Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Our English Friends

We wrote before that two English partners would join the mission to Lui. Both are from the Blackmore Vale Deanery, in Salisbury Diocese (Church ofEngland). Anne Powell and Warren Ingham-Barrow blogged their experiences here. Do read their reflections!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Resuming at last

The past two weeks have been wonderful, challenging, heart-breaking, and many times just incredible fun. The second half of our trip found me quite sick, which is why I didn't post anything. At one point as I lay there with a fever, staring up at the tin roof, in misery, I thought "Well, you signed up for this!" Susan and Deb were terrific nurses, and I was tenderly ministered to by the rest of the team. It was an immense comfort and blessing to be cared for, as well as humbling. Sadly, my illness meant that I couldn't present the art supplies to the school myself, or give the bishop the card with our pledge of three bicycles, but Dan took over and did the honors in my stead. He was also a great chaplain, and led us through a reflection piece at the end of each day.

On Saturday Ev, Sam, Marc and I strung cord around the pillars in the cathedral along the side aisles to hang the children's pictures. There were about 190 of them drawn and painted by the children of the diocese. As we were putting them up, the dean came in and said, "You are making my cathedral beautiful!" Sunday worship was awesome, with great singing and drumming and our bishop delivering a wonderful sermon of hope. The pictures attracted great attention - and at least two were snitched before we gathered them up! I'm looking forward to reviewing them at a more leisurely pace.

I have always loved the first Sunday of Advent with its beautiful collect and it's special because it's the anniversary of my first Sunday at Trinity. I'd been writing a hymn for our relationship with Lui and the last lines came to me as I listened to the sermon two weeks ago. The Laro tree is the symbol of the Diocese of Lui. It's a big tree standing outside the cathedral and was the place where slaves were bought and sold. When Dr. Kenneth Fraser began his ministry there he deliberately chose to begin classes in Christianity under this tree, transforming it from a symbol of oppression and death to one of resurrection and life in Christ. The tune is Forest Green which we in the U.S. know as the alternate to "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and in England is the one which is most familiar.

An Advent hymn for the people of Lui and Missouri

The Advent of God's love is near
and fills the world with grace;
Across the mountains high and low,
in every realm and place;
Where hymns of joy in every tongue
sound forth in glorious voice,
the pathway of the Lord is clear,
the desert shall rejoice.

Then heart to heart and hand in hand,
beneath the Laro tree,
We meet as children of one God,
a sign of unity.
The Spirit of the living Christ
has joined our hearts as one;
The dawn of love now breaks the sky,
the kingdom has begun.

29 November 2009

Loosing weight

When the MAF airplane showed up at the Mundri Airstrip (the international airport!) on Thursday, Samuel, the pilot informed us that he had instructed MAF to notify us that our weight limit going out was only 10 kilograms each, instead of the 15 we had had coming in. Since we were all flying on the same plane (we had taken two planes in to get the extra 50 kgs of art supplies in to Lui), he was quite insistent on that limit. He used a spring scale to weigh all of our luggage and informed us that we were a total of 16 kgs above his limit. We quickly filled Marc's hard-sided cases with extra bibles (English), prayer books, a whole pharmacopia of extra drugs (anti-biotics, tylenol, and all the things travelers bring with them), books, clothes and things we were willing to leave behind. I gave my English bible and prayer book to Manyagugu to keep or give to whoever needed it. We quickly came up with 40 kgs to leave behind. When the pilot of a little plane like that tells you you need to travel with less stuff, you don't argue. Part of the lesson of the trip: just exactly what do we need, and what can we live without? The answer is surprising in a place like Lui.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sitting Still at Last

I am finally in Lui town and have not gotten into a vehicle today for the first time. We have ridden to many places driven by Manyagugu and have taken blood pressures of some 400 people and arm circumferences of over 300 children so we are currently drowning in data! Today I visited the hospital for the first time and I must say it looks a bit better. As for the container, I'm trying to photograph it but to no avail. We have given away several blood pressure kits and they are a huge hit. The people in Katabusi are going to keep data for the next year to show how they are doing.

Most of us are well mostly but heat, dust, bug bites and such are challenging. I just can't get the stupid grin off my face! The team is doing well and also doing good work. This is very satisfying to me. We are all happy. John is here from Kampala helping to take care us so we are doing well.

So far the people of Lui Diocese are running 40% hypertensive. The worst was 220/110 in a woman who had a fever of 102 and symptoms of typhoid. Good thing we are immune to most things! They are beginning to get vaccines now which is a good thing.

I am missing you all very much but as I watch the goat grazing outside this mud hut and chickens scratching with the scent of frangipani and mango blooms scenting the air, I know I could be very happy here for a long time.

Come and see!

Morning Light

This morning I woke up early and so I decided to sit outside with my journal. I am not a poet but came up with some lines that I would like to share. If you've never been to Lui , they might be a little strange but if you have visited the Lui compound maybe you'll enjoy my morning observations.

Morning in Lui
Water pump lifting up pressing down
Heron bird honking above the huts.
Women's voices, baby crying
Rooster's greeting the morning light.
Woman sweeping, near the tukal
Dusty dirt swish, swish with the broom.
Rhythmic drums beating in the distance.
Uniform children some clean some not
With smiling faces walking to school.
A woman carries a heavy load on her head
A graceful gazelle busy at work.
Morning in Lui

Meeting Noel on the road

Yesterday, a group of us packed up and left for Lozoh around 9:00 a.m., Lui time. Communications being what they are in Sudan, no one had been able to get word to Lozoh that we were coming, so we were traveling in faith that we would get there in time for Church. We stopped at Lanyi, to pick up Pastor Charles to come along with us, as he has friends at Lozoh. As we turned off the Good Road at Lanyi, Manyagugu began to navigate the dry creek bed that is the road to Lozoh. Anne Barrow (one of the missioners from Blackmore Vale) suggested elephants might be a better mode of trasportation that a twenty year old Toyota Land Cruiser. We came to the first bridge, and I remarked that this was about where we had high-centered coming back from Lozoh the last time, and broken the oil-pan. Deb and I both remembered thinking we might have to walk back to the Good Road from there. Manyagugu is a much more careful driver than the last fellow. It was getting on to about 10:30, so I figured we were in plenty of time to get to Lozoh by 11:00 for Church. We crossed the second bridge (Manyagugu had to get out of the car, and move several large rocks around to make a ramp from the road to the bridge deck), and we had just bounced down off the bridge, when we saw ahead of us three men walking towards us along the road. Deb said, "That's Noel Night!" Several other people said it couldn't be, because he was still in Nairobi. Manyagugu stopped the car, jumped out laughing, and began pounding Noel (who it really was) on the back in a great embrace, laughing and talking a mile a minute.

Noel had stayed behind in Nairobi to attend the graduation ceremony at the seminary, and people didn't think he had come home yet. But there he was. We stood in the road, and greeted one another. This was my first time to meet Noel, and as Deb had assured me, he is tall for a Moru man -- we are about the same height. He was on his way to Kadabusi, to celebrate the Harvest Festival at the little church there (one of the preaching stations associated with Lozoh). It was quickly decided that we should go on to see Lozoh, meet Noel's wife and children, walk to the river (one of the gardeners had come with us), and then come to Kadabusi for Church. They would wait for us. We drove on to Lozoh, walked to the river (where there were women doing their laundry, just as before), and then loaded back up into the Land Cruiser. Manyagugu drove about a half mile back up the road, got out of the car and folded the side view mirrors in, and then took a left turn into the bush. If there was a road there, I didn't see it. We drove about fifteen minutes through trees, grass, and burned fields, and came out into a clearing with a little church at one edge. Children had gathered and welcomed us with song.

After further introductions, we vested under a mango tree, and wooden chairs (made of woven sticks; much more comfortable than the standard plastic chairs) were arranged in the tiny chancel to accomodate all four white visitors, plus Noel, Alex (my translator), and one of the mamas. With great delight, Noel introduced the visitors (except me -- he quipped to me in an aside that I would introduce myself before preaching). Not only would it be church, but because it was the harvest festival, he said, we would have communion. I had to scramble a bit to rearrange my sermon, since we weren't at Lozoh, but you learn to do that sort of thing here. I took Isaiah 49:8-18 and Mark 1:1-8 for my texts, meaning to talk about God not forgetting the people of Lozoh, and how we could not forget each other either. I ended up having to talk a little bit about the road, and the surprises and joy one my find along it.

The local pastor of the preaching station got up for announcements afterwards and told everyone to stay. There would be a feast, and Deb would take blood pressures after the service. We had linya, some kind of yam (the best potato I've ever eaten), beef and okra, egg and sugar cane. Afterwards, very sweet hibiscus tea, and then it was time to get back in the car to head back to Lui. We left Kadabusi, around 4:00 p.m. What a day! Noel treated me like a friend of many years.

