Friday, September 14, 2007

Update About My Nephew in Sudan

Rebuilding Christian churches in southern Sudan

ECS church in Tonj, SudanA church in Tonj, Sudan,
that Ben helped to build

You may remember that my nephew Ben, a civil engineer, is working for Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization. He is in southern Sudan, where he has been helping with rebuilding Christian churches that were destroyed in the recent civil war. His role is to organize workers and materials and to provide expertise and oversight for the construction.

Church dedication service at Tonj, Sudan
Opening service in the church at Tonj
When he first arrived, he was headquartered at Tonj, a small town in southern Sudan. He helped build three churches in that area -- one in Tonj, one in Thiet (45 minutes south), and one in Mapel (1-1/2 hours north.) The church members in those three villages had already assembled their materials and made their cement blocks, so they were ready to begin construction.

Now Ben is at Rumbek, another small town in southern Sudan, rebuilding churches in several villages in the area. A letter he wrote to his mom early this month gives a glimpse of some of the challenges in a third world country where many modern conveniences, such as blacktop roads, don't exist.

I have been getting quite of bit of rain recently here in Rumbek. The main problem though I have been facing is the flooding that was caused by the eastern and southern parts of Sudan getting so much rain. It cut off all the roads that go to Uganda from Rumbek for two weeks.

This put a strain on the town and my church projects because almost all the food and merchandise is brought up from Uganda and all my church materials are brought up from Yei and Uganda. We were forced to delay the start of building churches in this area from the end of August to the end of September because we were not able to transport the supplies and building crew up.

I've also been cut off from my two most northern churches by the flooding. The road to them is under water and the current was so fast it ripped a big culvert out of the road way.

It has been a challenge logistically because I had one of our 20 ton trucks stuck on a different road on that side of the river but I was not able to reach them because of the flooding. I had to send one of my Sudanese staff members to that side by having him swim across the bad place and hitch rides with different trucks to get to the 20 ton truck. Luckily I had both of my small New Holland 4wd tractors on that side to help pull the truck out of the mess.

One of the crazy things they told me about the place the truck was stuck at was that it was so far out in the bush that at night there were a couple of Lions that prowled around their trucks growling and disturbing them. There was a big line of trucks stuck at this one spot so all the driver had to gather together at night to make one big camp with many fires to keep the lions away.

Although disaster struck when one of the tractors was helping pull another trailer out of the road to clear it for our twenty ton to go by. My drivers allowed another truck that was helping them to pull the trailer out of the way to hook the other trucks tow line around the front tractor weights. I suspect they tried to jerk everything out real quick and when they jerked they pulled the front axle off of our tractor.

That was a mess because then I had to send and hire people to dismantle it and put it in the back of our 20 ton to send it back to Yei and no telling how long it will take to get fixed.

More recently, Ben wrote that the roads had dried up enough that he could travel to the two northern church sites again. The road to Yei, an important route for bringing in supplies, has also opened up again. He's hoping his teams can resume construction in late September. Before then, he'll spend a week in Kenya at a Samaritan's Purse Africa ministry retreat. I hope it is refreshing and uplifting because I know he's been working hard. Please continue to pray for him.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.