well, wherever you are. It has now been one week since all of us (minus Jason) have returned to Amerika, and we are happy to be home but our hearts and minds remain in Sudan, and I 'spect they will until we return.

Jason remains in Adjumani and Nimule, where you can live like a king for 10 bucks a day getting fat on Nile Perch and Novida Soda pop. Keep the situation with the vehicle in prayer. There were a couple exciting developments that took place right as we were leaving Nairobi. One of the front desk guys informed us he has a brother located in Mombasa who works as both a "handler" and a broker for the Mombasa port. Therefore, Jason has a place to stay there that's safe 'n cheap, and we are going to literally save HUNDREDS on getting the vehicle off the boat and through customs. We are thankful to Timothy for helping us, despite his disgust at Jason's Snake Hunting Exploits.

Other than that, not much going on. We're all back at work and getting accustomed to Central Standard Time. I'd love it if I could make it past 8 PM so I could catch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Knowing my luck, the first time I do catch one, it will be one of those lame ones that focuses on Counselor Troi. Sorry if that offends any of you Troi fans- but I find her unnecessary as a character.

Let's get off of one soapbox and onto another. While traveling, I was reading a book I had purchased before coming called "Under a Sickle Moon" by Peregrine Hodson. He is a reporter who embedded himself with a group of mujahideen during the war between the former USSR and Afghanistan in the 80s. Books like this always capture me because I find intense experiences fascinating. I hope none of our travels ever get like this, but there's always that possibility I guess.

Anyway, to what I'm getting at: on all of my former trips, I am usually ready to come home. I can handle the squat latrines, heat, different food and constant demands on attention and focus for a couple of weeks but as the time to come home draws near; I become whiny, selfish, and can't wait to get back, get over the jet lag, and get back in the swing of work. I admit it. Sometimes, when you are in the middle of your trips, you wonder just what it is that you look forward to when you are back home constantly thinking about it. "Am I just a glutton for punishment?" I ask myself.

Then sometimes shame kicks in. "How dare you even think about a project at work back home when you've got these people who can't even get a meal every day? What is the matter with you?" The war of spirit and flesh that we're never free from until we are just spirit.

I found an interesting passage in "Under a Sickle Moon" that applied to this very thing. The author had been with a group of people rebelling against Soviet forces in their own country; constantly getting bombed, hunted, without food, sick with malaria, etc. Now I don't claim to have gone through anything remotely like this, but I still felt I understood the passage:

"Observers from another world, we had passed among the people, seen their suffering and heard their prayers, received their kindness and momentarily known the turbulence of war. But all the while we had been wearing an invisible armour: the knowledge of another life to which we could eventually return."

On every other trip I've taken, I can say that I had this exact outlook. I felt kind of bad about it, but the one reassurance I had that kept me from freaking out at seeing all of the poverty and destitution was that I could come home where everything's safe, clean and there's always plenty to eat.

When I read this, it was like getting punched in the face. Something has changed this time, and I'm not so sure that I'm going to don this "armor" any longer. I don't know exactly what that means, but I think it starts with seeing what else I can give to these people. Maybe someday, it will mean spending more time over there, if God makes a way.

I challenge you all to think and pray more and see if God is leading you to do more and help those who aren't as fortunate. I'm not talking about giving money, but giving yourself. Your time, talents and treasure to those who need it. And I'm not even necessarily talking about this mission that we're doing. There are needs everywhere.

"But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" -1 John 3:17

1.14.2011

No clever title for this one :)

1.12.11 written from Nairobi


We are back at the Methodist Guesthouse where our journey in Africa began. There have been some significant updates that we need to bring you up to speed on.

We recently found out that the ship the Land Rover is on has been delayed in Jerusalem as it was randomly picked for a customs search. Unfortunately, this means that the vehicle is not going to be here by the "original re-scheduled" of January 14th. This also means that I, Randy, will not be able to be here to pick up the vehicle with Jason. However, Jason will be remaining here to retrieve the vehicle and complete the mission of getting it to Sudan.

Although I'm greatly disappointed, I know that it's all for a specific reason that it won't be getting delivered when we thought it would happen. There's so many variables and so many things that could go awry; so, just as we did from the very beginning, we're looking to God and trusting that He's got this thing under control. No problem.

On an updates-related note, we began our morning on 1.12 by meeting with Mayom Tulba Malual, advisor to the governor of Lakes State for Economic Affairs. We discussed our mission in Sudan and we were pledged further assistance and amenities on further trips, which we are DEFINITELY looking forward to.

We hung out and had some lunch next to the airstrip and got on the plane for Lokichokkio. Once we were in Loki, the fun began as we sorted our way through the chaotic mess to get our bags checked, get harrassed by the people wanting to see our yellow fever cards, having us get ready to board the plane and then discovering that they over-booked the flight. Jason offered to stay a night in luxurious Lokichokkio until the next flight provided they put him up and give him round-trip credit for another trip to and from Rumbek. They didn't decline, but pretty soon they said we'd be boarding at 5:30 "because the temperature was too hot for the amount of people on the plane....."