Noel is coming to Lui tomorrow to meet with the bishop, and ask to stay in Lozoh. He has many great ideas and plans for his community after two years in Seminary in Nairobi, but very little resources for the coming year. He has not been at home to farm, and so has nothing in the storehouse. You never know who you will meet heading down the road in the bush.

Sunday service

Sunday was a great day of celebration. I took some awesome pictures of the Youth Choir and their joyful songs at the cathedral. It was amazing to see 2 Bishops and all the the clergy of Lui dressed in their robes in Sudan. The lessons and worship was in in Moru and I was able to follow along. The peace was exchanged by stepping outside and shaking hands with 250+ pe0ple.
We had drums , dancing and ululating. It was something I will never forget. Bishop Smith spoke about Isaiah 39 and the symbol of the crocus as a sign of promise and hope. We who are the church live in hope. Pray for the people of Sudan and for the team as we get ready to leave our brothers, sisters and children of Lui.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Children's Art Project

from Episcopal Life

With apologies for interrupting the stories of our missioners, I want to alert you to a story I just found; it appeared a couple of weeks ago in Episcopal Life Online. Click here to read it. Like the story in our own diocesan newsletter, it provides some background on the Children's Art Project. In case the Episcopal Life story disappears from the Web, I'm copying it in full here.

Voicing the wordless
Sudan project to teach children the language of art

By Episcopal Life staff, November 12, 2009

[Episcopal News Service] When she first met Bishop Bullen Dolli at the Diocese of Missouri's convention in 2005 and told him politely that it would be nice to visit his diocese in the southern Sudan some day, the Rev. Anne Kelsey said she was not prepared for the response she got.

"When will you come?" she recalls the bishop saying. "I was the rector of Trinity, served on diocesan council and had much to keep me more than busy as it was. Southern Sudan was a world away, literally, and I did not think that I had anything much to offer on any kind of mission trip."

Then the following year her bishop, George Wayne Smith, called to ask her to join a diocesan delegation to the Diocese of Lui, where representatives from both dioceses would sign a covenant to establish a companion relationship. "How do you say 'no' to two bishops?" she asked. "You don't!" It was "a conversion experience," she said, describing that visit. "The Anglicans in Lui have survived a terrible civil war, suffer from hunger and disease as constant companions, and have seen their cathedral bombed three times. Under those circumstances, you might expect anger and bitterness and hostility towards those of us who have so much."

Yet, she said, she found only gracious and generous hospitality and tremendous faith. "Worship is fervent and joyful, thronging with children who learn to drum at an early age."

It was these children with whom Kelsey would connect and to whom she will return on Nov. 22 to lead the Lui Children's Art Project. She has plans for 10 workshops in four or five villages with about 150 children. "There could be more," she said.

Preparing for her first trip three years ago, Kelsey had thrown into her suitcase some colored pencils and a sketch pad. "I have an undergraduate degree in art and thought maybe there would be something of interest to inspire me," she said. "One afternoon, I pulled out a plastic chair and sat at the edge of the cathedral compound with my sketch book and pencils and began to draw one of the houses called tukals. "As I struggled with rusty drawing skills, a man came up to me, knelt down and admired the half-finished picture. Then he turned to me and said, 'Will you come and teach our children?'

"It was a beautiful, overwhelming and impossible request, and I didn't want to lie, so I said that I would love to come and teach the children. Going to Lui once had seemed more than improbable; returning looked impossible."

But it is happening now. "The Lui Children's Art Project grew out of that one simple question," she said. "The question remained in my heart until I developed it to present to the companion diocese committee." Kelsey leaves with eight other missioners, including two nurses, from the Diocese of Missouri and will be joined by two others from the Diocese of Blackpool. [sic. In fact, the partners are from the Blackmore Vale Deanery, Salisbury Diocese, Church of England.]

"We're excited about working with the folks from England," she said. When she returns home Dec. 5, she will plan the same workshops for Missouri's own children and then wants to exhibit both the Sudanese and American children's art in a special show in St. Louis in 2010. While she realizes development work is essential in Sudan, from providing clean water and medical supplies to irrigation plans and mosquito control, Kelsey said, "our relationship with Lui is more than raising money, as much as that is needed.

"It is about spending time with people and discovering the commonalities that bring us together as Christians.

"The opportunity for children to create art is an important experience, and one that we often take for granted," she said. "Our children have paper and crayons from an early age, and even when they are quite little they can express themselves vividly. I am eager to give children in Lui an opportunity to exercise creativity, even in such a limited way as a single workshop."

The language of art is universal and speaks without words across the world, Kelsey said. "The Lui Children's Art Project will give them a chance to express what they cannot say in words, both happy things and sad ones as well."

Now it's about 8:30 p.m. in Missouri and 5:30 a.m. in Lui; dawn will soon come in southern Sudan. I'm sure that, like me, you're looking forward to more stories from our friends in Lui.

Going to Lozoh!

When we first got here, it didn't look like we would be able to get to Lozoh. The road is grown over with grass, and won't be cleared for a few more weeks. But Debbie Smith spoke with Vasco Daniel and Darius Manyugu. Manyugug says he can find Lozoh, even through the grass. So, Deb and I will be able to get to Lozoh for Church tomorrow. So, Adventers, hold Lozoh in your prayers tomorrow at church. We will bring them your greetings and carry theirs back to you.

One too many mangos

Today we started the day in the chapel at Frazer Cathedral with the children and the art project. We had a lot more children but we were able to share supplies and accommodate the children we had. This afternoon we will be able to hang up all the pictures for Sunday worship. People will be amazed at what we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time and enjoy the art with pride.
Sam Christy and I met with teachers to discuss the education in Lui. Lots of good questions and hopefully we were able to share some of our knowledge with them.
Truly sad when teachers do not have the books and supplies they need to teach reading or math or give a written test without having pencils. Ann Kelsey continues to tell me how much better it is from her first visit in 2006.
Now to the mango. Well after the teacher's met. Sam and I went back to the tukul for some- thing to drink and eat. While pealing a mango with a Swiss army knife I nicked my thumb with the knife. Both nurses heard me cry out ##** and came to the rescue. I am bandaged and doing fine and even able to blog.
I am now wearing a thumb wrap. This evening I'll be looked at again. Lesson learned, don't play with sharp objects or stay away from the mangos.

Friday, November 27, 2009

150 Young Artists

Wednesday morning was the first art workshop in Kediba, a very very long way from Lui! Darius was our intrepid driver, steering an old Toyota landcruiser over 35 miles of dirt road with potholes that made all of us gasp. We were greeted in Kediba, as at every school and church, with gracious Sudanese hospitality - tea, bread, mangoes, fish, chicken, and beef. The children sat in the church on benches of long poles, and balanced cardboard pieces which served as easels. They had never seen colored pencils, let alone colored pencils that turned into water color with a simple swipe of a brush. At first they didn't pick them up, but looked at them and counted them and wondered over them. Then they started drawing village life in Sudan - chickens, houses, the church, scorpions, flowers, and trees. In the days following we have seen images of a python, Adam and Eve, a bird eating millet, a fish swimming in a river, a man hunting with a bow and arrow, books, and mountains. The creativity is just astounding, and some of them are naturally gifted and talented.. It is truly a humbling experience to see them delight in their work, and heartbreaking when they look at me with big beautiful eyes and give me their finished pictures. Yet everyone we have met wants us to take their story back to the United States. It could not have happened without the team work of so many - Marc, who is documenting the whole project and each child, Sam who passes out supplies with the aplomb of a veteran school principal, and Evelyn, a gifted teacher. Our translator Stephen Dokolo was at one time the headmaster of a school and manages to encourage, keep order, and make children laugh in the process. It has been an exhausting five days, starting with an extra flight to Minneapolis instead of proceeding directly to Detroit, but so exhilarating! (After I typed the last sentence the computer said "hibernating", and shut off, much to my dismay - but thanks to Dan Handschy troubleshooting this has been saved. One among many things to be thankful for!) More later when I'm not falling over exhausted, and love to all.

Lui Art Project

Today was another full day. We started out at Lunjini School. What a relief to have a classroom with DESKS!! The students were very attentive and very well behaved. We were able to see their creative and beautiful art work. All the students were able to talk about their art work in English. Some creative students wrote about what they drew. I was impressed with the care they took with supplies and for some of the of students it was the first time they ever used a colored pencil. I have learned that students all around the world have so much commonalities such as pride in what they are doing. I cannot wait to share the art with ST. Louis, Missouri. What a gift to be here. I am leaving a part of my heart with the children in Lui.

