Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I just got back from a week in Egypt with my sister Audrey, and our long-time friend Melissa. The pyramids and the sphinx and the tombs and temples were absolutely breathtaking! I still can’t believe we were there! After climbing in and out of pyramids and tombs and up and down the 5 floor walk-up hostel we were staying at, and riding camels, we were quite sore, but it was all worth it! I have never seen anything so amazing! I look at this picture and still can’t quite believe it.

Audrey then came and spent a week with me in Juba. We did workshops, went on a couple road trips to Lainya and Rokon, met with teachers and bishops, and visited the one swimming pool in town! It was wonderful to have her and share what my life is like here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Joke!

I have a joke to share with you. Bishop Alapayo has told it to me twice, because I asked for a repeat performance.
There was a pastor in a rural church, and there was an old woman who went to his church who lived alone. She had a cat who she loved very much, so one day she took the cat to the pastor and said, “I love this cat very much, and I want to make sure that he goes to heaven with me, so I would like you to baptize him.” The pastor was surprised, and tried gently to tell her that he couldn’t baptize a cat. But the old lady insisted, and said, “you know this cat is very important to me, it would make me so happy if you baptized him, I would put an iron sheet roof on the church.” Well, the pastor thought about it, Why not? And so he baptized the cat, and the old lady was good on her word, she fixed up the church properly, and everyone was very happy. But then the bishop heard about the cat. He called the pastor to him, “What is this I hear about you baptizing cats!” “Well, your Lordship it was only one cat, and now we have iron sheets for a roof.” The bishop continued to scold the pastor thoroughly. Then a few weeks later the bishop was visiting the church. “Oh, pastor,” he said, “What has happened to your church?” The pastor smiled and said, “remember that cat I baptized?” And the bishop said “Bring that cat to me, and I will confirm it!”
Ok, so it’s probably not as funny without Bishop Alapayo telling it. My favorite part is the “Oh Pastor,” the way Bishop Alapayo says it, and the way you can see the punchline building in his grin and the twinkle in his eyes. And then he tells the punchline again, and we laugh again. In my family we like to retell punchlines too!

Part of the humor of the joke is how important roofs are here. The vast majority of villages in south Sudan are made up entirely of thatched buildings. Houses, schools, churches, stores all thatched buildings. I have seen some impressively huge thatched structures. But thatch has to be replaced at least every 3 years, and mud buildings get infested with termites and bats, and have to be rebuilt at least every 10 years, and it is a lot of work, and a lot of materials. So an “iron sheet” roof, which we would call “corrugated tin”, and which is actually zinc, is the desire of every church that meets under a tree or a thatched roof. In communities where no other building has a permanent roof, the people make the church roof their first priority.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pray for Peace

The UN has officially recognized death tolls from violent conflict are now higher in south Sudan than Darfur. Leaders in the government as well as other leaders including Archbishop Daniel, have sounded the alarm that the peace agreement which ended the longest running civil war in Africa in 2005, is now in danger of failing. But there is still hope!

Please pray for the peace process, pray for the leaders of Sudan, pray for the Church, pray for the people.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

ECS Agriculture Gifts

For those of you interested in supporting the specific projects of the ECS Agriculture Office, here is your opportunity!
Click Here for a brochure that has funding options from $40 to $70,000 to support the work of the agriculture department of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, which I am helping to establish. If you are interested, please contact Frank Gray (info on brochure).
(photo: demonstration garden at the ECS guest house, paid for by small gifts fundraising)

Monday, June 1, 2009

God can revivie us!

The hot winds blew across the parched ground. The rains are late this year in Abyei. There are scattered scrub trees, but the grass has long since been grazed to nothing on the flat, dry plain. We gathered at the site of the ECS church and school, which were destroyed in violence that flared one year and two weeks ago. The church is now just a grass mat shade structure under a partially burned tree, with indistinct piles of rubble around. The mother’s union came to greet us with song, dance, and welcome banners carefully lettered in English and Arabic. Just like churches everywhere, the ladies wore nametags, and just like churches across Sudan coming to greet their Archbishop, they jumped and danced and clapped and sang with glee. The Sunday school came out in a line, dancing and singing with hand-cut tissue paper flowers in their hair. There were cold sodas, and loud speakers. Everyone wore their best clothes. It was a celebration of great joy.

Bishop Francis Loyo of Rokon Diocese was with our delegation. He had been the ECS representative sent to Abyei last year to distribute emergency assistance after the conflict. He spoke to the people, “Following Christ is not an easy task. It is founded on suffering.” Bishop Loyo is a man of tremendous faith, and unquenchable joy.

One of the representatives from the government addressed the gathered congregation, “Despite everything we have suffered, we still trust in God who can revive us.”

God can revive us! That thought has remained with me. As in the other desperate and conflict torn places in southern Sudan, there was unexpected hope and abundance among the ashes.

Visiting Abyei was part of the Archbishop’s tour of Wau diocese. We spent a week in the town of Wau for a diocesan meeting. It was the longest I’ve spent in any town besides Juba, and it was a bit like going on a short term mission trip with the staff from the provincial office, and several bishops. We spent a lot of time chatting together, meeting people, and putting on workshops. A group of women priests (photo above) waited on us hand and foot, and it seemed as though a goat or sheep was slaughtered every night for a feast. When we left, we were presented with gifts. The men received walking sticks, and I was given a beautiful carved tea tray, and an embroidered bed sheet. This is the paradox of mission work, you go to serve, give, and work, and in turn you are served, given gifts, and revived!

God can revive us! This is a theme that has entered my agriculture workshops as well. It has surprised me how closely agriculture and theology can be related. Without realizing it was happening, the lessons I have learned traveling with the Archbishop have worked their way into my teaching. Peace, development, and agriculture improvement do not come from stuff, they come from a changing of the human heart, and that is the work of the Spirit. Should we pray for our land? Should we pray for the knowledge to help revive it? Are the answers already written in creation around us? Yes, yes, yes! Our job—each one of us, as members of the human race who hope for a better tomorrow—is to plant the seeds. We can plant the seeds of hope in everything we do. The Spirit will water them.