Anyway, nothing interesting going on. Ate some food when we got here to the Methodist. Spent 1.13 AM drinking some coffee and looking for a place to buy some trinkets. It's hard to come by cool stuff here. Every place you go has the exact same stuff that you would see at Third Planet back home- save for the patchouli stink (just kidding- I kinda like patchouli).

During the afternoon of 1.13, we met with the boys here. We had sodas, some food, talked with them about their goals and their schooling, and then we had a meeting with them and Uncle Awan, who they were getting to meet for the first time. Getting to see these guys is so awesome each and every time. I got some good video that I will upload when I have the luxury of time back in the states.

Last night, we went to Carnivore. Anyone who comes to Nairobi needs to experience this place. Basically, you get a hot skillet put in front of you, and guys walk around the restaurant with huge swords full of skewered, roasted meet. In one sitting, we dined on beef, chicken, lamb chop/sausage/roast, camel, crocodile, pork ribs, ostrich, and you have the option of eating "ox balls." I skipped that but some of the other guys tried that... yeah.

Right now it's about 1 PM in Nairobi on 1.14, and we are eating some Samosas and drinking soda, waiting for the evening to roll around so we can  fly home. Tim, Charlie, Mike and Aim will all be flying home through Amsterdam. I am flying solo through Brussells. I don't have any shoes right now, just some flip flops and socks, so keep my feet in prayer.

Looking forward to being back home, but we need to ultimately stress that this is not the end of the mission or the end of the blog. Once the vehicle is delivered, we will begin planning for the next trip to start the process of prepping the land for the agriculture project. Wells will be drilled on the property. The gospel continues to go to the people and lives are transformed. Raising these people out of the dust continues. Jason and I will continue to update. See you on the flipside.

Randy, Jason and the guys

1.11.2011

we're still here.... don't listen to the news.


It's Tuesday morning, and there have been many things going on. What will follow are just random experiences that come to mind without much reference to my notes. I really need to stress to everyone back home that the news is of course going to report on anything they can that will generate ratings. It is very peaceful and calm, and small scuffles are to be expected in this type of event. We are fine.

1.10- written from Abiachuk

Referendum

It's the day after the referendum and we're still here. No attacks, no bombings, no riots, no nothing. Just massive throngs of Southerners voting for independence. From the ground- we can tell you that NO ONE is voting for unity. Is it really any surprise? We managed to make it down and take some pictures and film of people placing their votes, but it was only so long before our presence was too much of a distraction and we took off. It's generally best practice to stay on the good side of the guys with the AK-47s.


black ink marks the fingers of those who have voted

sign outside the polling center in Abiachuk


Jason and I went to get a soda at a local pub, and when we returned, we found that Kong N'gor Deng Kong N'gor (KONGOR DING KONGOR. Yes, that's his name) had arrived at the school complex where we were staying. Kongor is the former Cueibet County Commissioner and the first government official to take Tim, Jason and Tiffany around Cueibet county on their inaugural 2007 visit. He had been removed from his post after some clashes that took place in Cueibet town in February of 2007, even though it was no fault of his own. Now, he is the Director of Education for Lakes State. Tim was getting an exclusive interview with his insights on the referendum and the coming independence for Southern Sudan. We will have that available to view soon after we get back to the States.

Jason and DeChol- a.k.a. "Machine Gun."

the man, the myth.... Kong N'gor Deng Kong N'gor


Kong N'gor has a personal guard with him at all times- a man by the name of Dechol (DEE CHOLE). On their first trip, they told me about this man. They had given him the nickname of "machine gun." I had seen his picture; the guy looks like he eats nails for breakfast. However, when I met him, he was all smiles. He's a very soft-spoken guy but you can tell he's seen some horrific stuff. He's always with Kong N'gor, AK in hand. We gave him a watch and he was very appreciative. Had to get our picture with him too.

Leadership Training

Friday and Saturday we spent a few hours each day doing leadership training for the young leaders here at Chumnyiel Fellowship Lighthouse Church. There are about 25 men and women whom pastor Samuel Maciek has selected who have shown faithfulness to the group in various ways; whether it be working for the group and helping others, serving the church faithfully, displaying admirable character or a desire to learn God's word and let it transform their lives in a greater capacity.

Tim sharing with the group at Sunday church

Charlie sharing on Sunday

Tim explaining some of the materials to the leaders


Many people have certain misconceptions about Christian Missionary work, some of which are completely justified. Sometimes it appears that Christian missionaries are trying to export their American or European culture to another place, and sometimes that is what you see. But what I have come to learn is that Jesus has his own culture. The bible is full of principles that apply to all people, and can be taught completely separate from pews, stained-glass, huge sound systems and powerpoint presentations.

