Archive for December, 2005

One Month into the Mission

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

December 31, 2005

Deb is well and it has been a month since she left St. Louis. She reported that the midnight mass for Christmas was impressive. There was only one electric light in the Lui cathedral, and it was behind the altar. One drum was beating during the mass, which was very impressive. Drums are very important in the local culture and they give a rhythm to the place. Drums are the only musical instruments in church services, with several sizes forming a kind of drum choir to accompany the singing.

She made another trip away from Lui during this week, traveling with Bishop Bullen Doli and nine others in the ancient Toyota Land Cruiser ambulance that they have available. It has bench seats along the sides in the back and no seat belts, so it is much like being hit with stones for much of the trip, resulting in many bruises. That is because there is no road, just a rough track through the countryside, with deep ruts and holes everywhere, that shake and bounce the occupants. Two of the group were the mechanics in charge of the vehicle. In this case they went 30 miles each way for some confirmation ceremonies.

Each place they visit greets them with drums, singing, and a parade. Everyone you meet from age 6 months up will shake your hand, perhaps several times, and she thinks these are the nicest, friendliest people she has ever met. They bring water for washing your hands, pouring it over them on arrival and before and after eating, perhaps three to four times during a visit.

The area is beautiful, with large rocky outcroppings that remind her of Stone Mountain in Georgia. But these are very close, not miles away, and all over the place. Her digital clock has a thermometer in it so she knows it is 85 – 87 degrees Fahrenheit when she goes to sleep and 74 at wake up time. It was 98 when we spoke, at 5 PM her time. The food is sometimes too sweet to eat or bland, but as a vegetarian she doesn’t get the meat that others have. Most people eat with their hands, so one item served is Lenya (my guess at spelling). This is made from sorghum and consists of a blob of bread-like stuff that is cut or torn up and used to sop up the juices during a meal.

She goes to the Samaritan’s Purse clinic each day and has continued to learn about tropical diseases. This week she saw a case of river blindness, which is caused by a parasite in the water. This disease has been a near biblical curse everywhere in the Nile River valley for millennia.

A comment to the last posting asked a few questions about the factors folks should consider before they make at trip to Lui. In addition to what has already been said, people who have health issues like heart trouble should be careful as there are few medical resources. Heat is an issue, and this is winter now. Dust is constant, and there are “critters” everywhere. She has 4″ lizards in the roof of her hut, and there are spiders, beetles, and scorpions as well. Large wild animals are less of a problem since the civil war as they rarely seen now. Those squeamish about primitive toilets should reconsider. You will see people with active TB and tropical diseases.

Women don’t need to worry about Sharia Law in the south, but the culture is conservative and modest dress is expected. She has some split skirts and long skirts which have been fine. You don’t have to cover your hair unless it is to keep out the dirt and dust. Short sleeves and sleeveless tops are fine.

She also passed on Bishop Bullen Doli’s love and best wishes for the New Year to the people of the Diocese of Missouri.

Christmas in Lui

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

December 24, 2005

Deb called this morning, right on schedule, and reports all is well. She is starting to get away from Lui, having made a 30 mile trip to Longhi (the spelling is my guess) and another town in the past week. She is still bruised from the trip, as there is hardly any road. Much of it was done by just driving through tall grass with little view of what is ahead. And even the “road” near Lui has holes in it two feet deep or deeper. When they find a hole it is usually by driving right through it. Many bruises are the results. The driver was a priest who was also the mechanic in charge of keeping the old vehicle running. She thought it was being held together by duct tape and baling wire. Tonight she was going to a midnight mass, which will be held in the dark, lit only by kerosene lamps.

People have asked what she is eating. Being a vegetarian means she doesn’t eat the chicken and goat meat others received when visiting, which has less impact on the local livestock. She gets beans and rice twice every day, lots of mangos, bananas, tea and bread made from sorghum. There is a lot of work to be done for everyday things we take for granted. She sometimes gets peanut butter and honey to eat. This means someone bought the nuts in the market, roasted and ground them. The honey comes direct from the hive, which has to be located in the bush and collected. Or it has to be gotten from someone else who got it that way. Needless to say this is a rare treat.

The security situation has improved, as you can see by the fact that she is getting away from Lui. There are lots of guns around and local narcotics can be easily had as well. These make for a dangerous mixture. The deputy governor had been there this very morning, which suggests civil order is also coming back as well.

Deb sends her Christmas greetings to all and will be in touch again in a week. If there are questions for her please post them and I’ll pass them on to her.

Drums in Lui

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lui, Sudan (Via phone call to Ron)

Deb reports she is well and thanks everyone for their support and their prayers. She is settling in well and getting used to seeing the stars and the moon at night. The country is beautiful to see and she is taking some photos for us to see in the future. One thing that takes some getting used to is the nearly constant drumming she hears. Drums are popular and important and one of the people she works with is making a new one now, so she is seeing the process used to dry and tighten the skin over the head of the drum, a steel barrel in this case. Her principal assistant (and likely her translator) is a 20 year old man names Fuller. She is seeing about 28-30 patients at the pediatric wards of the Samaritan’s Purse clinic in Lui and quickly learning about tropical diseases. A child who was brought in this past week seemed drowsy. The staff immediately suspected sleeping sickness, which would never before have been one of her first thoughts. Now it is in these circumstances. She said all of the children in these two wards have malaria, and many have other conditions as well. The members of the Mother’s Union are working away on their sewing project and they have a building for this which is nearing completion. Deb expects to begin working with the students in the Theological Education by Extension program after Christmas as well. Bishop Bullen Doli is happy with her progress and sends his best wished to all.

First week in Lui

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Dec 13, 2005 (relayed via three phone calls to Ron)

I want everyone to know I’m well and that everyone I meet thanks me for being here. I arrived in Lui on Wednesday, Dec 7, landing at Mundri a few miles to the west. I have been having trouble getting the e-mail feature on the satellite phone to work properly. The phone itself works fine and I’ve been in contact with technical support, trying to work out the bugs. I’m making lots of notes to be able to post when we get the capability of doing that. I’ve been spending some time helping at the Samaritan’s Purse hospital in Lui. I’ve also been able to assemble some treadle-powered sewing machines that have been here for some months and started the women on the sewing venture these were bought to start. It seems my ability with old machinery was needed, and I’m glad I had it as no-one here knew how to put these together.

There has been some tension and trouble between the Moru and Dinka people in the area. These are two tribes that live near each other in the area. Many of both groups had been forced into refugee status in Kenya during the long civil war, and as they are returning there are disputes over land and other things. Those who remained during the war made some changes to the previous situation, sometimes as a necessity to survive as they saw it. The returning folks may not like the new situation or realize why it happened. So there is some violence or threat of it as a result, and people are on edge. I probably won’t leave Lui at present as a result and they always have someone with me all the time. I feel quite safe, but want everyone to know about this unfortunate result of the civil war. Time will hopefully solve the problems one by one and allow me to move more freely. Prayers for the resolution of these problems would be welcome.

I may set up a schedule for calls to Ron until the e-mail starts to work. This would allow for weekly updates. Got to go now as it is after dawn and time to get moving.