Archive for April, 2006

Things to be Grateful For in Lui

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

As I sit here in the early morning listening to birds singing and roosters crowing, I think of all of you and how much I, and the people of Lui, have to be grateful for. Of course it is very dry and there hasn’t been a drop of rain since the bishop’s group left, but we are praying that all our prayers for rain will be heard soon. Even the goats are trying to sneak a sip out of the dirty dishwater in the kitchen but are being chased off by Ada. It is a difficult life here.

What do the citizens of Lui have to be grateful for? They are grateful to friends who have remembered them again with so many gifts. The pastors are all receiving pens that say “Diocese of Lui” and they feel that they are supported. The women who no longer have to carry chairs to the sewing house are grateful that people care about them. The people using the new scissors can not believe how easy it is to cut fabric when scissors work well. Mother’s Union is grateful for the success of their gift shop/sewing house. They are selling gifts and making things for sale which not only support the church but their families as well.

We are all especially grateful for the companion diocese agreement which was signed between the Dioceses of Lui and Missouri. I wish all of you could have been there to hear the testimonies by the pastors and lay people at the synod here. They were positive–every one. The end result of the signing was an infusion of hope here in a place that has every reason to feel hopeless. Their faith is a witness to me and will be to you.

I have needed that hope this week as I returned to my routine of going to the hospital. Another newborn baby was brought to the hospital suffering from tetanus. The child, who shared my name, died a day later after suffering horribly. There have been six children admitted here with tetanus since my arrival and all the babies have died. The mothers do all the traditional things to care for the cord–they purify oil and gather a red stone and grind up millet root because of its antiseptic properties and burn aromatic herbs in the
house–all to prevent tetanus but they don’t take tetanus shots because they feel they will never have more children. Tetanus lives in the earth so the very millet root they apply probably infects them.

Sometimes the story is even more horrible: the first tetanus case was an infant born to a blind woman at home in a village with no water. When the child arrived at the hospital, it was apparent it had never even been bathed in its entire six days of life. I tell women every day to have tetanus shots and that they will not become sterile as a result but traditional beliefs are difficult to change. The doctors, nurses and midwives do all they can to educate women about this disease but they are defeated when women don’t come for prenatal care
or deliver at home. It is hard to feel hopeful in these situations. We keep praying though.

My time is coming to an end here as I suddenly realized, but I have one more task to begin. The Moru hymn composers will be coming together here in Lui to sing and play their compositions and to have them reviewed by the pastors and other composers. Once the final drafts have been made, it will be my task to compile them on the computer and send them to Nairobi so they can be put into the new hymnal. This work will begin on May 10th so Lui will resound with joyful music and I will be typing like mad trying to do so accurately in Moru! Spell check doesn’t help a bit, either!

Pray that we get the rain we need and may God bless all of you who have supported this mission. I know that the Moru send their blessings as well.

Taliatokpe (peaceful words),

Deb

Bishop Smith’s Visit

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

The week here has been a blizzard of activity. We spent the beginning of the week preparing for the arrival of the visitors from the Diocese and then we have had Diocesan Synod here.

The Companion Diocese agreement was approved by a unanimous vote by the synod in Lui. The signing was a joyful moment for all of us but I think it was a particularly happy moment for those of us who were in Columbia for the Missouri vote as well. The people of Lui are delighted to have their friendship with the
Diocese of Missouri formalized.

Now the real work begins here. Many ideas have been exchanged with our friends so now where do we begin? The needs are so many. We went to Lozoh on Friday to look at the diocesan gardens that have suffered as a result of drought. We are hopeful about rain as we came through areas between Lui and Lozoh that have had
rain and are greening but Lui and Lozoh are both still dry. Pray for rain for Lui diocese, please.

We also drove to the Trinity College site and noted with pleasure that the walls are up on the store and they are moving there. There is still a great deal to do there, however.

Our driver and friend from Samaritan’s Purse, Simon, took us to Mundri to the banks of the Yei River to see where the destroyed bridge was being reconstructed. They have diverted part of the river to allow work to begin in repairing it. It would allow access to Mundri town other than by fording the river on foot and would make Lui a more important stop along the road. As the road to Juba has been cleared of mines by the UN teams, we have seen a great increase in traffic already. Lui is making progress every day.

Today was the celebration of the anniversary of the funeral rites for Mama Jerusa. The service was a wonderful celebration of the life and work of this remarkable woman. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Canon Kenneth Baringwa, the canon for both Lui and Mundri dioceses.

Afterward we went to Bishop Bullen’s compound to visit with friends and family of Mama Jerusa and to greet Bishop Bullen. This is the formal end of the funeral rites for her and her family so it was a mixture of happy and sad as was the church service.