Computer Lessons

Today, we are in the Cathedral, teaching pastors and the Mothers Union how to use the computer. They are going to send you a message. I am working with Esther, Violet, Laverrick, Charles, January, John, John K., Sylvia, Lexion, Cosimas. They would like to greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. They have come from Lakamadi, Mideh, Wandi, Lanyi, Mariba, Lakamdi, Minga, also Minga, another Minga, Mideh. They have bee staying at the Cathedral since Wednesday. We are having a very good conference.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Full Day

This morning, a car load departed for Kedibah and Wandi for various projects. Anne Kelsey took her art project on the road. Marc went along to provide logistical support (take photos, catalog artwork). Ev and Sam went to meet with teachers, principals and interact with kids. Deb G and Susan went to teach about parish nursing, and Debbie went to help keep things moving. The left about 9:15 or so this morning, and we didn't see them again until almost 8:00. Anne said the art project went really well in Kedibah -- kids got to do the artwork, display it, and had a great time. Deb and Susan said there was a veritable scrum around them to have their blood pressures taken. Lots of hypertension in Lui Diocese. Things didn't go so well in Wandi. They didn't arrive in Wandi until about 4:45, and then tried to rush through things. Around the table this evening, things were streamlined, and a better timetable set for tomorrow (Lanyi and Buagi). Time had to be included in the schedule for allowing our hosts to offer hospitality. Manyagugu drove, and all applauded him for the great job of driving back after dark.

Here in Lui town, things went a bit more slowly. Wayne and Dan opened the pastors' and Mothers' Union conference with a bit of theological framework for talking about Stewardship, Pastoral Counseling and the other topics sure to come up. Warren and Anne P. outlined what they would be talking about under the headings of leadership and management. The conferees were eager to learn the practical matters of management, and are looking forward to tomorrow when Warren and Ann will have more of the agenda. They plan to do a lot of sydicate work (we would call it small group), asking people to name someone they would identify as a great leader, and then what they saw in and felt from that leader. Then on to project planning and down to nuts and bolts. All were nodding and giving suggestions for what they wanted in the presentation.

In the afternoon, Wayne started out talking about Stewardship, and we were soon on to a completely different conversation than we had imagined. How is it possible for pastors to give to the church, when they have to work their own glebe land, and have little time left over? How can people give out of scarcity -- same conversation we have back home. Had an interesting and lively discussion about scarcity and abundance. How much is enough? How much is enough for God's work. The five loaves and two fish came up.

On pastor wondered about the government giving a tithe to the church. We talked a bit about the history of the Church in England, and the very high price the church paid for taxed support. We all agreed, amid much laughter, that it just wasn't worth it. We would have to make do with the gifts God has given us. A bit humbling to hear these people talking about scarcity, and makes me wonder how it is that we can say we don't have enough to give. Another full day planned tomorrow. We are grateful for all the prayers. Good night from Lui.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We made it!

For all awaiting news from Lui, sorry to be so long posting. We had an eventful (never an adjective you want to read when it comes to travel) trip from St. Louis to Entebbe. Our flight to Detroit was canceled, and so we had to take a flight to Minneapolis that left an hour earlier. Fortunately, we had all come early to the airport. We flew from MN to Detroit, to Amsterdam, to Nairobi, to Entebbe. Anne P and Warren from England were delayed two hours on their flight from London. They were supposed to fly to Dubai and then Entebbe. They missed their connection, so they also flew to Nairobi. We met them there. Sunday and Monday all blurred into one long day. When we arrived in Entebbe, Susan's bag did not. Air Kenya is tracking it down, but she had to fly to Lui without it.

We got to the MAF Guesthouse at about 1 AM local time, Tuesday morning. After weighing and redistributing luggage, bathing and getting settled, we got to bed about 2:30 AM -- only to wake up for breakfast at 5:30 AM! The flight to Mundri went without a hitch. We arrived at the airstrip right on time at 11:30. Got to Lui about 12:30, had lunch arranged rooms, took a blessed nap, and then went to the market to buy school supplies.

It has been wonderful greeting old friends: Stephen Dokolo, Manyagugu, Loice, Scopus (! an unexpected treat). Today, the governor of Western Equatoria (a Zandi woman) was in Lui holding a voter registration rally, under the Laro tree. People here, despite much doom-saying in the West, are very optimistic about the registration and April elections. They think it will bring peace. After the governor finished speaking, an African pop band (I've heard it called Juju music -- as in King Sunny Ade and his Juju Beats) played for about an hour under the tree, with a generator for power. A troupe of young men and women performed dances to the music. People were watching from branches high up in the tree. After that, there was traditional Moru dancing across the road at the Secondary School. It's good to be back.

Tomorrow, we all start our conferences. The pastors and Mothers' Union leaders will be in Lui for four days. Bishop Wayne and Iwill take the lead on that conference, and Anne and Warren will do management with them. Deb is rounding up nurses for teaching about parish nursing. She's already met with Kenneth Barinwa (the chair of the hospital board). We met Silvio, an Italian internal medicine MD in the market. He is at the hospital for two weeks, and told us there is a local surgeon employed full time now. It will be interesting to see the hospital and supplies.

Everyone is safe. Pray for our first night in Lui, that all sleep well. Supper is in about half an hour. We'll blog more later, but just figure folks would want to know we are here. For now.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ready for Lui

Just got done with convention at Cape Girardeau and repacked my bags again and again. The only thing I still need to do is take my Malarone for the pesky little insects that bite. Thank you for all of you who said prayers and sent good wishes my way for my first trip to Lui.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Almost on the way

Well it really is happening at last - after Diocesan Convention, of course. The bag with the art supplies only weighs about 18 lbs but I can hardly lift it. I've packed everything I can think of needing in addition to paper, watercolor pencils, brushes also scissors, tape, twine, needle and thread. Origami paper to make paper cranes for peace. I woke up the other morning in a panic remembering that I need paper clips. No Walgreen's in Lui! One of my daughters said to me last night, "Well you always said you wanted to go back, but I never thought you would actually do it." One of the added benefits of going to Sudan is that you appear cool in the eyes of your children, something you could work at for years and never achieve otherwise. I had a moving and wonderful sendoff from the parish on Sunday. Since I sit on a little stool for the children's sermon I was directed to remain sitting while the children stood and held out their hands over me in blessing. I almost lost it when the congregation stood too, and Harry Leip prayed a lovely prayer he had written. It's hard to keep going with tears in your eyes! I have had so much love and support - this morning before the Thursday morning Eucharist one of the faithful came in with a bag. "I thought you and your friends would need coffee" he said. In the bag were packets of instant coffee from Starbucks, a most thoughtful (and needed) gift.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting ready to go.

We are learning more what we will be doing in Lui. The art project is scheduled to be in at least six different villages -- Anne Kelsey and the others will be moving a lot! The pastor's conference will be in Lui, so Bishop Wayne and I will be "compound bound." It does mean, though, that we will have more of a chance to go in depth with the pastors on the subjects they've asked us to teach (pastoral counseling and stewardship). Anne and Warren from England will probably be doing their administration conference in Lui, though they hope to get out to some of the villages. Deb and Susan will be doing parish nursing both at the pastor's conference and in the villages. Most importantly, they will try to meet with Kenneth Baringwa, the chair of the hospital board, about training nurses for parish nursing. Ev and Sam will be visiting schools in and around Lui. Marc will be photographing the art project, as well as meeting with the agricultural missionary for ECS. It's a full trip. The few days we will be there hardly seem like enough time.

Went to REI today to get things like mosquito net, fancy new (tiny) flashlight and other things. Feel like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lui Mission Trip Plans

The members of the mission team are excited about the next trip to Lui (Nov. 22-Dec. 4). The Missouri part of the team met last Wednesday for the first time and will meet all day Saturday, November 7, to prepare further. The Blackmore Vale Deanery [in the Diocese of Salisbury, Church of England] part of the team also plans to meet next week, and we hope they can join our team by live video chat on November 7th for a little while.

The Companion Diocese Relationship Committee has sought to emphasize that the Lui relationship is about relationship as much as – and perhaps more than – financial support. The next mission to Lui is all about relationship.

We have written before about the Rev. Anne Kelsey and the art project to children in Lunjini, Lanyi, Kediba, Buagyi, and Mideh. This is the keynote project of the mission, and we yearn for your support.

Evelyn Smith and Sam Christy are retired primary teachers (and Sam was a principal). Debbie Smith is an administrator for adult education and hopes to continue working with adult educators. Several of the missioners have gifts that can support the children and teachers.

Deb Goldfeder and Susan Naylor are nurses. They hope to pursue parish nursing at Lui Hospital, in parishes, with the Mothers’ Union, with the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS), and with the health ministry of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). Deb has been researching parish nursing in Africa, identified an international curriculum, and gotten credentials to teach it to people in Lui.

