Trip to Juba

One of the reasons we had had trouble driving through Juba on our way
up was that the vehicle registration was out of date. So this past
Thursday, Luke and I came into Juba to get the registration renewed.
We didn't expect it to be a long process, since all we needed was a
stamp and a signature on our logbook, and we didn't want to chance
getting fined again, so we decided to take the bus into town Thursday
morning, do our work that afternoon, spend the night at the ADRA
compound in Juba, then finish up any loose ends and head back to
Mundri Friday morning. It would just a brief trip in and out; no
tarrying in Vanity Fair for us!

So, Thursday morning, we got to the bus station about 8:30, only to
find that the last motatus (minibuses) had just left. That meant we
would have to take the slower bus, which was expected to arrive in
Juba around 3:00. This meant that we would be cutting things close,
but we still had Friday morning to finish up paperwork. So, we
purchased two tickets and boarded The Mundri Express. The vehicle
itself is an interested contraption: a collection of old bus seats,
wrapped in rectangular metal body that reminds one of a large tin can,
bolted to a truck chassis behind a separate driver's cab. Because the
passenger compartment was just tacked on the back of a truck, there is
a distinct lack of the kind of conveniences you would normally expect
to find on a bus, including, apparently, shocks. This makes for a
rough ride, as demonstrated by the poor shape of the seats. The poor
guy in front of Luke had no seatback to lean against, our own seat
kept threatening to split into separate parts, and the three seats
across from us collapsed completely during the trip!

We were scheduled to depart at 9:00 and were pleasantly surprised to
find the bus pulling away at 9:05. But our hopes were dashed when it
turned away from Juba and headed in the opposite direction. Had we
somehow completely misunderstood the destination of this bus? Now,
Sudan has little in the way of formal traffic rules, but the few they
do have are rigidly enforced. One of these, we've learned from
experience, is the importance of traffic circles. Perhaps, we
surmised, it was necessary for the bus to go back to the center of
town and circle the roundabout before heading on its way! As it
turns out, the driver simply needed to fuel up. After that it was
back to the bus station to pick up more passengers, a few more stops
on the way out of town, and then we were off.

The appellation Mundri Express is rather misguiding. It was most
certainly not an express trip to town. But at least we had plenty of
opportunities to stretch our legs and see the sights on the way :) We
finally arrived in Juba about 4:30, and thanks to the help of our kind
fellow passengers, managed to find the ADRA compound without too much
trouble. We spent the evening with Pastor Okayo, the district pastor
at Juba, and made plans to head out first thing in the morning.
Pastor Okayo already had guests, a mission group from Perth, so we set
up our mosquito nets under a tree on the compound.

The next morning, Luke headed out into a pouring rainstorm at 7:30 to
do battle with the traffic police bureaucracy with Sylvester, a friend
of Jared's, while I waited at the compound in the hopes that someone
from ADRA would help me change money. My day turned out to be quite
successful. I was able to get our money changed, charge my computer,
write a few of these blogs, and, thanks to the help of my sister,
figure out the settings to get internet access on our phone again!
Luke's day, on the other hand, was a bit more frustrating. Apparently
the traffic police are in the middle of changing the process of
vehicle registration, and that fact, combined with the complications
and general pace of life that accompany African bureaucracy meant that
what should have been a simple visit became quite a labyrinthine
procedure. First of all, the office didn't open until 10:00. And then
because of the rain, many employees were delayed. Then several needed
to take tea. Finally, once people started arriving, he and Sylvester
were shuttled back and forth between numerous offices, collecting
signatures and receipts and paying fees. They were just about
finished, having paid all the fees and collected all the necessary
paperwork, and were lacking only the final laminated card, when the
office closed for lunch. So they waited until after lunch. But then,
upon returning, they discovered that the power was off, and the
generators could not be started. "Come back on Monday," they told
him... So, that's what we'll have to do.

In the meantime we've had a lovely time, going hear Pastor John
Horvath, the pastor from Australia, share about the group's
experiences in Wau for vespers on Friday night, camping out under the
stars, and sharing in Pastor Okayo's hospitality. Sabbath morning I
wasn't feeling too great, but I decided to go with Luke and few others
to visit the Juba Prison. I'm glad I did; it was an insightful
experience. Before entering the prison, each person had to surrender
their cell phones (no pictures allowed) and take a visitor card.
"Don't lose it or you can't come back out," the guards told us. I
think they were joking.

Inside the tall walls was a large compound with a few hundred men
standing around. We went behind one of the buildings and found about
50 young guys, excited to have church with us. After a few energetic
songs ("Don't be lazy about praising the Lord!" the prison pastor
admonished everybody), the visitors were introduced to much applause.
I, however, was not included. "I am not going to introduce this
brother, because he will introduce himself before he gives the
sermon," said our host. Having been recently informed of this, I was
frantically looking through my Bible for ideas. I think the Holy
Spirit helped me find something, and I ended up speaking about how
immediately after his greatest triumph, the prophet Elijah fled into
the desert, scared and dejected, and how even at his lowest point, God
strengthened him and patiently waited until he was ready to listen.
As James says, Elijah truly was a man just like us, with shortcomings
and frailties, yet God used him to do powerful things in Israel.