The Mother’s Union Gift Shop is filled with wonder arts and crafts and they are enjoying having us enjoy what they consider to be ordinary and we see as art. The most creative might be the cloth-covered bottle caps made into bags. They are very interesting and beautiful but extremely heavy so might not be coming
back to St. Louis in my bags!

We have a few more activities before this group returns. I have enjoyed seeing and talking with all the people who have visited Lui but now I realize that the time for me to be leaving is fast approaching. I have tried to live in the moment here but I admit that I am looking forward to seeing all of my friends in Europe and the USA. Be forewarned: I have some stories to tell!

I wish you all a wonderful week. Deb

Holy Week in Lui

Saturday, April 15th, 2006

It should come as no surprise that things are really busy this Holy Week. We have three things for which to prepare: worship this week, visitors from Missouri and the synod. Construction is happening all around me as the thatching has gone on the new kitchen building, the new church office is also ready for its new roof, the Mother’s Union gift shop has been busily collecting things for sale. Some things, like the Nguti Mororo dolls are selling to Samaritan’s Purse personnel as fast as we can make them! The new fence around the guest compound is finished so we are ready for all the people who have already started to gather.

The women wanted to have some new altar linens so we decided to use the beautiful white fabric we were sent to make an altar cloth, a frontal, a covering for the credence table and covers for the lectern and pulpit. The
women wanted a design appropriate for the Easter season so I (insanely!) decided to embroider three crosses on the covers and the altar frontal.

Each piece took more than eight hours to do so, needless to say, I just finished them at 6 PM on Saturday evening! They are washed and are now hanging on the bamboo fence drying. They will be ironed using the iron box, a flip-top iron that gets filled with hot coals from the kitchen. Good thing I live right by the side of the cathedral so I can run them over if the children finish their music practice before they are ironed. I am always overoptimistic.

The children are practicing for tomorrow so three have drums–small, medium and large–and some of the younger children are practicing their choreography while singing. It adds to the overall anticipation of Easter.

Good Friday services here were not as solemn as we might think in the ECUSA We had drums, happy music, allelujas, and all the usual Moru worship in addition to the prayers and readings for Good Friday with one small distraction: a well-known woman who uses rather a lot of alcohol entered the church as the preaching started and started to rant and walk around in front of the preacher. He knew enough to ignore her and she soon left. It was a bit distracting, to say the least! It was a day off for people who worked at the hospital with the exception of the nurses and those in direct patient care. Church people, however, worked very hard getting ready for the events to come.

We have had showers nearly daily but they will tell you that the rains haven’t started yet. I am grateful for any rain as it tends to cool things off some. It is easier to sleep with the rain-cooled breezes.

I wish you all a very blessed Eastertide and Passover and hope to see all of you soon. Please pray for “real” rain so the crops get planted on time. Peace be with you, Deb

A Day in Lui

Saturday, April 8th, 2006

Building Continues

There is a lot of activity about as things move toward synod. A group of workers are busily thatching the roof of the new kitchen to make it ready for mudding as soon as possible. As I write, they are tying small bundles out of the larger one to prepare them to be woven into a water-tight roof. I’m taking pictures of the whole process.

A new fence is taking shape around the church compound as they have sunk new posts and hammered in three rows of bamboo poles. Then they take split bamboo poles and weave them through the horizontal bamboo poles. The fence posts are frequently made of ebony wood that is incredibly beautiful. The outside bark is silvery and rough looking and the inner wood is white but it is the heart of the ebony that is beautifully black. It is hard to believe they would use it for fencing but it resists termites because it is so hard.

Mother’s Union Update

The Mother’s Union Sewing House is in full swing now as there are now more newly assembled sewing machines. We sit on the veranda near the road and sew in the shade of a beautiful mahogany tree. It is bright and we are beginning to make really beautiful clothing or “bongo lingi ekye”.

The women have also begun bringing in baskets and mats woven of sorghum stalks or palms for sale. There is also a potter who makes things by using a coil method, burnishing them with a stone before firing them in a handmade kiln. The black mud of Lui comes red in the kiln with areas of shiny black as well. The local maker of bows and arrows is bringing a bow for sale also. “A man is not a man without a bow!” so say the Morus.

Finally I had a request to write about a typical day in the life of a missionary in Lui so I decided to do so.

The sun rises and sets at 7 o’clock here five degrees north of the equator and soon, my life became governed by that fact. I rise every day with the sun. I have an alarm clock but soon found I didn’t need it as the roosters begin crowing early and soon someone is chopping wood to heat the water for my bath and tea. I can hear the screech of the sorghum-stalk broom on the dry earth of the kitchen letting me know that the day has begun.