Dan Handschy, Anne Kelsey, Susan Naylor, and Bishop Wayne Smith are all ordained people. The clergy of Lui have asked our team to lead pastors’ conferences, and our clergy are working with the Lui clergy to shape these conferences.

Marc Vanacht is an international agriculture consultant. He hopes to consult on farming in Lui with Robin Denny (an American Episcopal missionary serving the Episcopal Church of Sudan who blogs at Growing in Mission), with the ECS agricultural team, and with GoSS.

Our tri-link partners from Salisbury Diocese bring additional skills. Anne Powell is a project administrator in a university social work department, and Warren Ingham-Barrow is a regional sales manager for a restaurant chain. They should both have very helpful administrative/managerial skills that can be put to good use in Lui.

All the missioners – both lay and ordained – have gifts that might contribute across several of these initiatives, as they are committed Christians, and many of them will work in a variety of contexts.

We expect that most of the missioners will travel to the schools in the five parishes where Anne Kelsey will be doing art with children between 6 and 12 years old. It is our hope that she may be assisted by the Rev. Stephen Dokolo, who spent two years in seminary in Missouri. While Anne carries out the art project, other missioners will meet with primary school teachers, local pastors, health care providers, and farmers.

In the course of the visit, some of our missioners will be conferring with the Lui leadership on matters of administration, management, and finance. We also hope to help Lui leaders develop the website the Diocese of Bradford created for Lui.

We are working closely with Lui’s diocesan leaders to shape and refine the plans for the November-December trip.

You can help support the mission trip. Go to the diocesan site. You can specify your gift or give it unrestricted.

Monday, September 28, 2009

next mission team forming

Debra Smith (Mission Trip Coordinator) convened the first meeting of the next mission team to the Diocese of Lui (in the Episcopal Church of Sudan) on Wednesday, September 23. Marc Vanacht hosted the missioners. The team went over logistics, schedules, and the opportunities that we expect to pursue with our Lui friends in the next trip. The trip is scheduled for November 22 through December 4.

Our diocesan publication, iSeek, announced the names of the missioners:

  • Mr. Sam Christy of Holy Cross, Poplar Bluff
  • Ms. Deb Goldfeder of Advent, Crestwood
  • the Rev. Dan Handschy of Advent, Crestwood
  • the Rev. Anne Kelsey of Trinity, St. Louis
  • the Rev. Susan Naylor of Emmanuel, Webster Groves
  • Debbie Smith of St. Timothy’s, Creve Coeur, and Mission Team Leader
  • Mrs. Evelyn Smith of Christ Church Cathedral
  • Bishop George Wayne Smith
  • Mr. Marc Vanacht of St. Timothy’s, Creve Coeur
All were present at the September 23 meeting and appeared quite happy:

left to right: Marc Vanacht, Anne Kelsey, Dan Handschy (rear), Evelyn Smith (front), Deb Goldfeder, Susan Naylor, Sam Christy, and Bishop Wayne Smith. Not pictured: Debbie Smith, photographer

Although Debbie Smith sought to hide behind the camera at last week's meeting, we do have this photograph of her and Bishop Smith:

As noted in iSeek, the Dioceses of Missouri, Lui, and Blackmore Vale Deanery (Diocese of Salisbury, in the Church of England) have established a tri-link partnership.

The Missourians will be joined by two people from the Blackmore Vale Deanery in England's Salisbury Diocese: Warren Ingham-Barrow (St. Gregory's Parish Church in Marnhull Dorest) and (at left, below) Anne Powell of Shillingstone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life & Theft in Lui

About 5:00 a.m. yesterday, we received a message from Bishop Bullen of Lui. He reported that a thief broke into the diocesan office and stole:

three digital cameras
the Thuraya (satellite) phone
one portable radio
He alerted us promptly to cancel the Thuraya phone service.

Of course, Debbie Smith and our staff at the diocese went into high gear and alerted our provider to cancel the Thuriya phone. That satellite phone costs about $4 per minute, so it was critical to cancel that number promptly.

Now we will consider what kind of phone to provide to Lui so that we can maintain good communications.

At the same time, our committee began talking about how we might prevent such thefts in the future. But we quickly realized we cannot prevent theft. Some of us are concerned about this development, as it may suggest a change in Lui.

When we first visited Lui, there was no risk of theft. The people of Lui took care of us. But things are changing in southern Sudan, and other forces are moving into Lui.

Our companions in Lui have taken all possible precautions. Debbie Smith, our mission coordinator, reports: “They had big padlocks on the gate, the door, and the windows to the office/compound, so I am concerned about what damage must have been done to the building unless someone managed to saw the padlocks or get in while the staff had left the place unlocked for a moment. They are so conscientious about locking up that I can't imagine how this happened.”

In the coming days, we will work to move beyond this theft. It is disheartening to know that this theft has occurred, and we will work with our Lui friends to assess their security.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Children’s Art Project

The following article appeared today on iSeek, the Diocese of Missouri’s online newsletter. The editor introduces the article:

One of the projects of the next diocesan mission trip to Lui involves art and the children of the dioceses of Lui and Missouri, and is the brainchild of the Rev. Anne Kelsey, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Central West End, St. Louis. In this article she writes about her history with trips to Lui and how the idea for this project came about and developed.

Notes for the Journey
The Children’s Art Project
The Rev. Anne Kelsey, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Louis

When I first met Bishop Bullen Dolli at the fall convention of the Diocese of Missouri in 2005 I told him, as much out of politeness as anything else, that I would like to go to Lui. His reaction wasn’t a conventional response; it was “When will you come?” I never really expected it to happen. I was the rector of Trinity, served on Diocesan Council, and had much to keep me more than busy as it was. Southern Sudan was a world away, literally, and I did not think that I had anything much to offer on any kind of mission trip. Then Bishop Smith called and asked if I would go to Lui with him, the Canon to the Ordinary the Rev. Dan Smith, and the President of Standing Committee, Ida Early, in April of 2006. We would be formally representing the Diocese of Missouri and signing the Covenant agreement between the two dioceses.

How do you say no to two bishops? You don’t. On the day after Easter I left for Sudan as part of our mission team, trying to stuff my fear of flying under the seat along with regret that I wouldn’t be traveling to California with my husband to see our first grandchild who had been born only a week earlier. It took so long to get to Lui on so many different airplanes that the trip itself was a kind of inoculation against my fear, and I actually sat in the co-pilot’s seat in the tiny plane that took us from Nairobi to Lui and back.

Being in Lui with the people of Southern Sudan was a conversion experience. The Anglicans in Lui have survived a terrible civil war, suffer from hunger and disease as constant companions, and have seen their cathedral bombed three times. Under those circumstances you might expect anger and bitterness and hostility towards those of us who have so much. Yet, as those who have been to Lui will attest, there is only gracious and generous hospitality and tremendous faith. Worship is fervent and joyful, thronging with children who learn to drum at an early age.

As part of my preparation I’d thrown in my suitcase some colored pencils and a sketch pad. I have an undergraduate degree in art and hadn’t done any drawing in years, but thought maybe there would be something of interest to inspire me. One afternoon when we were given some free time, I pulled out a plastic chair and sat at the edge of the cathedral compound with my sketch book and pencils and began to draw one of the houses called tukals. As I struggled with rusty drawing skills a man came up to me, knelt down and admired the half-finished picture. Then he turned to me and said, “Will you come and teach our children?”

It was a beautiful and overwhelming and impossible request and I didn’t want to lie, so I said that I would love to come and teach the children. Going to Lui once had seemed more than improbable; returning looked impossible.

The Lui Children’s Art Project grew out of that one simple question. The question remained in my heart until I developed it to present to the Companion Diocese Committee. The committee approved the project, which will be part of the next mission trip to Lui in November. This fall children ages six to twelve will be able to attend an art workshop at several parishes here in the diocese of Missouri. In November I will return to Lui to hold those same workshops in four or five villages. Following each workshop the children’s pictures will be displayed for their families and villagers, and I will bring some of them back to the United States with me. Each picture (both Lui and Missouri) will be accompanied by a photo of the child artist who created it, and next year the selected pictures will be displayed at a special art show here in St. Louis.

There is so much that is needed in Sudan, from clean water and medical supplies to irrigation plans and mosquito control. These fall under the category of development. However, our relationship with Lui is more than raising money, as much as that is needed. It is about spending time with people and discovering the commonalities that bring us together as Christians.