Luke and I certainly have our share of frailties, but I hope and pray
we can be used by God here in Sudan, in 2010.



This past Sabbath was a special Sabbath at Mundri; we had 8 baptisms!
Now I didn't understand exactly what this was going to entail, but I
definitely gained an education in the proper way to do a baptism in
South Sudan. After church, Pastor Nelson announced that we would be
going to the river for the baptisms. This made sense, as the church
has no baptistry. But as the congregation started to march through
town singing, I began to realize that this would be more than just a
simple trip to the river. We proceeded to parade through the entire
town, right up main street; the youth choir in front, then the
baptismal candidates in white robes, and then the rest of the
congregation following behind. We walked past the shops, past the
restaurants, past the traffic police, past a political rally, all the
way across the Mundri bridge, about two miles from the church.

By the time we arrived at the riverbank, we had gathered quite a lot
of spectators, and, not one to miss an opportunity to reach a crowd,
our friend Charles, a former Global Mission pioneer preached a rousing
sermon about Jesus' example of baptism by immersion. It was quite a
warm day, and by the time he was finished, I bet he could have
collected several more willing volunteers for an immersion!

Finally Pastor Nelson called each candidate out into the water and
baptized them, alternating between speaking in Arabic and English.
Everybody cheered and we all sang a few more songs. While all this
was going on, several Indonesians from the local UN camp drove across
the bridge to the other side of the river and commenced with their
weekly bath. I wonder what they thought of all the commotion across
the river :) Anyway, it was quite an experience; baptism is supposed
to be a public demonstration of a life-changing decision, and this was
definitely public!




Jared gave us a whirlwind tour of Mundri and the surrounding area on
Sabbath and Sunday, and then he and Eric caught an AIM flight out of
Mundri on Monday morning. Since then Luke and I have been working on
a variety of things, but primarily on fixing up the compound and
making connections with local church members, government officials,
and other missionaries in the area.

The people in Mundri have made us feel quite welcome. We were
introduced in church and have made friends with several different
church members. We've started learning our way around town and have
even located the local pita bread baker :) Mundri seems to be laid
out in a straight line East to West along the main road from Juba,
with most of the shops and government offices (Mundri is the county
seat) along the road and then people's homes further back.

Frontline Builders has a fenced compound is several hundred meters
north the road on the west side of town, in the residential section,
past the Mundri SDA church compound. The compound is very green right
now, with lots of trees--and plenty of brush! The different fruit
trees we've found on the compound so far are guavas (just finishing),
bananas (just ripening), oranges, papaya, pineapples, mangos, and
tamarind! Unfortunately we're going to miss the mango harvest, but
I'm looking forward to some delicious papaya and bananas and trying
some tamarind pods as well! There are also a few acacia, palm, teak,
and umbrella trees as well.

We've spent much of our time over the past two weeks cutting back some
of the less welcome plants from around the compound. Other activities
include fixing numerous holes in the fence, getting the solar charging
system working again, replacing the rear break pads on our cruiser,
and planting an experimental vegetable garden. Luke has lots of
different varieties of vegetables that he wants to try in the Mundri
climate, and we've planted 10 or 11 kinds of beans, 8 kinds of
tomatoes, cucumbers, sorghum, amaranth, peppers, carrots, different
kinds of greens, beets, onions, corn, cilantro, parsley, etc., etc.
Should be interesting to see what turns up.

One interesting project that we tried just the other day was making
our own hot sauce. We found a plant full of tiny red peppers. I
wasn't fooled by their cute appearance, having encountered them before
in Fiji--they're fiery! We've already burned through one of our two
bottles of Kenya-bought hot sauce, so I was eager to work on a
replacement. With gloved hands, we carefully collected a bowl full of
these little firebombs in preparation for some homemade hot sauce. We
don't have access to any refrigeration, so we decided to make a
brine-based sauce that will hopefully last a little longer. We
pan-roasted the peppers first, and then boiled a few spoonfuls in some
fresh lime juice with a teaspoon of salt, before mashing the mix and
straining the liquid into our old hot sauce jar. In the process we
spilled a little of the mixture on our front porch. I washed it off a
few minutes later, and found that the hot sauce had etched a small
hole in the surface of the concrete. I think this variety should last
just a little longer than the store-bought stuff :)

So since I've tantalized you with a bit of information about our food
situation here, let me say just a little more. Luke and I have
decided not to hire a local cook, both to economize and because as
Luke said, "Doing our own cooking and cleaning is good for our
characters." (We have compromised a bit in the area of laundry :) So,
mornings we usually have oatmeal or a little granola and pitas with
peanut butter and jelly, and--as of the ripening the first of our
banana trees--some bananas, and often some milk tea. Lunch usually
consists of some kind of beans or lentils, sometimes rice, some sort
of vegetable dish--eggplant, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, etc., and
pitas and bananas and peanut butter. For supper we eat leftovers and
pitas and peanut butter and jelly and usually some bananas. Yes, we
do go through a lot of pitas, peanut butter, and bananas! In fact,
we're thinking about building our own brick kiln oven, and purchasing
a grinder, so as to stem the flow of pounds from our pockets to the
local bakers and peanut butter vendors!