I go for my bath about the time I hear the “pock-pock-pock-pock” of the small drum calling everyone to Morning Prayer at the cathedral but, try as I might, I have never gotten bath water early enough to go. And I need the bath water! Bathing is done by pouring water dipped from a basin over myself I will never again take water for granted! Maundy Thursday or baptism will never be the same for me, either.

I dress for the day and then have a breakfast of hot tea and, usually a roll of some kind and then dash off for chapel at Samaritan’s Purse Hospital. Worship there lasts about half an hour and then we all go to our places of work. I first go to the Human Resources office to fill up three liters of water to last me for the day and then go to pediatrics to make rounds with Doctor Martin Otine. He is from Uganda and is an expert in the many tropical diseases we have here. Mostly he examines babies and I write the progress notes and orders for
medications and treatments. As we have about 25 to 30 very sick children every day, we are quite busy. I listen to all the murmurs and help in whatever way I can with assessments, too. After rounds, we are frequently doing ultrasounds and have done a few procedures where we remove fluid from around the hearts of children who have chronic heart problems. All this takes until about noon.

Sometimes I am called to pray with the chaplains for children who are very sick. The blessed oil I brought from Missouri is sometimes used for anointing the children with prayers and Scripture readings in English and Moru. We know the very best we can do for these children is to pray for them so we do.

I come to the compound about noontime, check my e-mail and eat lunch. Lunch for the more than 100 days I have been here is red beans and rice. Sometimes there is bread and sometimes a fruit but that is it. No New Orleans red beans and rice but just salt-free, spice-free food. I have only myself to blame for this being a vegetarian in the land of carnivores.

After lunch, I go to the sewing house and open it up. The first thing I do is to sweep off the porch using a sorghum broom. Sheep and goats seek shelter from the heat on our veranda so the “evidence” of their presence must be swept away along with the ever-present dust.

Once that is done, I bring a machine out and start to sew on the porch. Soon women and children gather around, more machines are brought out, and the women begin to sing or whistle Moru hymns as we work. I sometimes have to make them leave as they enjoy what they are doing and being in the company of other women so much they don’t want to leave. We hand the beautiful things we have made on the line so others can see what we are doing. The women like showing off their work, too.

As the sun gets a little lower, I go to the compound and meet with the English students. They are mostly pastors who need English in order to study Theological Education by Extension. We have recently begun to concentrate on grammar as we have completed the Primary Level 5 book. There are usually about three of us sitting in the shade of a tukel until light begins to fail.

Nightfall comes quickly as there is little twilight. I usually try to go to get my bath before it is dead dark as there is little light and there are creatures…. Toads like the bath house but they are harmless.

I eat supper usually under Orion’s Belt. The stars are close enough that Edward Kajivora said, “You can hear them singing!” The Milky Way is overhead running north and south. The half-moon casts shadows and it is almost bright enough to read by. I sit by a kerosene light that attracts bugs so it sits on the ground. Bugs run around the light in a crazy demolition derby. There is one creature they call a koli that look like huge spiders but might be land crabs or something but people tell me they are harmless or even “kado para” very good. They still try to stomp in them but rarely succeed as they are very fast!

The one constellation they watch for is the Plieades which I have spelled wrong I’m sure but what we call the Seven Sisters sometimes. The Morus call it Mimumini because they say that it plays with you. When you look at the cluster of stars directly, you can’t see it well but if you look away from it a bit, you can see it better. Morus think it tries to hide from you. When it is in the northwest sky it means rain is near so they watch for it.

By the time I have done all this, I am ready for bed. All creatures great and small come awake, however, and although the original rat has now passed away, others come to take his place regularly. It is hot so sleep comes fitfully at night. It is usually close to 90 degrees in the early evening so it can be a hot night under the mosquito netting. I say my prayers and go to sleep.

On Saturdays, I sometimes sew but it is my real Sabbath as I teach TEE on Sunday afternoons. Last Sunday it was the books of Ruth and 1 Samuel! Also on Saturdays, I do sermon prep if I am scheduled and sometimes if I am NOT scheduled as you never know in Moru land when you will have to preach with no prep to speak of. Everyone preaches here. Once I found myself having to preach at a confirmation only having learned that I was preaching on the way there! “What lessons?” “Whatever you feel called to preach on.” Oh no! But it went
okay. Not that I remember what I said!

Life here is always challenging but the people make it all worth while. I hope you have enjoyed hearing a bit about a day in Lui.