The language of art is universal, and speaks without words across the world. The opportunity for children to create art is an important experience, and one that we in Missouri perhaps take for granted. Our children have paper and crayons from an early age, and even when they are quite little they can express themselves vividly. Look at a piece of paper filled with black scribbles and slashes, and you might accurately guess that the child who made them was angry at the time. I am eager to give children in Lui an opportunity to exercise creativity, even in such a limited way as a single workshop. It will give them a chance to express what they cannot say in words, both happy things and sad ones as well.

As I prepare once more to go to Sudan I reflect on all of the ways God works and surprises us with grace. Out of a chance encounter and a simple question, mission is born. I am very grateful for the opportunity to develop and present this project, even as I am both eager and nervous. I am sure that God has more surprises in store.

[Ed. note: The photo at left depicts the Rev. Anne Kelsey with Mama Janifa, a priest in the Diocese of Lui, during Anne's April 2006 trip to Lui.]


The next trip to Lui will depart from St. Louis on Sunday, November 22, and return on December 5. Several initiatives will be included, most of them focused on information exchange and relationship-building; the initiatives will depend on the missioners selected for the trip. If you are a member of a parish in the Diocese of Missouri and want to join this mission, complete the application form here. Applications are due Monday, August 24.

If you want to make a financial contribution to this project, go to the diocesan site, select "Diocese of Lui" from the menu, navigate through the pages, then put "Lui Mission Trip" in the "purpose" field.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More News Coverage about Archbishop Daniel

A friend has alerted me to additional coverage about Archbishop Daniel’s visit in the U.S.

The Goochland Gazette focused on his relationship with Jennifer and Daryl Ernst, a couple who also founded Hope for Humanity, an organization that promotes educational opportunities for future leaders in Sudan.

Goochland County, Virginia, lies between Richmond and Charlottesville.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Invitation to Mission

The Diocese of Missouri plans for at least two missions trips to the Diocese of Lui each year, God willing, and our last one for 2009 is scheduled for November 22 through December 4.
Plans for the trip include a conference for clergy and an art project with upper primary students.

We are seeking people interested in helping with those events as well as missioners with expertise in agriculture, medicine, general engineering, and business administration for the dicoesan office.

The approximate cost of the trip will be $3000, which missioners are encouraged to raise through donations.

To apply, please fill out an application (MS doc file or Adobe PDF file), have a reference fill out the recommendation, and submit them by August 24, 2009. Notification of selection for the next mission trip will be by September 4, 2009.

Pictured above are Bishop Bullen, Rosemary the director of the midwifery school at Lui Hospital, and Stephen Dokolo. They're sitting inside the office fence at the tea party that followed the VSAT dedication. From the blog LuLuLui (God loves Lui, in the Moru language)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Abp Daniel in Roanoke

As Debbie Smith has informed us, Sudan’s Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul and his wife, Mama Deborah, visited General Convention, where he made an impassioned plea for the Episcopal Church to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. His statement was based on this letter to the Episcopal Church.

I was aware that he was going to travel elsewhere in the U.S. after GC, but I haven’t seen many media reports about his presentations or other work.

I was pleased to find this article in the Roanoke Times. Because newspaper articles quickly become unavailable, I am posting the entire article here. I hope articles like this help people throughout the U.S. realize what is at stake in the quest for peace in Sudan.

Archbishop urges unity
The leader of Sudan's Episcopalians says the focus should be on the people in the war-torn country

The Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, Episcopal archbishop of Sudan, visited Roanoke on Thursday to deliver a stern message to the area's Sudanese Christian community.

"I am challenging you, you have a problem and you need to solve it. You are not speaking together," he told an audience of about 17 men and women at Roanoke's St. James Episcopal Church.

Sudanese expatriates need to organize their efforts to draw attention to the plight of people in the southern part of the impoverished and war-torn African nation, he said. Too often Sudanese get caught up in tribal allegiances that make it difficult to speak with a unified voice.

That message resonated with Nelson Walla, who has lived in the United States for about five years and who has tried desperately to get the Sudanese community organized.

"We have to unite and be one nation," he said after the archbishop's talk. "Even within the Sudanese community in Roanoke, wherever you go, this issue [of tribalism] is there. We need to bring all the people together despite all the differences."

The archbishop's visit was a momentous event for the area's Sudanese, who probably number about 120, according to Walla. At first, Bul hadn't planned to visit the area, choosing instead to spend time in more populated places where he could call on American leaders and Sudanese expatriates to pay attention to the plight of southern Sudan, which is today often overshadowed by Darfur, a war-torn area in the west of the country.

But St. James persuaded him to stop in town on the way from Greensboro, N.C., where his son is graduating from Guilford College. The church has become a haven for Sudanese people in Roanoke. About 30 of them gather there every Sunday evening for a short service.

Unfortunately, Bul got lost on the way and arrived at the church's parish hall an hour and a half late. No matter. Roanoke's Sudanese were ready to greet him with cheers and a welcome song. He was also welcomed by Bishop Heath Light, retired bishop of the diocese of Southwestern Virginia, who visited Sudan almost 30 years ago and who has worked to promote cooperation between Sudan and Southwest Virginia.

A 2005 peace treaty brought a tenuous hope of stability to Sudan, which has been engulfed in civil conflict between the north and the south since before the country gained independence in 1955. But that treaty is fragile, Bul said, and violence has flared up anew in the south.

Bul's role, he said, is to bring attention to the conflict and to push people in the United States and around the world to action.

"I want our partners, if they are really trying to help us, they need to step forward, they need to talk to their governments," he said.

I hear Archbishop Daniel speak frequently of the need for U.S. support for the Comprehensive Agreement, and I concur. I am impressed that he is also now speaking openly about the tribalism within Sudan and among its diaspora that have settled in the U.S. They must all get together, or the entire venture will fail.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Abp Williams calls for sustainable peace in Sudan

This news was a little late appearing, as it just appeared today, calling for a day of prayer for Sudan today. Episcopal Life has the story here. It begins:
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has issued a statement in support of Sudan Day of Action, June 18, which calls for a renewed commitment to sustainable peace in Sudan.
The Sudan Day of Action, organised by Baroness Caroline Cox and the Sudan Action Group, aims to raise awareness for the desperate plight of the people of Sudan.
Read the whole story.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thoughts on racism after Lui

A little girl in Lozoh checks her hand while shaking mine.
Thoughts on racism after Lui
Dan Handschy

Somewhere I read that one of the sounds most familiar to a young black man is the sound of the electric locks on car doors being locked. I have to admit that any number of times, I've been stopped at a light on Lindell or Vandeventer or some other street in town, and seen a group of three or four black men walking by, and hit the lock button. Somewhere along the line, I have received training to be afraid of a group of black men, especially young black men.

As you can imagine, I became aware of this unconscious response in Africa. In the car from the airport at Entebbe to the guest house in Kampala, along the long and crazy road late at night, I wondered what would happen to me if the car broke down. I was aware the fear was irrational, but there it was. Throughout my stay in Lui, as a group of us would be walking down the road, I would become aware that many heads were turning to watch us. I would wonder why people were watching us so closely, with that fear not far below the surface. Then it would dawn on me -- oh, yeah, they're watching us because we're white!

It really struck me the day the Baptists came to Lui. We were walking to church, and I saw a head of red hair under the mango tree, and said out loud, "Look, there's a white guy at the Cathedral." Deb laughed and said, "Yeah, I know. I'm walking next to him." We were pretty obvious. People looked at us, because we were out of the ordinary. But never, never did I experience the equivalent of the electric car locks locking. No one was afraid of us, the way white people are afraid of black people in this country. At the worst, we were treated with indifference, but never fear.

Several times, walking down the road, I would notice a group looking at us, and I would feel a bit of that fear, as they watched us closely. But then someone would break away from the group, and run over to us, and say "Deb-o-rah!" Someone she had worked with or known from her first trip would greet Deb, and our group would stand on the road for introductions and greetings. What had felt threatening (for no good reason) turned out to be an occasion for joy.

When I was a kid, a carpenter was working on the house across the street. He was a black man, and one day he brought his son with him. They boy was a year or two younger than me, so we were playing in the front yard. After shaking hands, I remember looking at my hand to see if the black rubbed off on me (I lived in a really white neighborhood). I noticed his palms were lighter than the rest of him, and wondered if that was why. Of course, the black didn't rub off. I wonder how he felt about me checking my hand.

I got the chance to know. Everywhere I went in Lui, kids came up to me and wanted to shake my hand. I felt a little like the Pied Piper. And always, they were laughing. I guess I looked goofy in my floppy hat. I noticed several of those kids check their hands after shaking mine, to see if the white rubbed off!

So, I'm left wondering how I received that training to be afraid of black men. After Lui, I find myself wishing I were back among the people of Lui. I wonder if black people in this country ever get tired of people being afraid of them. I will never have to live with people being afraid of me. Even the kids who checked their hands were only curious about my strange color, rather than afraid of it. I'll bet it gets really old.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Safely Home

Over at LuLuLui, Debbie Smith reported at 7:33 p.m. that our travelers are safely home. I expect it will take them a while to rest and readjust to life back home. Debbie promises she will post photos soon.

