Walk With Me

walk with me quiet, walk with me slow... 
walk with me empty, walk with me strong. 
the hush of our voices, when the day seems so long. 
it is like a balm. it is like a jewel. 
it unravels all i thought i knew. 
so will you lead me, beside the still waters. 
where the oil, it runs over, and my cup overflows. 
you restore my soul. 
tell me the story, where old is made new. 
the promise of ages, and all things that are true. 
when the shadows fall and the wrecking ball 
swings and tears me through the heart. 
will you lead me, beside the still waters.
where the oil, it runs over, and my cup overflows.
you restore my soul.

the song i was listening to as i flew away from mundri seemed fitting. how do i say goodbye to such a place. to my moru friends, who made me a part of their family. to my team, who challenged and loved me. how do i express my joy for all the little moments. words fail me.

walk with me, Lord. just as you have in these last 2 years in mundri. through long, slow, hard days. through frustrations and tears. through language and laughter. through friendships and heart-to-hearts. through goodbyes. 

my cup is full. my blessings abound. and still the sadness of goodbyes lingers. Lord, restore my soul. remind me of your promises, and lead me beside still waters. walk with me.


Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

we’ve had so much fun with a small group of secondary school girls.

they are few in number, not many girls making it to this level of education. as early as primary school, the gap in boy/girl ratio increases dramatically as many drop out because of early pregnancy or responsibilities at home. in light of the odds, we are beyond proud of these girls, for going against the norm of their culture, even when many of their peers chose differently. 

they are quite a bright group of young ladies. among them, aspiring medical professionals, teachers, lawyers, business women, even a hopeful pilot. their ambitions are great, and surely not without challenges. 

each friday, "girl’s club" begins with devotions. we are studying the women of the Bible, so far covering the stories of Esther, Deborah, and Abigail. as i tell the stories, the girls help me list what we learn about each character and about the Lord and answer why, how, etc. questions. 

during the story of Abigail, they raise their hands each time they heard her say “my master” and bow for every “your servant,” when she petitions to David. they really got a kick out of this :) 

application questions seem a bit more challenging for them, but it’s at least a start to think about how these stories relate to their lives. i so enjoy digging into these stories with them and sharing the same lessons the Lord is currently teaching me.

next we read a story, Addy Saves the Day (American Girl Series). jenn explains some context for the book, showing them pictures of American life in the 1860’s. 

we end our time with a special topic, which changes weekly (grammar, science experiments, women’s health). science queen, christine, demonstrates a fun and interactive lesson on surface tension.

heidi teaches a great lesson on women’s health and hygiene, warning us that, as a nurse, she was going to talk about the “uncomfortable” subjects that no one else (including teachers) want to discuss :)

at the beginning of heidi’s talk, she referred to the women of the Bible that we’ve been studying, noting that all of them made a choice. many of them made the unpopular choice, a choice that took courage despite their own fears, confidence in the Lord when others doubted, wisdom despite the foolish actions of others. just like these women, our group of secondary school girls will be faced with making difficult and unpopular decisions. and often the choices that glorify God are not the easy ones.

i’m happy for a good mix of fun, education, and discipleship, and it seems they are enjoying our time together as well.

pray with us that God would give these girls strength and perseverance, and that He would set them apart for His glory. 


All Things New

another week of teacher training behind us. another group of teachers to laugh with and challenge and encourage. another reason to give God the glory.

even though, i'll be honest, these trainings can become routine, and we can forget what's important or begin to wonder if our time with primary school teachers is even making a difference... despite our doubts and fears and anxiety, God is pushing us forward, to show us something new and refreshing, and give us hope.

isaiah 61 is a great passage. so much of it reminds me of south sudan...

"the Lord has anointed me (Jesus) to proclaim good news to the poor... 
to comfort all who mourn... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

and gives me hope for the work God is doing in Mundri and through our teachers.

