Friday, December 13, 2019

So grateful!

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? Psalm 116:10

At the end of November we finished our visits to churches for this year. We reflected on all the ways God has encouraged and blessed us as we have traveled around this year, reconnecting with so many of you who partner with us. We are truly grateful to God and to all the people we encountered along the way.  `Here are a few pictures and specific highlights of things we are grateful for in this season:

1. Safe travel…about 10,000 road miles logged and a few flights. We prayed extra hard on the curves and hills of West Virginia in the driving rain!

2. All the people who expressed an interest in South Sudan and the work of the church there – who asked probing questions and wanted to learn more.

3. Conferences (like New Wilmington Mission Conference, Big Tent, and the Sudan/South Sudan Mission Network), where we reconnected with lots of people we know and had a chance to share more in-depth about our work in South Sudan.

Praying for Rev. Santino, principal of NTC, at the mission network

4. Hospitality – Many people hosted us for the night or for a meal, drove us somewhere or loaned us a car. We appreciate the generosity, and also the connections and conversations those opportunities provided.

5. The gift of reconnecting with friends and families. Seeing people face to face feels so special when it is so rarely possible for us. Relationships that have spanned many years are so refreshing to pick back up on!

6. Answered prayers when we were nervous before speaking, or trying to figure out how to best use the time given us to share.

7. Recovery time – Bob experienced more physical pain with his broken hip than he has ever experienced, and it forced us to cancel lots of plans. We are very grateful for healing and for the time of recovery; we feel like God redeemed the cancelled and rescheduled plans.

8. Good reports from our colleagues in South Sudan. The media team at NTC produced a newsletter without Bob’s monitoring and assistance, and Kristi’s colleagues facilitated a healing and reconciliation workshop in July. The church continues to have a significant role in pushing for peace, and we look forward to returning in July.

9. The seasons! We watched extra-closely this year the leaves changing colors as autumn progressed, noticing deeper colors as we traveled north. Sometimes we just stared in awe at the rainbow of colors in the trees. Of course, a picture can never do it justice! We watched an early winter blizzard in Oregon, and look forward to a little more snow this year.

10. Exploring new places – we had some short-but-sweet days of savoring the beauty and uniqueness of some places we had not visited before – like the Indiana Dunes National Park, a mountain-top monastery in Portland, the shores of Lake Erie, and Madera Canyon in southern Arizona.

Our hearts are full of gratitude – to you, and to God, for making this year possible. We have a few more weeks of savoring some time with our families over Christmas, last-minute medical appointments, and packing, and then we return to Juba the first week of January.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Cause for Celebration! (Nile Theological College Newsletter)

Please celebrate with me!  Over the last 15 months I have been working with a team of students and staff to create a bi-annual newsletter for our college, Nile Theological College, located in Juba, South Sudan.

As Kristi and I are on Interpretation Assignment (furlough) and vacation for six months in the US this year, my hope has been that the students and staff whom I have been working alongside would be able to create a newsletter in my absence.  You can imagine my jubilation when I recently learned that they did it!  (and it looks good).   Here is the link to our newest edition of our newsletter - happy reading!

Friday, November 8, 2019

A new start for farming

Food insecurity continues to be a major problem in several parts of South Sudan. The conflict and instability has displaced many people from their homes and made it unsafe for others to farm fields, which exacerbates the food insecurity problem. But this year, with a tenuous peace in the country, church leaders wanted to help people in stable areas to be able to ‘restart’ their farms. The SSPEC (South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church) received a grant to provide seeds and tools to some of its congregations where people were able to farm but did not have the means to get started. They sent funds to a few congregations in different regions of South Sudan this year, investing in and hoping for long-term development.

It is fun to see the photos of the sprouting plants and the harvested peanuts or grains as proud pastors of SSPEC report on these farming projects.

Here are some pictures from Pochalla, from clearing the field initially, to sprouted peanut plants, and finally the hard work of drying and shelling the peanuts.


In the region of Pochalla, there were multiple congregations involved, with a committee established to coordinate the work. As you can see from the photo on the bottom of people shelling peanuts, everyone got involved. I was encouraged to see that even men participated! The shelled peanuts spread out to dry in the last picture is the culmination of months of work and collaboration. And it is a great motivation and encouragement to people wearied by war that they can have a hand in changing their situation.

Unfortunately, this month there has been flooding in several parts of South Sudan. People are again displaced from their homes, forced to rebuild, and struggling to find food to eat. As far as I know, Pochalla has not had floods, but several other areas have. Please pray for the recovery efforts, and that South Sudan would again become a source of food rather than just a recipient.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

New update video!

Below is a new update video, that we hope will give you a small taste of how we see God at work in South Sudan. We appreciate very much your partnership in this ministry!

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments - we are happy to share more if you have specific questions.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Nothing Leads to My Best Something!

In Disney’s Christopher Robin, Robin, the main character, finds himself pulled between his family and his job. His boss scolds him, telling him “Nothing leads to nothing,” in essence saying, “get out there and do something if you want anything in life.” In the continued verbiage of Robin’s employer, Robin can either “sink or swim.” The inimitable Winnie the Pooh, confidant and friend to Robin, later counters, “Nothing leads to my best something!”

These last six weeks have been filled with a lot of ‘nothing’ for Kristi and I after the skateboarding accident I sustained on August 10th. Of course that is not entirely true, I have been faithful to my physical therapy twice a day and the daily tasks of life take more time during this recovery period. But there have been large swathes of time to do ‘nothing’, to just “be.” I have spent hours in the sun-porch just looking out into the green space behind the home of Jim and Sherri Bertolet, my parents in-law. We have been able to listen to baseball in the evenings, watch US Open tennis, watch movies, read books we have been chomping at the bit to read, spend time just chatting with neighbors, and take walks in the evenings as my hip slowly heals. I have been able to slow down to a pace where I don’t have to always be concerned about what to do and where to be next. Of course I have not been totally freed from my spirit of “do-ism” and planning, nevertheless, I feel more able to relax and "free" as a result of this forced rest. 

On sun-porch, resting and enjoying peace

Friends from church bring us a meal to share 

For someone like me who too often feels driven to action, I feel like I am “seeing the light” afresh, that indeed, “Nothing leads to my best something.” I am being confronted once more with the wisdom and truth that the notion of ‘nothing leading to nothing’ is a lie. Christopher Robin found himself sinking into the abyss of pandering to his employer at all costs, not honoring his True Self and not honoring his family and his own past which included the bear Pooh. His wake-up call began by finding Pooh on a bench near his flat in London, a meeting which would change everything.

For me, my accident was also a wake-up call. It was a reminder of my human frailty and, as a result of a broken hip and a broken elbow, a reminder of my dependency upon others around me, in this case for simple everyday tasks as simple as getting out of bed.  Kristi and I have experienced a fresh appreciation for the gift of life and the simple pleasures of being able to move, walk, travel, and enjoy the outdoors. We trust that these weeks of ‘nothing’ and forced rest will indeed ‘lead to our best something’. We do not know what that ‘best something’ is, but we trust that God has done something in us these six weeks which will prove profitable for His Kingdom here on earth.

Enjoying a short walk and enjoying the sunset

Putting together a puzzle

Thank you for those of you have prayed for us and encouraged us during this season. We appreciate the phone calls, the home visits, the meals, the cards in the mail, the emails, the puzzles, the movie recommendations, the Facebook posts, and the gifts sent. The words of the letter of the author to the Hebrews reminds us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses as we run with perseverance the race marked out for us in Christ Jesus (Hebrews 12: 1).

Indeed, as Winnie the Pooh reminds us, our “Nothing leads to our best something!”