The Companion Diocese Committee will meet Sunday, June 14, along with our three missioners. We all look forward to hearing their first-hand reports of all that was shared and done and learned in Lui. On behalf of the Committee (and the Diocese, I hope), I express deep thanks to the missioners for being our presence in Lui over the past couple of weeks.

Well done, thou good and faithful servants!

Thank God for their safe return.

Living Libraries

Dictionary Dan demonstrating a skateboard
Morris looking at the book from Advent

Morris and his wife

Living Libraries
Scroll Article for June, 2009
Deb Goldfeder

Someone said, when a person dies, a library burns. The life experiences, the stories heard from elders, the observations from one particular life lived are all lost at that moment. For those of us who have computer records of every thought we have ever written it may not be quite the same but, for the people who live in a verbal culture, the loss is tremendous.

Every time I asked a question about the past history of the Moru people or Lui the people around would say, “Ask Morris.” Sure enough, Morris would tell me the history of the Moru people, the origins of the word for “spoon” in Moru, or whatever other question I might have. Morris is a gifted teacher. He teaches children English and the clergy and laity Theological Education by Extension (TEE). He also runs the bookstore where you can buy the Moru Bible which he helped translate and that he typed! He has a wonderful curiosity about things and a great kindness. He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Lui and served as the Archdeacon of Lui Parish for a time. He accomplished all this despite a third grade education. I have often pondered what Morris might have accomplished had his life not been so disrupted by war, famine and social upheaval. As it is, Morris is the library for Lui.

Morris has a great sense of joy, too, and he often could be located by the sound of his laughter. I was never sure where, exactly, he lived but his wife lived in Wiroh (pronounced Willow). When I asked why she lived fourteen miles away (or seven miles by the cutoff) he told me that when the Arabs were bombing Lui he felt he had to stay there anyway. He said he was not so important. His wife, however, was very important so she stayed with the children in her home village while he continued to work in Lui.

It was Morris who taught me about Moru dancing. I first saw what I thought must be authentic dancing at Christmastime but Morris said, “No, that is not the real dancing.” Finally when we went with Bishop Bullen to confirm candidates in Wiroh, Morris rounded up some of the elders of the community (men and women) including his wife and, with Morris beating out the rhythm on a little drum, they showed me REAL Moru dancing outside the church! Morris was my library of Moru history and culture.

I had another “reference” in Lui. Gordon, the administrator for the diocese, could always be counted on for another source of knowledge. Gordon carried the satellite phone for the diocese. Satellite phones work best outside and away from any large buildings that might obstruct the signal from the satellite so Gordon could always be found sitting under the mango tree on the cathedral grounds aiming the phone at the southern sky and waiting for calls from the diocesan offices in Nairobi. Although he is very serious, he has a great “yuk, yuk, yuk” kind of laughter which carried in the quiet of Lui. Once I commented to him that he was always sitting under the tree and he said he was, “Jeremiah 33 verse 3,” and then he quoted the Scripture to me: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Then, he laughed that great belly-laugh again.

I discovered that Gordon, who had lived from the age of eighteen to thirty-six in the bush as war was raging all around and who had been ordained without formal theological education, could tell me where to find any verse in the Bible I could think of. As I was called upon to preach at a moment’s notice, I would turn to Gordon and ask him where to find this or that verse and he never hesitated. He was better than any concordance sitting on my shelf at home. Gordon was my human concordance.

This past December we carried a small spiral-bound book from Church of the Advent’s kids. They each had written something of their lives, families and interests on a page that held a photograph of them. We brought it for the church in Lozoh so the children there could know who was praying for them. It was probably the most popular thing either Dan or I had carried there. Each day people would gather and we would try to explain what skateboarding was, how baseball was played, what coffee hour meant (a remarkable number of Advent’s children said their favorite thing about church was coffee hour!), or any number of other things the children had written about. We tried with words to explain things so different to them but always resorted to drawing with out hands or with a stick on the ground or, most usually, acting them out.

Sylvester, the priest in charge of Lui parish church and one of my former English students, was enjoying the explanations one day when he looked at me, smiled, and said the nickname my former English class had given me—a nickname I had completely forgotten—and we both laughed. Sylvester made me think about how each person is a library. To teach English I had to use a Ugandan book so I had to explain things they didn’t have like post offices, banks, newspapers, sports and games. How ridiculous I know I looked standing over an imaginary Titleist with an invisible putter trying to sink a fifteen-foot putt into a fictitious hole [“Why do people do this?”] or skipping across the compound or hitting an imaginary backhand down the line. I’m just glad I was the only person with a video camera! My students called me the “Two-Legged Dictionary.” When I saw Dan “pushing” an invisible skateboard he had drawn in the dirt for our friends in Lui, I knew he was a Two-Legged Dictionary, too.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Land of the Uninvited Guest

Years ago, I was introduced to the idea of the uninvited guest by my friend Rita who always set an extra place at any holiday table. An old Polish custom,, it was held open for one of the prophets (which one I don't remember) in case he should appear unexpectedly. I have always thought it was a lovely custom and that perhaps, we might also be waiting for Jesus, or an angel unaware.

Moru Land is the land of the uninvited guest. People drop by; chairs migrate from the payot to the shade of the nearest big tree, usually a giant mango and then back. The chairs are the same plastic chairs we can buy from Home Depot/China. They have supplanted the local folding chairs crafted from local mahogany.

I have stepped into the payot to get water as I did the other day to find David, one half of the CMS couple who live just down the Juba road, sitting there with Alyssa and Akeisha, two girls from the World Harvest group in Mundri. (CMS is the Church Missionary Society out of the UK). Alyssa is a young missionary who will be in Mundri for two years and is currently living in a safari tent while Akeisha is the middle school age daughter of the senior missionary couple. She has apparently lived her whole life in one part of Africa or another. The discussion centered around being able to get goat cheese from Khartoum. There's very little dairy in this part of the world. The rest of the talk was also about food and made Mundri sound like Whole Foods south Sudan.

In the evening after supper, we sit around outside the payot and people drop by. We chat about local people, world politics and finally we all say compline together.

Stephen was telling us that if he wants to visit one of his brothers, he simply arrives and stays as long as he wants. The same thing occurs with funerals. Family and friends come from many places and long distances for the three days of the funeral. The family provides at least one tukul and the guests take turns sleeping. Food is provided for everyone.

There is a grace and fluidity to hospitality here. I will miss the ease with which people move about. It is hard to be lonely if you are near the payot. Some one will be along in a minjute.



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Nearing the End

Ouch...I just looked the Cathedral Times and realized I ought to proof my blog better. I apologize for all the errors.

Debbie and I finished the Adult Education Teachers' Conference today, the last one of the three. There were eight teachers, three from Wandi which is on the famous road to Kediba. They work without pay to provide education for adults who missed their chance during the war. Almost everything in Sudan is a Gordian knot of scarcity. The teachers from Luinje School had very good books in Math, English and Science from the Secretariat of Education of New Sudan but only for the teachers...the teachers from the other schools were using curriculum from Uganda. And probably only books for teachers. Keep in mind there are no copiers...all supplies come from Juba or Uganda. To get more books from the govenment will mean an organized effort or a word in the ear of the appropriate official from the Bishop, maybe. Transportation and communication are a challenge all the time. Scarce and expensive.

Except for conferences, it appears they work in isolation much of the time. When I think of how much I have muttered about small glitches in my daily professional life over the years, I'm embarassed. I still believe my students are the future of our country but I'm not sure they do and it's clear they don't see themselves as helping to build it. The teachers and the youth here know they are helping to heal and build their country. Here in Sudan, everything is beginning again after the war. They are recreating their institutions pretty much from the ground up with very little money and few resources. The terrifying thing is that no one knows what will happen with the upcoming elections or the referendum. There is also the potential for more internal tribal violence. So the fragile peace and the hard-earned gains of the past five or six years could go up in smoke again.

At the end of the conference today we sang Jesus Loves Me in Moru and English with lively hand gestures, almost patty cake interspersed with clapping. Imagine Episcopalians doing something so lively...Debbie and I really enjoyed it. Then one of the teachers closed with prayer. The Moru pray almost as much as they wash their hands ...which is often. It is very clear that they know that Jesus loves them. As Pentecost approaches, are we as clear about the great rushing wind that could fill our lives with such certainty?


