Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflections on a year in Sudan

June 28, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from Doro! This month marked one year for me in Sudan and I have been reflecting with amazement on the opportunities, relationships, miracles and life lessons that have filled my time. One year is merely a blip in time compared to the years most of my teammates have been on the field and I definitely feel like the baby of our group. It has been perhaps the best year of my life, albeit also the most challenging and heartbreaking. The needs here are great and it is easy to become discouraged with the limited impact we are capable of having. If you know the story of the starfish being thrown--one by one--back into the ocean after the storm left them stranded on the beach, you know what I’m thinking… “It made a difference to that one”.

The week of my one year anniversary I had malaria and spent most of the time in bed with debilitating fatigue. While grounded there I had some really amazing conversations with God and am now enjoying sweet times of refreshing with Him. It is too bad that I needed to be knocked off my feet to be still long enough for that to happen, but I am now able to appreciate that rather miserable week.

It is nearing time for my quarterly break when I will leave Sudan for Kenya for about 11 days. I am feeling the strain of the work more than last year and am anticipating a step back from the intensity. It is time to recharge, reflect, shop for supplies, fellowship with other missionaries, and plan and pray without the daily demands of the medical work—which I love, but recognize its drain on my emotions. Some psychologists have determined that individuals working in environments such as Sudan need a break every 10-12 weeks and I am now a big fan of that recommendation. Before I came to Sudan it seemed excessive to spend such a large amount of my support on flights into and out of Sudan every three months, but now I am so grateful for SIM’s arrangement and requirement of quarterly rest.

There are a few things in particular that I would like to ask you to pray about. South Sudan continues to be a nation of unrest. In the past four months literally hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted from their homes in the Abyei and Nuba Mountains areas--with hundreds dead as a result of skirmishes between the northern and southern armies. Many of the people killed were civilians. Please pray for resolution in the disputed areas as South Sudan’s Independence Day approaches July 9th. Please pray for shelter, protection and food supplies for the internally displaced people crowding into other areas, without homes, the opportunity to plant crops, healthcare, etc.

There have been eight young people in the choir of the Doro church who have expressed an interest in knowing Jesus in the past two months. I am seeking time with each of the girls and hope to do regular discipleship and fellowship with them. Please pray for guidance and for me to find a way for quality time with them regardless of the language barrier and my clinic schedule constraints.

Please also pray for healthy team dynamics among our national staff and the missionaries. There have been some difficult situations lately. One of our Community Health Workers (CHWs) took a second wife and thus removed himself from employment with SIM. There has been some low morale and several illnesses among the other nationals, stress on the missionaries who have to take on more responsibilities than they can reasonably manage, disillusionment with the internship components for some of our newly graduated CHWs, political instability about 50 miles away, and the evacuation of our team in the town there, etc.

On the other hand, some of the highlights of this quarter have been a slight improvement in both my Arabic and Mabaan language skills that allow me, on a good day, to hold an awkward but heart-warming conversation with some of the ladies in our village. We always share laughs as we struggle to understand one another and share the joy of conversation—something I hope I never take for granted again.

We prayed for more help in the clinic and I am happy to inform you that two Kenyans--Dickson, a Clinical Officer, and Judy, a nurse, have joined our team for a year. They are a tremendous help! This past quarter has been exhausting and I cannot imagine what it would have been like without their support. My supervisor has taken on a more administrative role, so I am now the lead person in the clinic—as a new nurse and a new missionary that is a considerable challenge. As most of you know, leadership is NOT one of my gifts.

I have great news following another prayer request in my last letter! Pastor Bulis is back at work at the clinic providing a wonderful role model for our young staff, providing counseling and prayer with patients, providing translation in a pinch, and teaching a Bible lesson each morning with the waiting crowd.

Other highlights have been seeing many patients return to good health who I thought would surely die. I am amazed by the power of prayer and the resilience of the Mabaan people, many with medical conditions that we are not well equipped to treat—but they pull through, to the glory of God.
• Omna had probable Stephen Johnson’s syndrome and I despaired of her recovery, but after a week of treatment and prayers she was able to walk home and now comes back for follow-up visits smiling. In my year here I have seen only one other adult so close to death.
• Butros, a tiny triplet, who was the weakest of the three came to us with very serious pneumonia. Our solar power system was out and he needed oxygen. Our builder rigged a generator to our oxygen concentrator and with that added help the little guy made it through the first rough night. After several days of IV medications he is now home with his two brothers and happy parents. Their mother is involved in our Nutrition Program and receiving Plumpy Nut (a nutritious peanut based product for mal-nourished children) to help her produce enough breast milk for all three.
• Tenne, a 2.2 pound premature infant was with us for the first seven days of her life. On day five she quit breathing and required resuscitation for several heart-stopping minutes. (For you medical people—this was done without oxygen, epinephrine, intubation, etc.) I truly feel I witnessed a miracle. Just today we were able to get a charter flight for her to the nearest hospital through an African Inland Mission pilot. At the hospital she will have a more stable environment, more suitable medications and around the clock care that we are not staffed to provide in Doro. She has a long road ahead of her and I would greatly appreciate your prayers for her development. I had tons of time with her mother, Mary, and look forward to continuing a sweet friendship with her.

I will try to write more frequently and not make the letters so long. Thank you for the inquires many of you have sent. Thank you for your prayers for me and the people of Sudan. I love and appreciate having you with me on this incredible journey.

Grace and peace to you,

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10
Some images of our lives…

This is Little Tenne during one of her brief bonding sessions with mom outside of the cardboard box incubator.

During dry season the Falatta/Ful’ba nomadic tribe live in Doro They don’t like their photo taken but their camel didn’t mind.

Kamal, Community Health Worker, assesses the nerves of a leprosy patient in the village of Piekage


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