Kotobi Church #3 - The Last Week

Luke is putting together box-forms for pouring the bond beam. Doesn't he look nice in this picture? (He is in real life too :)

Here you can see a lot of different things going on. The pre-fabbed trusses are lying in two halves on the ground in preparation for being welded together. The bond beam on top of the walls is finished. And the little boxes on top of the pillars are Luke's ingenious solution to our problem of having trusses wider than our foundation (and thus, walls.) Rather than building a complicated form to go around each of the pillars, we just poured an extra level of beam on top of the pillars, connected with rebar 'S's to the main beam, and sunk the metal sleeves (for holding the tabs on the trusses) into them, centered on the pillars, rather than on the wall. It was a little tricky because the sleeves had to be spaced pretty precisely in order for the trusses to fit into them. Thankfully everything fit perfectly!

The day came when we needed to weld the trusses together and get them set up in place in order to stay on track for our opening Sabbath on January 22. The only problem was that we had been unsuccessful in our attempts to obtain a welding shield. A search of our container turned up some strange things but no welding shield. A subsequent perusal of the Mundri shops, following rabbit trails all around town, turned up only some sunglasses and a welder who had a pair of slightly darker goggles, but wouldn't loan them to us. Next we heard that there was a welding engineer at the Oxfam compound just outside Kotobi who might have a shield he'd loan us. Luke headed over to follow up on this rumor on his motorbike early that morning, only to find that while there had indeed been an engineer who did welding there, he was long gone, and all his equipment with him. So, dead end, right? Not with Luke on the case. He proceeded to beg several pieces of broken plate glass off of our new Oxfam friends and smoke them over a kerosene flame, producing a highly functional, if somewhat bulky and fragile, welding shield. He then cheerfully held it for me as I welded all five trusses together, tacked them to their metal sleeves on the wall, and them put braces onto the system to keep the trusses from swaying. It was definitely a bush solution, but it worked!

This is the view from the church, looking down the hill to the main road. The trees on the left are on Paul's compound, the church elder who helped spearhead the project.

And this is how the church Thursday morning, right before we started putting on the roofing sheets. The whole last week was an extraordinarily busy time. We'd been busy before, but this week we worked until well after sunset almost every night, trying to get things finished enough so we'd be able to worship in the new building on Sabbath. Thanks to the hard work of Sylvester and Estban (our masons), Sabit and Immanuel (assistants), and Paul, Julius, Phillip Muhammed, and many other church members who came to the church workbee on Friday to clear brush away around the outside and sweep, scrape, and mop the inside, and the tremendous blessings of the Lord, we met our goal and had church together that Sabbath.


Kotobi Church #2

In addition to stones, sand, cement, and bricks, another critical--and somewhat scarce--building material for the church was water. We were fortunate to have the remnants of a small river about a half mile from the church, and with the use of one Toyota Landcruiser pickup, about fifteen 25L jerry cans, and the help of what often seemed like twice that many eager little volunteers, we kept well-supplied with the precious stuff.

We poured the slab in four sections over about a week. It's quite a lot of work when you're doing everything by hand. We hired four guys to mix concrete and Luke and I and Sylvester (our head builder) spread, screeded, floated, troweled, and finished it. The reason why that section is wet is because slab strength increases with drying time.

Here we've just started laying up the walls. Behind the right corner, in the little cleared area you can just see where the hole for the pit latrine is being dug.

This is a shot of the front yard of Pastor Julius' house in Kotobi, where we stayed during the week. The blue mosquito net on the right is where I slept most of the time; Luke stayed in the tent behind it. You can see Luke starting breakfast in the background. For a while it was quite cold in the mornings, meaning that we were quite motivated to get a fire going and start cooking oatmeal!

This isn't market day, nor is it all of the market, but I think you can get a pretty decent idea of what the Kotobi Market was like from the picture. Every day, 6-10 ladies (and a few men) would gather under these trees with their rough lemons/oranges, sweet potatoes, cassava flour, mandazis (fried dough balls), packets of glucose biscuits, local bread (similar to white, low sodium hot dog buns), various greens, papayas, bags of Gnut paste (peanut butter), beans, sesame seeds, onions, and cooking oil.


