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


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

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