I am thankful to say that in Sudan, this is the case. For example: from the very beginning, this church has created their own songs, in their own language, that glorify God. I have made it my special mission this time to use a field recorder I borrowed from my friend Cameron (thx Cam-Dogg) to make some great recordings of the songs they have created. Often times, an ordinary member of the church will create a song themselves about their spiritual experiences with God that the entire group will sing. It's a breath of fresh air and I think it's something that the church in America could learn from- we all need to loosen up a bit and get wild when we get together. We have much to be happy about!!

A New Friend


Yours truly- with Bohemoth.


Saturday, we were given a bull by Joseph Maker, a police chief in the area who has known Awan for a long time. One of the young leaders, John, was driven to Cueibet town and picked up the bull, and walked it back to Abiachuk. We decided that this bull would live, and paired with another bull, they would pull the plows when we finally are able to cultivate the soil for agriculture in Chumnyiel. Mike gave the bull a name: Bohemoth. At first he was a bit stand-offish in his new surroundings, but now he roams the ground like a huge white dog. They had him tied up Sunday night for several hours until I felt bad for him being stuck in the same place for so long, so I let him go. He immediately went and tried to eat the food that the ladies were cooking- it was the source of much entertainment. He moos- but it doesn't sound like a cow. It sounds Chewbacca-esque. Maybe the sound of Chewbacca going through puberty (sorry if that's a bit disturbing)?

African Life

We've been existing on beans and rice, and letting our friends here eat all of the good stuff (goat, chicken, beef). It has been like a nice week-long vacation for them. The beans and rice are delicious as we have some cayenne pepper to put on them. Yesterday we made Ramen noodles with canned chicken for everyone. Aim had some spicy-Thai ramen noodles that were pretty hot. More entertainment as we watched the youngsters down them and then run for water.

John Maker, one of the boys in Nairobi that we are putting through school, has been with us here in Abiachuk. He took us to the home where he, Daniel Chier and Alfred Dum all grew up (see previous article about the boys). It is a few miles back off of the main road and then about a mile-long walk into the bush. They are millet-farmers. As we walked through the bush we contemplated how we were viewing a place that was almost frozen in time. No running water, no electricity, no heat, a/c. Every day you walk to the borehole to get your water for the day. You walk 20 feet outside of your clearing to work and harvest the millet. At the end of the day, you crush some up and make some bread out of it- day in, day out.

Saturday, we had the pleasure of meeting a man who is apparently over 120 years old. He told Jason that he would have a baby boy sometime soon, and after he shook our hands, he starting sputtering spittle all over the both of us. I knew this may happen- the Dinkas consider this a form of an elder imparting his or her blessing onto a guest. I wish I had it on tape.

1.11 Written from Rumbek

We're here at the Rumbek Business Complex, where we initially corresponded to you from once we reached Rumbek. I won't lie- after living in a tent for over a week eating beans and rice, using squat latrines and driving miles to pump our water each day, it's nice to be in a western-style place with a bathroom, shower, quasi-air conditioning and chicken with french fries. And COFFEE. How sweet it is to drink coffee. We had been out for days and the local tea leaf just wasn't cutting it.


Mmmmmm..... coffee......

We woke up this morning after a particularly difficult night. Not only was it brutally cold with our shortage of blankets, but Bohemoth had decided to try to eat our laundry that was soaking. We were all scared awake by the sound of Awan screaming at the cow who had tried to get into his room. After the commotion died down and we were trying to sleep in the tent again, the cow began to headbutt the walls of the tent where Aim and I were sleeping. He is basically a huge lapdog with horns.


sometimes, you just gotta spell it out.

Jason, Aim and I went to pump some water at the borehole outside of town. The borehole in town had run out of water because of draught, so everyone flocked to the "country" borehole. Apparently people can become pretty feisty over waiting in line to pump their water, as there were now security guards posted at the borehole.

Pumping water can be quite the mundane, tedious task. Luckily, we enjoy entertaining the locals. I have many instances of Jason singing to the women as he pumps their water. In particular, Jason created a song in the style and cadence of the local fare about former Commissioner Kong N'gor. Every time he sings it, people go nuts. The song details all of the places and tribes that Kong N'gor presided over. It goes like this:

Kong N'gor Deng Kong N'gor

Abiriu, Mayath
Kong N'gor Deng Kong N'gor
Panadut, Panowar
Kong N'gor Deng Kong N'gor
Chyit Chok, Tiap Tiap
Kong N'gor Deng Kong N'gor
Duong Payam, DORR!

I have posted a video below of this so you can all join in on the laughter (or maybe not- it may just be funny to us). The locals have really taken a liking to us. I think my favorite thing to do is greet random people as we learn more of the Dinka language. John Maker informed us as we were walking around town that the locals were raving about the white guys in town and how they greeting everyone. People here have become so hospitable, welcoming us with open arms.