Kotobi Church Pictures #1

This is the building the church members were meeting in originally.

It was well ventilated, but not in particularly good repair.

Luke is admiring the inside. Right behind me is a large termite mound. (Built-in pulpit?)
We're in the process of pouring the pad that will form the basis of the footings. The weeds around the perimeter are actually a sorghum field. The lady who planted them was a bit unsure at first that this new structure springing up in her field was worth the loss of her ripe sorghum!

One large problem we encountered was getting enough gravel for the concrete slab. The church members donated many hours of labor crushing large stones into small ones. This particular gentleman whom everyone called Mzee (pronounced "Muzay," a respectful Swahili title for a wise old man) came faithfully every day with his small hammer to break stones for a few hours. He told me that he had prayed for a church for a long time and was just happy to be able to actually see it happen. For my part, I was honored to work along side such an awesome guy.


A Month of Sabbaths

It's good to be home. I've been enjoying home cooking, reveling in the stark beauty of a New England winter, and delighting in plentiful and meaningful communication with family and friends. Today Mom and I collaborated on some creamy potato broccoli mushroom garlic soup and a batch of roasted garlic spelt bread. Substantive bread was one of the hardest things to do without in Sudan and Mom's homemade artisan bread is much appreciated :)

This Sabbath I'll be sharing at church about our experiences in Sudan. I've definitely had a variety of church experiences over the past month, particularly with regard to music. January 22 we had our first service in the new church in Kotobi. Luke and I sang #448, "Oh When Shall I See Jesus" for Sabbath School, but the musical highlight of the day was these kids, who did the special song for the church service.
Youth choirs in South Sudan have a defined pattern. They march up to the front singing the first song, then sing their main number, and then march back to their seats with a closing song. Three special songs for the price of one :)

January 29 was spent with new friends at the Torit Seventh-day Adventist church in Eastern Equatoria, where Luke and I were again asked to sing. This time we chose #465, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus." Feruary 5 found us worshiping under a beautiful blue sky in Kawai, Kenya at the Masai. There was a neat Masai women's chorus who led the music for church, so I don't know why they asked us to sing as well. Unfortunately we didn't have our hymnals this time, but we had #448 down by now, so we sang it again, with the addition of Eric Johnston.

Then last week I was enjoying a wonder Friday night vespers at Southern when I found out that I had been volunteered to play special music at the Village Chapel the next day. No, I didn't play #448 (although the thought did cross my mind); Timothy and I played cello/violin medley of What Wondrous Love/The King Shall Come/Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (162/215/662). Based on recent history, I should probably come to church with a special music prepared as well as a talk ;)



Back in Kenya

Hey everybody! Just a quick update on how things are going here in Africa.

Luke and I have arrived safely back in Kenya, and after a few days of
work (and animal-spotting) at Africa Mission Services/Mara West camp
on the Masai Mara game preserve, we're getting ready to return home to
the States. You probably already know the gist of what I'm going to
say about how things have been going--basically, God answers prayer!

Five intensely busy weeks of work after we started laying the
foundation, on Sabbath, February
22, Luke and I and the local congregation worshipped together in the
new building. This was by far the highlight of our trip. Finishing
Pastor Julius' house was nice. Pouring the slab at Eyira Adventist
Vocational Academy was gratifying, but worshipping for the first time
in a church you helped design and build from the ground up is. . .

On top of that, God answered our prayers for Divine wisdom as Luke had
a series of discussions with the Mundri church and a couple of unhappy
individuals, succeeding (at midnight, the night before we left) in
working out solutions that seemed to solve the major issues and leave
everybody on friendly terms. Thank you for praying with us about
this! There were a number of times when we wondered whether
everything was going to fall apart, but God proved that He has a
thousand ways to work things out.

I'll be posting pictures of our progress sometime next week (when I
can find a place to get film developed!) so be sure to drop back by
and see what the new church looks like :)

Once again, we can't thank you enough for your prayers and
encouragement all throughout our latest African journey. I've learned
a lot about building buildings, and hopefully about building character
as well.