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.