After we pumped water, it was time to clean up the camp and get ready to say our good-byes. We were happy to be able to leave clothes, food, first aid stuff and toys with Samuel and Deborah to distribute to the church. We took some time to worship and pray together and we realized that as soon as we get home, it will be time to plan for the next trip and the next phase of development- the agriculture. More to come on that.

We made our way to Rumbek and secured a couple of rooms to stay in tonight. After dining on some chicken and chips, Awan mysteriously secured a government vehicle to take us to the new Governor of Lake State's office. We arrived, but discovered he had departed to Yirol. We then set out to meet with Martin Gruetters, the former architecht-turned-interim-program-manager of Diakonie emergency aid, or Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, the German Humanitarian Agency that funds and staffs the different stations that have treated illnesses and offered midwifery services for the population of Cueibet County. As I previously mentioned, this is also the organization that runs the camp where we have stayed in Cueibet each time we have come here.

Diakonie's contract for running the camp ended in December, however there have been some complications with the organization that is to take over for running the health care program. They are in need of indigenous local staff to assist with management and logistics, and we seek to have Awan placed in one of these positions full time here in Sudan. More to come on this.

So it's been a busy day. No new entertaining or funny stuff to report on. I thought we were going to have something good when a traffic cop flagged us down, angry at our government driver who drove past a road block. Unfortunately, he just angrily waved us on. No shouting matches, nothing.

The guy who negotiated the deal with our vehicle came to pick it up, and after being told that the brakes were out, he came back to us complaining that there were no brakes (?!). He also wanted 50 bucks more for being the negotiator, which Jason flatly denied and told him to go to the owner of the vehicle. Again- nothing entertaining to report. Pretty mellow day all in all.

We just dined on fish, rice and potatoes and are consuming gratuitous amounts of coffee in preparation for bedtime. Tomorrow, we will seek to meet with the new Governor of Lakes State and then head to the Rumbek airstrip to fly through Lokichokkio through Kenya. We might have something funny to report then, but I'm actually praying against it. That's another story for another time.

Peace out,
Randy and the guyz




video

1.06.2011

Long day!

Where to even begin? Yesterday started with us waking up to the chorus of roosters, strange birds making siren noises and shouted discourse in Dinka that we have all come to know and love. We dragged ourselves out of bed, and after a nice cup of coffee (thank you Starbuck's on 119th/Renner), we push-started the Land Cruiser and were on our way to meet Father Giovanni.


The Padre is 70 years old and has been in Africa for 47 years in Kenya and Uganda. Within the last dozen or so years he made his way to Sudan, and it has been his home. He does many different humanitarian type projects for the Catholic church including vocational training, building, and drilling wells- the primary reason we are making our visit. Most people who drill boreholes out here only go deep enough to hit water. However, the Padre has determined that you have to go at least 60 meters to get clean, drinkable water that is not going to cause any problems.

We were going to have the borehold drilled this last year, but various complications kept it from happening. Now, his entire crew has returned to Italy because of worries about instability during the referendum. However, as he put it: "I cannot leave. My people need me here when they are suffering more than when they are well." He is an inspiration to us all. We made arrangements to have the borehole drilled when his engineers return after the vote- possibly February or March.

We took some time to see the Father's compound- it is absolutely beautiful. Huge mango trees cover an outdoor church. Young Dinka kids running around learning how to cook, build, sew, etc. One thing I did notice was the proximity to the large white mountain "Kur Majak," where we had an incident last year. See my youtube channel for the video...

After parting with the Father, we made our way to Lang Dit (LONG DEET), the birthplace of Awan Ater. We were instructed to go to the bridge over the river Bar-Gel and wait. Soon, the county commissioner and a truckload of SPLA arrived armed to the teeth. I won't lie- it was kinda neat.

We then headed for Lang Dit. Before we could even make it to town, a huge crowd of people stopped us, singing in the street. We got out of our vehicles and they were singing, dancing and screaming praises for Awan- "Awan has come home!" The next hour saw much dancing and several bulls lost their life- I will spare you the pictures here.

We finally gathered under a huge fig tree and were treated to more dancing and a 7-Up. We probably shook a few hundred hands and then we were ushered again to our vehicles to make our way to Malou-Pac (maLON-page), the hometown of some of Awan's family. There, it was all business as we were greeted by the Paramount chief over the entire area and some of his sub-chiefs, and the villagers addressed their concerns.

Chiefly among the concerns in this area are:

  • Water: there is only one borehole drilled for a population of over 5,000 people.

  • Hospitals: there is no medical help. The chief shared with us that his son died in his arms just over one week ago as they were trying to get him to the hospital in Cueibet.

  • Education: there is only a primary school in the area. There is only one secondary school in Rumbek, and it is over-populated.

We heard their concerns and moved back to Lang Dit, where we ate and then had a similar meeting that went well into the evening. They had identical concerns, and gave Tim and Awan an opportunity to address the people there. This area is one of the areas in which our work here will eventually move to through Samuel Maciek.