"they will be called oaks of righteousness, 
a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor...
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations"

"for as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations."

these verses were the foundation of our recent training. we wanted to encourage our teachers that God is indeed making all things new, planting them as trees for His glory.

and like any good teacher would do, we took the theme of trees as an excuse to have lots of fun :) we created parts-of-the-tree visual aids, sang songs about trees, made a graph of our favorite trees, read a story about Wangari planting trees in Kenya, and even made a human tree!

we taught about learning styles and challenged teachers to think beyond the rote way of teaching and engage students with songs, dramas, visuals, and games. 

at the end of the week, teachers created lesson plans in groups and presented them. we were so pleased to see a group of teachers use many of the teaching methods we had modeled (a first in all of our trainings!). 

they were a great group of teachers, alert and engaged and eager to try to new things. we really enjoyed our time with them, and this may have been the best teacher training yet! i'm pretty sure i say that each time, but maybe that's just the Lord's kindness in showing us He is in control and making all things new, even teacher trainings :)

a big THANK YOU to all who helped us give each teacher a book to take and use in their classrooms. they were thrilled by your generosity.


Sweet Melissa

heidi and i were headed to our first day of Bible storying at okari. just before we reach the church, we stop at the borehole to greet a friend. then a little girl walks our way and says she was told to direct us to a house nearby where coming-out prayers were being held for a newborn baby girl. 

so in true moru fashion, we go with the flow and follow her down the path. as heidi and i switch from moru to arabic, we are confused when they tell us there are two babies. “twins?!” we ask, and they explain again that two women, from the same compound, each had a baby girl a few days apart. 

moru tradition is to hold prayers 4 days after the birth of a baby girl (3 days for a boy). so, today we would have prayers for the first girl, then a few days later would be prayers for the other baby.

we arrived to see many of our friends from okari. we felt better about postponing Bible storying since most of our participants were there, and we were happy to be a part of such a special day with them.

the younger women were busy fetching water and preparing food. grandmothers stretched their legs on a large mat with the children. leaders of the church sat in chairs in a circle. and we all gathered on this large, well-swept compound, under the shade of a tree. 

vida opened us up with a sermon from mark 10 about Jesus and the little children. we sang the moru version of blessed assurance, prayed, and took up offering. then it was time to see the baby!

heidi and i stand with the women as they literally lift up the baby girl in prayer. then they ask the baby’s name... nyobili melissa :)  my namesake!

inside the mud hut, i greet the mother, abao, who was one of our english class regulars. she hands over sweet melissa, and i marvel at such a precious sight as i rub her tiny fingers. 

we continue the day with a meal and talk about south sudan’s independence day, which was on july 9th. heidi asks if anyone went for tribal dancing, and they all point to one of the oldest ladies sitting with us! i hope i’m that old and still going to dance parties :) we all laugh together as they begin to show us the dance styles of different tribes. one looks like a shuffle, another jumping, and one dance is all in the shoulders. 

they ask what our cultural dancing is like. heidi and i look at each other in amusement and explain that most young people in america don’t know the traditional dances of their ancestors. but we decided to entertain them with a demonstration of the waltz to give them an idea :)

a few days pass, and heidi and i head to the same compound with the same people. we read the same scripture and sing the same song. but now we have prayers for another little girl, a cousin to baby melissa. we lift her up in prayer, and when they ask for the name, they say “heidi.” :)

baby melissa and baby heidi will grow up as cousins and hopefully friends. and though it’s unlikely they will have a relationship with their father, we pray that they will grow up to be strong little ladies who know their heavenly Father. 

so happy the Lord changed our plans today. what a special blessing to share with our community.