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Incarnation/Bathing

One of the reasons I wanted to come to Lui was to retrieve the nitty gritty of my body from the obsessive cleanliness of American culture. Every culture has different definitions but I've felt for years that we have carried this washing, sanitizing, this coverup of natural odors to a paranoid and unnatural extreme. Something is wrong when doctors tell us we're too clean, that we're preventing children from developing immunities to garden variety germs.

I grew up as a grubby little tomboy whose mother would laugh and say,"We all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die, anyway." Not that I'm dirty but there some things I just can't get that excited about.Cooking odors, for example. I discovered as a side benefit of being close to a complete vegetarian that my house smelled much better. Without meat grease, it's much easier to clean.

Don't get me wrong. I like hot showers and tub baths as well as the next one. I'd prefer a tile floor to a dirt one, a rug to a dirt floor but I can quite happily deal with dirty feet for a while. Do I enjoy sweating and smelling? Not particularly but it's been a while since that happened. (Consumer tip: nice organic deordorants don't make the grade here.) I'm glad to know that my body will still produce odors.

I've gone back to bathing twice a day the way I did in Venezuela. I feel better if I do. It's much easier to be a guest. John Noel, the compound manager, makes sure that the big iron cauldron is full of hot water twice a day. He makes a fire of sticks or bundles of grass. Steam rises off the water. I go get the blue plastic basin from the washing room and dip the hot water into it. There's also a jerry can of cool water nearby to add to the hot water. I learned not fill it too full because there's a high step into the washing room. Jim suggested filling the basin in the room. Debbie suggested as an alternative setting the full basin on the step first.

Once inside with my clothes hanging on the one hook (I don't take a change of clothing because there's really no place to hang it.) first I use the tin cup to pour water over my entire body to get it wet. Then I use Dr.Bronner's Lavender Castile Liquid soap as a shampoo, the extra suds under my arms etc. I use cake soap on my face. Then I scrub everything with my wash cloth. Then I rinse everything a couple of times with the tin cup. Then I dry myself off with my extra special technical towel which dries rapidly when I hang it on my mosquito net with clothespins.

A number of times I've done this in the dark resting my head lamp and my small flashlight on the high window ledge. It's kind of like Ray Charles shaving in the dark. I know where my body parts are and I can tell which soap by touch.

This time period has helped me reconnect with the simple minimum of how do things. I have a more intimate sense of my own body again. It's helped remind me how little I really need to be comfortable. Would I want to do this for a really long time? Probably not. It reminds me how much I don't need. Do I love my servomechanisms? My washer? My dryer? My dishwasher? My shower? Yes, but Lui has reminded I don't have to have them.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Ironies

It's alway seemed ironic to me that doing good works in the developing world produce opportunities worthy of an Evelyn Waugh of Paul Theroux novel.

I find it odd that I can preach twice in two weeks in Lui and schmooze with the bishop when in the States, I certainly wouldn't be allowed the pulpit at the Cathedral. I've only passed pleasantries with the last two bishops of Missouri but was invited to be part of a discussion about finding a replacement for a pastor who had recently died here. I'm aware of the novelty factor of being an American in an impoverished community although Europeans of various NGO sorts appear to be thick on the ground in this part of Africa. No backpackers carryingthe Lonely Planet at all.

I preached at Buwagyi yesterday to a full church. Oneil, one of the pastors, who had come back from Juba for the funeral of the pastor who died, translated for me. He kindly lent me hisMoru hymnal so I could follow the hymns which I could usually work outby the antepenultimate verse thanks toMorris' Moru lessons. No clue what they meantbut I could utter the words. Working with a translator creates a kind of split page. I had time to look at the congregation and wished I could take photographs of some of the congregation. I think it went well but the Moru are very polite so I probably won't know with any certainty what they actually thought.

This coming Sunday I preach at Fraser Cathedral which given the season of Pentecost, will give mean opportunity to talk about unity in Jesus.

Remind me next time you see me about the time the governor of the state of Aragua,Venezuela, invited himself to lunch at my house in the barrio. He came without his bodyguards but plunked a pearl handled revolver down on the table next to his plate. That's one chapter in the novel.

Next, how to bath in a large blue plastic basin from China whhich I'm going to go do now.



Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today in Lui

Be sure to check Debbie Smith’s account of the missioners’ activities today (May 24) at LuLuLui. Debbie reports that Mary Seager preached at Buwagyi, and they had a very full day.

Debbie writes of Mary: “I don't think she's going to blog today; she mostly wants to lie down from the heat ….” Apparently, it is awfully hot and humid now.

In the meantime, here’s a photo I took of the Buwagyi church -- where Mary preached today -- back in 2006:

And of the interior, with Manyigugu/Darius holding the bishop’s crozier:

I remember this church well, because it had artwork all around the walls. Drawings like this went all the way around the chancel walls and down the walls of the nave.

I wonder whether it still looks that way.

I hope you all don't mind my "chipping in" with updates and old photos.

I’m sure that, like me, you are eager to hear first-hand from Mary and Jim, but they’re sleeping now. Remember Lui is 8 hours later than CDT.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Finding my rhythm

I'm procrastinating. I should be starting to work on my sermon but I wanted to do this first. I just reread the last blog and I apologize for the omitted words. I was using the laptop on which the space bar sticks, typing using my head lamp for light (indispensable for reading in bed and finding my way to the lat...greatest attribute besides light is that it's hands free.)

It's taken me a week but I'm finding my rhythm within the rhythm of life here. We are saying compline about 9 pm and then to bed. I'm taking one bath in the evening to wash off the day's dust (think Georgia on my mind) and sweat...there is hot water from a giant cauldron) and then another in the morning to wake up. We have breakfast, usually breads of some kind with Ugandan tea or tinned coffee I brought from Uganda. Then some activity. The last two days it was the youth conference. We walked from the cathedral compound to Luinje School in the early evening on the Juba road...the only two lane graded road in the area...red dust...with Stephen and Gordon pulling us out the way of enormous speeding trucks, motorcycles. The flock of sheep with one trailing lamb managed to get across on its own. Then dinner. Some sitting around telling stories with Ramsey, Stephen and Darius. Ramsey told us about witnessing the birth of his son and how it changed his life. Stephen described hunting dikdik and antelope in the forest with bows and arrows.
Moru lesson with Morris who translated the Bible into Moru. Lunch with the team with Gordon whom we had check an article about the Moru from Wikipedia. It apparently was accurate because it turned out that Debbie and Gordon knew most of the people whose work had been referenced. More Moru shortly. Then to the sermon.



Friday, May 22, 2009

Lui Down

I received a phone message today from Debbie Smith from Lui. Apparently, the generator in Lui is down, so our team cannot blog or respond to e-mails. She wants us all to know this is why there are no blogposts from Lui today.

Debbie hopes the generator will be repaired soon. I’m sure you join me in hoping that is true.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Medical Supplies En Route

News from the “Home Team”

I like Susan Naylor’s concept that we have a “Home Team” and an “Away Team” at this time in our relationship between the Dioceses of Lui and Missouri. Debbie, Jim, and Mary are the “Away Team” for now. They are doing marvelous work and relationship-building in Lui, and my prayers are with them almost without ceasing. Like many of you, I hit the LuiNotes and LuLuLui blogs each day – in fact, multiple times each day – hoping for more news from the “Away Team” in Lui. God bless and inspire them and keep them safe.

Meanwhile work goes on here for the “Home Team,” and I’ve been asked to keep folks informed of significant news.

Today was a big one!

Many of you know that the Companion Diocese Committee has had a task force coordinating the collection of medical supplies for Lui Hospital. Marc Smith has coordinated that effort, receiving marvelous support from many Missouri hospitals and Washington University. The many donations were consolidated, packed, and palletized in April, primarily by members of Grace Episcopal Church in Jefferson City.

The shipment is four pallets, weighing about 3,260 pounds. That’s over 1½ tons of support for the Lui Hospital

Charlie Walch of First Choice Courier & Distribution is handling the shipment from the U.S. to Africa. We have had many conversations among the folks working on this. Today I received the delightful news that the shipment has left St. Louis, headed overland to Chicago, then New York, then by ocean transport to Mombasa, Kenya. Today Charlie sent me details. The medical supplies should leave New York on June 6, aboard the President Truman, expected to arrive in Mombasa on July 15. Thanks be to God!

Then it will be up to our friends in Lui to coordinate the overland transport from Mombasa to Lui. Debbie and our mission team are working with the Lui staff to make sure this goes smoothly.

Pilgrim's Progress: Dancing to Wandi and Kediba

When Bishop Bullen said that we would be dancing to Wandi and Kediba, I should have been forewarned about our excursion to visit Wandi and to see the sorghum grinding mill in Kediba. It was like riding a mechanical bull ride in a Texas country and western bar for two hours. It was hot too. Jim, Debbie and I were accompanied by Stephen, Margaret, and Gordon, three of the pastors.