The people know that we alone cannot make the difference for them. Just as was told them when Jason, Tim and Tiffany came here first in 2007. We told them we don't have the ability to solve their problems, but God does. "Seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness, and all you need will be added to you" were the words that Jesus told the poor in the gospel of Matthew, and that is what Tim echoed to them. He went over the history of our church and our working with Awan and the local Sudanese in KC, and how the work had to begin with them. We challenged them to seek God on what they could contribute rather than waiting for the government to help them, because they could be waiting for a LONG time.

"I challenge you to seek God and give," said Tim, "and when I come back, if you have done so and He hasn't given back to you, you can call me a liar."

It was dark when we left Lang Dit. Our vehicle is draining brake fluid and only one headlight works. Luckily it's impossible to go over 10 mph with the way the roads are, so it's really no worry. Right now Jason is heading to Cueibet to get some brake fluid and we will go back to Abiachuk to our compound to begin teaching Samuel's church leaders.

It is likely we will not be able to update before Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. For the next few days, we will be in training for the young leaders of the church, teaching about evangelism and challenges of church leadership. Sunday is the big day, and we will be going with some of the locals as they vote to become their own independent nation!

It is a very exciting time for Sudan right now, and once again, we are stoked to be here. If AT ALL possible, I will update after Sunday. Please keep us and Sudan in prayer.

l8r
Randy and the rag-tag group of guys from Olathe who somehow got to be a part of this thing


Samuel, Awan, Randy, Padre Giovanni and Mike

Tim and Awan on Giovanni's property. Kur Majak is in the distance

I just had to get a picture of this guy with the .50 cal strapped on

Walking to Lang Dit with the SPLA

The sacrificial thing where the last bull lost its life....

The chiefs in Lang Dit

Aim, Charlie, Tim and Mike at the talk in Lang Dit


1.05.2011

A nice big chunk of an update...

Hey everybody- since I haven't had good internet access, I haven't been able to post updates for the last 3-4 days, but I still wrote them in the hopes that we would get it! So here we are- here's a couple of entries for you:

January 1- written from Rumbek, S. Sudan

Howdy all- bear with me on this post. There's a lot of ins and outs, but some remarkable things have happened today!


We got up this morning well rested from staying in an air-conditioned room. I had Al-Jazeera piped through on the television and fell asleep to it. Right now there is apparently a huge flood in Australia as well as a church in Egypt was bombed and a bunch of people were killed. Last time we came we were in Sudan and heard about the earth quake in Haiti. There's always a weird surreal feeling when you hear about this stuff and you aren't safe at home.

Juba feels like it might as well be Baghdad- there are a lot of Arabic people there as well as every sign is in Arabic, and the primary language spoken there is a form of Arabic (called "Juba Arabic"); so it is a unique experience. The thing that strikes me is that the Dinkas, Mahdis, Acholis and other tribal types seem to blend in with and get along with the Arab people there beyond the vested interest in commerce that they have in common. With all of the talk having to do with the referendum and the southerners wanting separation, I thought the place would be fraught with tension. However, it's a pretty nice place and I'm sure we'll come through there again (apart from when we go back drive the Land Rover through there).

We were highly impressed with our new friend Johnson Malek. He strikes us as the type who will go far and be involved in highly important affairs someday. He showed up to the guest house with a walkie-talkie as he is still in the SPLA in some capacity. He showed us great kindness and has a real heart for his people back in Cueibet.

So we were dropped at the bus park where we arrived yesterday and got onto our Land Cruiser transport. We opted out of taking another coach bus because we knew this trip was going to be long and extra dusty. Besides, it didn't cost much more. Our driver was a Ugandan guy coming from Kampala. There were four other passengers on the bus- I sat in the front and Jason and the rest crammed in the back two rows. I felt bad but they told me to sit there, so who was I to argue? There was a girl from Coast Province (Mombasa) in Kenya so we got to talking to her over the course of the day.

First of all- the different checkpoints you have to go through in each town are ridiculous. It's a given that you are going to kick some cash to the traffic cop or soldier manning the place, which drives me nuts. However, there were a couple times where the guy came up to the car and just waved us through after he saw Jason and I- we told the other people in the vehicle that it was Khawaja (Juba Arabic for white person) magic. It didn't take long for them to warm up to us- especially Jason. I spent most of the time listening to music and thinking about how long the trip was taking. One of the funniest times during the trip was when we pulled up to the checkpoint as you enter Rumbek and the guy blew his whistle as we were driving by so we stopped. He swaggered up to the vehicle in a manner suggesting Little Man Syndrome, barking out "I want to see all of your papers." When he saw Jason and I, he just said "OH" and then pointed us on. We laughed heartily. Jason informed the driver that he owed us for all of the times that we had gotten him through a checkpoint without having to pay.