I'm Into Something Good

i’m teaching preschool again!  

unlike most preschools, this new “model preschool” has the advantage of their own building, with walls to put up letters and visuals aids for teaching, and each child has a chair. 

boda is a teacher from uganda, sent here to help start this preschool that will hopefully add on more grade levels. though the original plan was to have fewer children in each class, boda was left to manage 2 combined classes when the other teacher left. she now teaches more than 50 children in this small room. and let me say this lady was born for teaching preschoolers. she’s confident, energetic and loving, and seems to have a song up her sleeves at all times. 

being drawn to boda and her preschool, i wondered how i could support her and began to pray for the Lord’s direction. of course, i would love to spend time in a preschool again, but was this where God was leading me? turns out, my desires seemed to be in tune with the Lord’s, but he knew the big picture and had a much bigger purpose in mind.

so i began teaching a lesson once a week in boda’s class. as the children would break for lunch, boda and i engaged in good conversation, getting to know each other better. she began to vent about the struggles of being here in south sudan. many things are not what she thought they would be, she is lonely and misses her family, and often wonders why she is here. hmm... sounds familiar! i can totally relate. 

i had prayed about opportunities to share God’s love with boda and weave the gospel into our conversations. and it seemed like a great time to encourage her in truth. we later prayed together, and she sent me off with a big thank you, telling me how thankful she was to have me there. 

so the next week, same story. she shared more and more, though this time i was surprised when she told me she was a muslim. and i begin to see the Lord, indeed, had this thing rigged.

it’s interesting that boda and i have so many things in common. we’re both preschool teachers, who left our family to come to a place that is needy, unfamiliar, and just hard. we both get frustrated and lonely and wonder why we’re here. but, boda doesn’t share my same hope in Christ. could the Lord have a purpose in bringing two unsuspecting preschool teachers together in south sudan? i believe so.

God is so faithful. so often i’m stepping forward wondering if this is really the right way, asking God to direct me but worried i’ll miss it completely. it’s neat to see some pieces of the puzzle revealed every now and then. 


Something Beautiful

something beautiful is our theme for the next teacher training coming up in july. we’ll build our lessons and devotions all around this topic and read a book appropriately titled “something beautiful.” the story is about a girl who is looking for something beautiful in her community and begins to see beauty through the eyes of those around her.   

would you consider helping us by purchasing a book for a teacher? 

primary schools have little to no books available for them, and we would love to give our teacher participants the book we are using in our training. 

you can visit my wish list to give a book to a teacher.

also, if you would like to contribute to other expenses for our training (food, room and board, teaching materials, give-away materials) you can give to the south sudan education fund.

many thanks!


Some Nights

last week, bethany and i stayed with our friends, ngulu and linda. we spent 5 nights with them and their extended family, sharing a small part of their life and learning more about moru culture.

it’s a large compound with lots of children, teenagers, women, grandmothers. never a dull moment and always a chance to practice language and learn new words. 

everyone rose early each day to start their morning routine. the school-aged children helped in sweeping before walking to school. the women fetched water and began cooking. bethany and i were usually the last to wake up at 6:45. we’d shuffle to the fire, just in time for the morning song and prayer. 

after prayers, vida, one of the grandmothers, would bring out her bowl of supplies and begin making a very strong pot of espresso-like coffee, spiced with ginger and a very generous portion of sugar. we laughed to watch her serve a glass to someone, then take one for herself, serve another, then refill for herself... drinking 4 or 5 in one sitting. bethany became vida’s barista student and helped in roasting the coffee beans one morning. 

i loved hanging out with these kiddos. too young to walk to school, they stuck together during the day, eating mangoes, running around, being mischievous, posing for pictures, and making anything into a toy. after one all-day rain, i walked outside to find them making these animals out of mud! such creativity :)

we’d spend the days sitting and chatting with the women, shelling groundnuts, watching them make baskets, finishing our own sewing projects, digging in the garden, singing songs, asking lots of questions, and learning lots of language. 

each night, we’d gather outside, the men and older boys at one fire, the women and children at another. we sat together, cracking open more groundnuts, teaching the children songs, talking and telling stories. i told the story of the three bears (though i changed the characters to hippos). the kids loved it and asked me to retell it the next night. it was my first story to tell all in moru!!! bethany also told the story of cinderella, and the older women especially liked it. anyone who was working hard, they would give the name of cinderella. 

we had such a great time with our moru family. they really love us well, and i’m thankful for some nights to deepen relationships with my friends and community.