In Wandi we were greeted by a large group of children and women singing and dancing with branches. Then all of them shook our hands...it was very moving but by the end I had an inkling of politicians and celebrities greeting their fans. We moved into the payot where we had lunch with pastor and elders. Of course, we shook hands with every. The assistant chief was there also because the chief had gone to a chief's' meeting. It was fascinating because the roof of the payot had been recently replaced and it felt like being inside a beautiful basket. After the lunch of rice and chicken, we got back in the truck and went on to Kediba where we sat under a tree with the pastor and ate fresh mangos which Margaret peeled for us. It was a great treat because we had just missed the mango season in Lui. We walked over to see the grinding mill the Mothers' Union purchased through a UTO grant. (Now you know what happens to your "mite boxes.")

More later....we're(Debbie and Jim) off to Lui Market with Vasco. Somehow I couldn't organize the movies and dinner or even an iced tea. This is our treat instead. Tomorrow we continue with the second day of the youth conference. Debbie and I will preaching this Sunday; Jim on Pentecost at Lui Parish, the companion parish to his. Keep us in special preaching prayers.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Susan's Story

Several of you have asked how/why Susan Naylor was blocked from her flight to Africa. Here is her own story. I am posting this to the blog on her behalf. Please respond to her.

It was a good plan. It could have worked. It should have worked. I should have been able to make the trip from my husband Earl's recital at St. Thomas Church in Manhattan to the Newark Airport with time to spare. Earl's recital was wonderful, and all too soon afterward it was time for me to go.

We hailed a cab, piled in my (carefully packed and weighed) bag and off I went to Penn Station.

I asked at the information and ticket booth which train would take me to Newark / Liberty Airport. The attendant sold me my ticket and told me "There's a train loading now on track 9 - if you run, you can make it. Next one will be in 20 minutes."

So I ran, and I made it, rejoicing that this lucky connection would get me there a little early.

Unfortunately for me and a half dozen others, we found out too late that we were actually on an express train to Trenton, and it did not stop at the airport. By the time I could get off and get back to Newark, I was too late to check in for my flight.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Heartbroken was more like it.

After checking every available option, and in consultation with Lisa and Debbie, we decided that it was best to leave this trip in the very capable hands of Debbie, Mary and Jim.

I am trusting that things worked out this way for a reason, and even though I can't see what it is right now, I know in whom I trust. So, I am now part of the "Home Team," holding the "Away Team" in prayer, and eagerly awaiting each new posting.

For all of you who have been praying for me, thank you, and keep those prayers coming - I obviously need them. I'll be joining our prayer partners at 7:00 a.m. to pray for the travelers, who are now safely in Lui.


[Posted by Lisa Fox on behalf of Susan Naylor]

Pilgrim's Progress: Africa/Kamapala/Lui

We've arrived. We're in Lui after much time in flying machines. All the air time was blessedly uneventful. All the luggage arrived with us. It's always a relief to see your bag approaching you on the carousel.

The Missionary Aviation Fellowship guesthouse was simpole and very pleasant. The veranda looked out to the hills surrounding Kampala. Debbie and I went into Kampala in a car with a driver. We got Ugandan shillings and shopped at a government craft village and then at a mini-Walmart in a shopping center.

The MAF flight left from their airfield in Kaajansi. The pilot who appeared to be an Aussie offered a prayer forus and our mission before we took off. It felt comforting and made me feel like a member of the fellowship. We stopped in Arua for fuel and Yei to drop off a German couple and then to Mundri airfield, a wide place in the bush. On the ride to Lui we mostly saw women walking with bundles on their heads, young men on bicycles or motor bikes, and two enormous trucks.

The people in Lui welcomed us in the paiyat in the Cathedral compound. That's a tukul used for gatherings and meals. It's really really hot so I feel stupefied. No deathless prose today.

We sat around as men, mostly priests, came in to welcome us and chat. It was so good to see Stephen Dokolo again. We ate lunch with everybody and then went toour rooms and laid down a napped. It's that hit on the head pass out kind of nap I remember from Venezuela. You wake up sweating and feeling stupid. It's the alternative to the only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.

Gordon, one of the priests, gave us the schedule for the visit. Two weeks will go by very quickly.
We'll visit four other communities and offer three two day conferences for different groups.

The new internet connection via a large satellite dish and generator is quite fast so you'll be hearing from me again.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Safe Arrival in Kampala

Debbie Smith e-mailed me at 2:30 p.m. (CDT) that she, Jim Hinrichs, and Mary Seager have arrived safely in Kampala. They left St. Louis yesterday, shortly after noontime. This is a vivid reminder of just how far a journey this is; it takes about 24 hours of plane rides and transfers to reach Kampala. Tomorrow, Susan Naylor will arrive in Kampala, then they’ll be heading on a MAF plane into Lui.

Debbie reports: “We're beat, going to say compline and go to bed. Keep the prayers going - we had the most uneventful trip ever.”

It’s now almost 11 p.m. in Kampala – 8 hours later than Missouri.

Now that we have restored telecommunications in Lui, look for our missioners to report here and at Debbie Smith’s LuLuLui.

Also remember that we are asking everyone to pray with/for our missioners at 7 a.m. (CDT) each day through the duration of the trip.

For those wanting a “refresher” on the purposes of this trip, see the story at the diocesan website.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Way Stations

The last post from the States. I don't really see myself using the public computers in Detroit Metro or Amsterdam or... I've tried that and they're mostly junk and by the time you've figured out their quirks, the money's run out. So God willing the next time I post it will be from Kampala and/or Lui.

I passed the weight test, I hope. I'm going to repack and see what I can eliminate to get it down a little further. And drink only water and eat only dry bread until I've been weighed on the cargo scale. I feel like a prizefighter trying to make weight for a big fight.

I watched "Farrah's Story" last night relearning old lessons. Nothing is promised. In the end, money, beauty and fame can't protect you. It's not a problem if you have the money to fix it. There are some things all the money in the world can't fix. Her friends kept saying she was being so brave. People used to say that to me. I had a difficult time with that because I knew fear was driving me. She has had a much harder time than I had. (I'll let you in on a secret. Most cancer survivors keep a hierarchy of direness tucked away in their minds and almost unconsciously rank other people's disease. Usually we only talk about it amongst ourselves) Why would I watch something like that the night before I leave for Sudan? Periodically I need to be reminded how truly and deeply blessed I have been, to celebrate the fact that I'm alive, to know that for whatever mysterious reasons of God's own, God has kept me here.

Voy con Dios.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Minutiae of Setting Off

"Pilgrimage is always about movement from head to heart."
a Bishop of Massachusetts

It turns out that the journey between the head and the heart is very long and filled with the minutiae of travel, particularly foreign and to a truly far place. Each piece reveals yet another complexity and yet another mini journey branching off into a place only glimpsed.
Much has to be taken on faith.

An example was my immunization list. Some I had already had; some I needed to renew. The meningitis turned into a small quest. I had had Guillain-Barre in college which knocked one form of vaccine out completely and raised the spectre of G-B returning. After many phone calls which resulted in little definite information, I finally settled on pneumovax instead. I still think science is definite although I know better than that. If you travel far enough afield, you encounter elegant metaphors, great works of the imagination and finally at the end of science, miracle. So I pray that I made the right choice.

Then the list of diseases on offer in south Sudan. Read quickly any list becomes poetry but this list included some old friends: filariasis (elephantiasis), dengue and schistosomiasis (liver flukes, a particularly nasty parasite that infests fresh water in the tropics.) So no swimming in the river and plenty of DEET.

I make lists and check things off and make new lists with piles of things. To repeat Joseph Smith's curse, I feel as if "I'm being bitten to death by ducks."

Saturday still seems very far away and I don't feel ready whatever that means. I'm looking forward to sitting on the plane with my plane toys. Thick trashy novels which I leave behind on the seat. An electronic NYT crossword gizmo. I can even watch the little video tracking the flight quite happily. It's almost meditative. I'm not taking my iPod, one less charger, one less thing to lose.

I am excited by the fact I found a travel Bible on the Christian Dollar website. New King James with Jesus' words in red, a blue leatherette cover (emphasis on the 'ette) with a little gilt clasp which is already peeling. But it's all there so if I preach, I can actually use the Hebrew Bible too.

I'm lost somewhere in the capillaries of the esophagus...nowhere near the heart yet.

I am looking forward to the stripping away of all the conveniences of the West to an enforced simplicity. I need to get away from stuff for a while. After Venezuela, it took me a long time to buy a vacuum cleaner and I didn't have a television until I got married. Part of a pilgrimage for me is setting things down by the roadside because they have become a burden.

"The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked."
Basil the Great