Sometimes regular, random people try to ask you about your business and ask you for money there. One guy tried to do it at one stop but we all told him to get lost and he just walked away. The funny thing was that the traffic cop who the driver slipped the money to took the cash and walked away while we were getting harrassed by the other jackwagon.

The drive took FOREVER. We finally got rolling at about 9 AM and rolled into Rumbek at 7 PM. The sun had been beating on us for the whole day- my left arm is beet red. I finally ended up taking my DiveMaster hat and strapping it on my arm just to protect it from the sun. As Jason puts it- we feel like Mike Tyson has been kidney-punching us for the whole day. The road from Juba to the "halfway" point of Yirol is about 4 or 5 hours, and it is pretty fast driving. However, the stretch from Yirol to Rumbek is only about 50ish miles, and it takes FOUR FLIPPING HOURS. Apparently that area was bombed heavily during the war and the road hasn't been maintained as well. It was virtually impassible in some areas save for the fact that we were in an off-road vehicle.

When you factor in the heat, the rough ride, the fact that you've been traveling in some hot bus or plane or car or motorcylce consistently for hours over the past 8 days, and then multiply it by the fact that you are a grouchy khawaja who is on the last leg of his travel, you can get pretty impatient. As we were pulling up to the bus park in Rumbek, our driver told us not to "let anyone try to take our papers, don't show anyone your passport or allow them to grab your luggage, etc." We had also read about a khawaja who came to kRumbek after we were there last and some guy tried to intimidate him into giving him money right as he got out at the bus park. So we were tired, gross, in pain, and now we were ready to swing at anyone who even looked at us the wrong way when we got off the bus.

However, as usual, right when we are at our wit's end, things get nice and easy. Our contact, Shadrach, a son of the head police chief in Rumbek, met us there and escorted us to a tuk-tuk (a cool little motorized trike that can haul three people) and we were whizzed away to the hotel that we were going to stay in.

After the day we had, we would have probably slept on the ground if we knew it was secure. The hotel we were taken to (suggested by the Coast Province girl on the bus) was your average concrete room, open air windows with one light bulb and a communal bathroom. We didn't care- we were planning on getting some food and then laying down to get the day over with. We got the rooms and left to go to the restaurant across the street which was housed in another, much nicer, guesthouse. We asked and they didn't have any more food, so we resigned ourselves to just having a soda and water and then crashing back at the rooms across the street.

However, while we were in the bar watching the soccer match and drinking our soda, a young Dinka Gok greeted us and thanked us for coming. He didn't even know who we were and we didn't know him, but he was very thankful that khawajas were coming and was thankful for all that America has done for Sudan. Yeah, that's right, we've done a lot for Sudan- and for all of you total Bush-haters out there, it was his administration that helped broker the Peace Agreement and begin the work to end the suffering for these people. I'm just sayin.... Editor's note: sorry, I just saw this and I was really tired when I wrote it. I don't want to get into these discussions on this blog. Jesus would be neither a republican, democrate, or American anyway... :)

OK, now that I'm off of my soap box: Jason decided to inquire about the rooms at the nicer guesthouse to see how much they cost. Everything in Rumbek is very pricy so we expected hundreds of dollars. We wanted to find a place to stay the day before we leave so as to not have a rushed situation to drive two hours to the airport. The Kenyan lady working there showed Jason a room. I heard Jason and the young Dinka Gok guy talking as Jason was coming back- as it turns out, he is from Abiriu which is where Pastor Samuel Maciek stays! This sparked an immediate friendship; we introduced ourselves to him- his name is William Mayor Maker (Mie-Yor Muh-Kerr).

We decided that we would use a bit of our personal money to transfer guest houses and I am typing this to you from that place. It is NICE, and very affordable. When we got here and got settled in, William came back to our room and as we were chatting with him, we then found out that he is the nephew to James Ater (co-director of Hope Sudan Charity Organization) and not only do we have a new friend, but as far as the Dinka Gok are concerned, we have new family!

How awesome is it that every time we come on one of these trips that the Lord works out some magical way of us running into Ambassadors, new connections and new friends and family who show us such tremendous kindness? We are so thankful for the way things have gone over the past week. It has been rough, but at the same time it has been like relaxing and floating down a peaceful stream- that hurts your butt.

SO we are set up here in Rumbek and waiting for Tim, Charlie, Awan, Mike and Aim to arrive here tomorrow morning where we will pick them up in our transport and then it is ON.
 
January 5- written from Cueibet, S. Sudan
 
It has been a good last couple of days since we have been at our destination. Monday we picked all of the guys up from the Rumbek Airstrip. It is always great seeing your friends on the other side of the world. We first met Pastor Samuel Maciek and a couple other friends at the airstrip while we had a nice cold soda and waited for the others to arrive.


Awan Ater in particular definitely shines in his home land. We had to go to the hotel while we waited for our vehicle to be worked on previous to us taking it. While waiting, several people greeted Awan including Ambassador Paul Malok Macuei, whose card shows an address in Bulgaria. Awan has quite the life story, but he is basically the godfather in this area, as he was the teacher to many of the people who are in government these days.