Most of our cooking and daytime living centers around a little room in
the small house on the compound. We store our food and things in the
room and cook and sit out front. But as darkness falls, we retreat to
our mosquito net-ensconced beds in "the loft." The loft is a
second-story platform with a thatched roof across the compound.
Because the platform is open on all four sides, it's a little cooler
than sleeping inside; the only drawbacks are that wasps seem to like
sleeping in the rafters as well, and that the termites don't
sleep--instead, they appear to enjoy dragging mud up from the ground
to the second story and building tunnels through my clothes. I've
since relocated all three of the above: the wasps, the termites, and
my clothes!)

Because darkness falls fairly early, we usually have a little time to
read in the evenings before going to bed. Luke has been reading me
humorous excerpts from Bill Bryson's "The History of Nearly
Everything," among other things, and I've been reading a bunch of
different books as well. In addition to the Books of John and James,
which I've been reading for devotions lately, I've been learning a lot
about African history through such books as "Emma's War," about South
Sudan's fight with Khartoum, "Wizard of the Nile," about Joseph Koney
and the LRA, "Into Africa," about Livingston and Stanley, and "Heart
of the Nile," about Sam and Florence Baker's explorations in Sudan.
I've also been delving into some of Luke's agriculture books, as well
as a book about the new shape of world Christianity and the EGW
compilation "Adventist Home." I'm going to need to procure some more
books soon, I think.


The Trip North

The Trip North

Well, we're here.

Actually, we've been here for two weeks now, but I haven't had
internet access until now. Thank you for your prayers and your

Wow, so much has happened! The trip north from Nairobi to Mundri took
about three and a half days--long days. The four of us, Luke and I,
Jared, and Eric left Nairobi about noon on Tuesday, the 28th of
September. We slept around a fire the first night beside the road,
high up in the Kenyan mountains. We were surrounded by beautiful pine
trees, and it got quite cold--not exactly what I had expected! The
next day however, we descended into the furnace. The winding road
took us abruptly out of the woods and down into the desert, and the
scenery changed to scrub brush, termite mounds, and camels.

I really enjoyed seeing all the different vistas, which was fortunate,
because I had an unobstructed view of these changes from my perch on
the back of our loaded truck--the seat I maintained for the entire
journey :) We arranged the luggage so that Luke's motorbike was in
the middle of the truck bed with our bags on either side, our
thermarests and blankets arranged on top, and then a large tarp over
all that with tie-downs running over everything. Don't worry Mom, I
was in no danger of falling off; the two of us who were riding in the
back reclined underneath the tie-downs. I even managed to doze a few
times :)

Anyway, we continued through the desert, stopping at a town called
Lodwar that evening. Jared has a friend, David, who works at the
petrol station in Lodwar, and he invited us to his compound for the
night. I was really touched by David's generous spirit. Not only did
he allow us to spend the night at his house, and feed us two meals,
but because he has a job that provides some amount of steady income
(although meager), he has taken on the task of providing for his
brothers, his mother, some of his wife's siblings, nephews in school,
and so on. He really takes Paul's injunction for believers to care
for their family members seriously.

The next morning we made it to the Sudanese border, and after quite a
bit of negotiation, paperwork, and taxation, we were allowed into the
country. As Jared and Luke were busy with all that, I made friends
with several of the soldiers sitting around. They were quite
interested in America and seemed to think that all of my explanations
were hilarious. One of the things that struck them as particularly
funny was my attempt to explain why I was not yet married. Most of
them had several wives, but I, a comparatively wealthy, healthy man of
marriageable age, had none. When I explained that I was waiting to
find the right one, they roared with laughter. "You have spent 23
years in America and you haven't found the right one yet?" they asked.
"Maybe after another 23 you will find her!" "Perhaps I will find one
here in South Sudan," I said. This was greeted with additional
laughter, and they kindly explained that I didn't have enough cows to
buy a Sudanese wife. "You would need at least 100 cows," they told
me. Apparently I'm too picky for an American wife and too poor for a
Sudanese one. I guess I'll have to wait a while longer :)

We spent a short night a little ways into Sudan, at the town of
Kapoeta. It was considered a full day of driving to reach Juba, and
we needed to go at least 4 hours past Juba, to Mundri. Friday morning
we headed out at 4:00 am, and fortunately, due to the hard work of the
UN World Food Programme workers who were doing some road renovations,
we made it to Juba around 2:00. After some more hassles in Juba,
which left me with a distinct aversion to the town, we left for Mundri
around 5:30, less some money, and carrying another passenger (a friend
of the military police who stopped us at the checkpoint on the way out
of town and who wanted a ride to Mundri.) This made for a rather
crowded four hours, as the volume of the money we left behind was more
than taken up by the person we picked up. Needless to say, we were
grateful to arrive at Frontline's compound in Mundri shortly after
9:00 pm Friday evening. It was quite the trip, and we're very
thankful that God kept us safe and enabled us to arrive without any
major delays. I hope to be able to post some pictures of the trip in
a little while.