We finally got our vehicle and began the trek towards our place. We stopped at Pastor Samuel's place in a town called Abiriu (pronouced "uh-BEER-eww") and had a cup of Bun (prounouged "boon-" Sudanese coffee). We were able to meet Samuel and Debra's new baby boy, Imannuel Benbai Maciek. Very cute.

We made our way to our destination, a brand-new school compound that was built outside the town of Abiachuk (uh-BEE-uh-Chook). The place is pretty nice. The church people greeted us in the pitch-black night under the brilliant starts. We sang and shouted with happiness. They had cooked some chicken and bread and we all took time to speak to them and talk about how much we had been waiting to see them. We were HOME!

Tuesday morning was our "rest day," which you typically take one rest day right when you get here because everyone is pretty out of it. Jason got some sort of stomach bug that kept him up and my back has been hurting, but we aren't letting it get us down. The other guys are adjusting well and things are good. After a good discussion with Samuel about his vision for this year and much coffee, Aim showed some of the young Dinka boys some highly impressive soccer skills.

We took some time to go to the market in Rumbek and buy some huge bags of beans and rice. The market is always interesting- I was much more bold with the camera this year and got some cool footage to share with everyone.

While we were at the market, there was a massive dance party in Abiachuk that Tim, Mike and Aim attended. All of the young Dinka men were in traditional garb and doing their traditional dances. Mike got in on some of the action and we have it on tape! Tim tried but they told him to sit it out- he had a camera to run anyway!

Today (Tuesday), we have come to Cueibet (SHOO-ay-BET) town and have met with the new county commissioner, Mayom Malek. He is a towering man- probably about 6'10" if not 7 feet tall. We were welcomed by him and his staff and discussed the needs of the local people as well as our specific goals.

We then visited the Diakonie Camp, which is where we have stayed every other time we have come to Sudan. The camp is a very nice group of concrete buildings that has hosted medical teams over the past years. Diakonie, the company staffing the camp, has ended their contract at this place and are now looking to fund the place but with completely indigenous management. We have a desire to fill these positions and have the camp function as a base of our operations as we expand more with Hope Sudan Charity Organization. Awan Ater, director of HSCO, is willing to function in a management capacity over here on a full-time basis. This is definitely something to pray into with us.

We will be staying at Diakonie tonight and tomorrow night as we prepare to go to Lang Dit, the birthplace of Awan Ater. There will be some serious partying- unfortunately, many bulls will probably lose their lives as traditional custom dictates. We will have plenty of pictures of the celebration (no worries, we won't post anything grisly) and I hope to update from the Diakonie camp again before we leave.

Friday, Saturday, and Monday, we will be doing training with the young leadership of the congregation we partner with here. Sunday will bring a massive celebration at the church- we are eagerly anticipating. The Sudanese know how to BRING IT. They all compose their own worship songs and dance like you wouldn't believe. I have a high-quality sound recorder to capture it this year.

Very little has changed around here since we have been back. Right after we left last January, there were inter-tribal clashes and fighting between the SPLA (Sudanese Military) and the Gok tribes in Cueibet town which resulted in the loss of some lives. Prior to that, everyone had been disarmed save for those in the military, but this year we have noticed that there are some civilians who have their Kalashnikovs strapped on again. However, things are highly peaceful and there are no problems. President Salva Kiir has mandated that there are to be no clashes as the referendum draws near.

I was given a Referendum tee-shirt by John Kur before we parted ways and have been wearing it today. Several young men have asked me why I am wearing it and what are my reasons for supporting separation. At first I thought it wouldn't be wise to wear it, but after asking them, they appreciate it and just want to make sure I know the reason for it. Imagine that- knowing what you are talking about. Something us Americans should think about. It's a place where what goes on politically actually affects your life, and people genuinely care about it; unlike us, who vote in the presidential election and don't pay attention to anything else for the next 3 years.

So cool to be here. I hope everyone is having as good of a time as we are. It's flippin' hot here and I doubt I have ever been this tan. I hope to update you all soon on things that are happening from here. Wednesday, we leave Rumbek for Nairobi to hang out for a couple of days. Jason, Awan and I will head to Mombasa around Thursday or Friday of next week and the other guys will head back to the States. Have a great rest of the week and I hope that everyone is well!
 
Sincerely
Randall and the boyz

1.01.2011

fish, chips, whiplash, new friends and air conditioning!!



First off- scope out the video above. This is a taste of what the last week has been like for us. Some of it is really cool (motorcycle taxis) and some not so cool (whiplash- details below).



Tombe, Randy, Mori Luka, Jason


Awhilo and Mori Luka examine Randy's ink


Jason, Mori Luka and Tombe reunited!

We had such a blast last night with the kids. My back is out because I was busy wrestling three or four of them at a time. They were so awesome! This was extra special for the kids as Jason is the one who helped to rescue most of them from the peril of being an orphan in Nimule at the time. We bought several crates of sodas to help the kids bring in the New Year. Everyone over here loves to share a soda!

We boarded our bus right outside our hotel this morning and headed for Juba, the capital city of South Sudan (sometimes known as 'the largest village in the world'). It reminds me of Phoenix. The weather here is brutally hot, but we lucked out and got some rooms with air conditioning! We have been traveling solid for one week now, and it is getting pretty intense. Tomorrow will be our last bus ride to Rumbek, where we will stay until Monday morning, procure our "rental vehicle," and pick up the rest of the guys (Tim, Charlie, Awan, Mike and Aim); then we'll head to Cueibet and the ministry will be ON.

For those of you who haven't been to Africa, there's a certain way things are here that flies in the face of conventional American "wisdom" and punctuality. Sometimes, stuff just takes time- a LONG time, and sometimes you aren't quite sure exactly HOW things are going to work out, so you just have to trust that they will.

Today was another one of those times. We boarded our bus right outside our hotel, which is situated at the end of Nimule on the way to Juba, so that was convenient. However, that also means we were the LAST to board the bus, and we set at the very BACK of the bus.

Now to those of you who get freaked out about the occasional pothole in America- you probably shouldn't venture to Africa. Ever since we have been in Kenya, we were told that the road from Nimule to Juba is "very good." I envisioned a nice, smooth ride. Maybe a washboard here or there.

However, apparently "very good" just means that you can drive a bus down it- PERIOD. There's a reason people don't like sitting at the back of the bus in Africa; the same reason that they don't like sitting on the back of the roller coaster. You get your butt kicked. BAD.

As Jason and I made our way back to the back, we were asked by Onek and several people sitting solo if we were sure that we wanted to sit there. "The mzungus can handle this," we assured them. The bus started driving. Five, ten minutes pass with no problems. Then things started getting silly.

The first set of washboards that we went over felt maybe a little rough- no big deal. But right when I was in the middle of answering a question to Jason, we all dropped about 6 inches and with the upward velocity of a trampoline, we were flung about a foot up into the air from our seats. We landed half-on, half-off our seats as another upward volley from another pothole slammed us in the opposite direction. We'll probably need to see a chiropractor.

The rest of the bus looked back at as as we had apparently screamed like little girls. We laughed it off, but after another volley or so, Onek had enough pity on us and came back to sit with us. We began to figure out that if we flexed our entire lower body, it enabled us to neutralize some of the upward force and not constantly get flung around.

However, the bus ride is almost 4 hours, and you can't remain alert and flex your butt the whole time. So inevitably, we  would space out and get flung up again. The bus got hotter. Some lady broke out half her window when she was launched upward, leaving a razor-sharp edge just inches from her carotid. I couldn't watch. The dust from the road began filing in until every time you touch your teeth together there's a nice crunch. You chew your cheeks in anticipation of the next bounce until you realize you might bite your tongue off. You feel like you're in a clothes dryer, but somehow you are at peace despite all of this and can't help but laugh it off.

That being said, we were very grateful to get off the bus, get our stuff, get in a cab and get to some ultra-nice place called the "Jebel Club" to eat some fish and chips. We felt very out of place amongst the fat white guys in speedos and obviously-rich NGO types sipping on their 10 dollar beers. In spite of that, we were very thankful to enjoy another nice meal, because we're about to start roughing it.

We met a new friend today- Johnson Malek Wantok who lives in Juba, but is from Cueibet. We were in a pinch as none of our listed contacts' numbers were working, so we called Adhel in Nairobi (board member of HSCO) and she called her nephew to come pick us up and take us to our hotel. We had a soda with Wantok and he then joined us a little later for dinner and conversation about all things Gok. We learned much about his life and the things he's been involved with regard to joining the SPLA when he was 12 to his schooling and his involvement now with the upcoming referendum for independence. Every new person we meet has unbelievable history to share with us. We are happy to have him as a new friend.

Speaking of referendums- the reality of what is about to happen here in South Sudan has really taken shape and registered with us in a new way. Everyone we know, everyone we have come into contact with is migrating to their place of registry in eager anticipation of placing their vote. As we rode into the capital today, we heard lots of talk about the referendum as well as tons of signs and ads for the upcoming vote. To be here in this time is really cool. Many are speculating about whether there will be problems but most people agree that there will not be big problems other than minor clashes in some of the border areas, but we will still be praying against that.

So again- we're leaving Juba tomorrow morning for Rumbek- about an 8 hour ride. We'll update if possible in Rumbek and on Monday we will pick up the rest of the guys from KC and begin the wild ministry for a couple of weeks.

At that point, Jason and I will fly to Mombasa to get the LAND ROVER! Please be praying that it arrives a little early because then it's a mad dash back into Sudan before flying home!

L8r,
Randy/Jason