I have a sense that this trip will mark my life significantly. It will be a whole new culture and continent where spiritual realities are taken at face value and power is a key issue for Christianity. My heart is beginning to soar as I board a plane for Paris. This is the second of six flights before our first stop in Sudan. I have already grown in great respect for Mike Schrage because of his pure heart, kindness, and devotion to Africa.
12/28/04 I just lost a day somehow. After a two-hour flight to Atlanta, a seven hour flight to Paris, and a six hour flight to Cairo, here I sit in a smartly tiled waiting room with Middle-Eastern rugs and squatty potties in the bathrooms, having given up our passports to a very friendly Egyptian security guard. It is evening here and we have a five-hour layover followed by two more flights before arriving in Uganda. Energy is low, spirits are high.
12/29/04 8:13 a.m., we are stranded in Nairobi airport. We missed our flight by ten minutes because we sat on the tarmac in Khartoum for a couple of hours waiting for government clearance. We are now in danger of not getting our visas for Sudan before tomorrow. The Lord has plans and all of us are resting in them. Chris is as tired as I've ever seen him and Mike is down with the flu. I'm franticly preparing for my teaching sessions. I will cover Acts in Sudan and Ephesians in Uganda. Each will be 15 hours of lecture crammed into about a 48-60 hour period each. After reading Ephesians about a dozen times, I think I may be starting to see it through African eyes with Mike's help. We finally arrived in Entebbe, Uganda (without any of our bags) and rushed to get our visas for Sudan. The visa office was very kind to stay open late to accommodate us. Afterwards we went to see the church work in the city and rejoiced over God's grace in this place. The familiar sights and sounds of the third word sang that same sweet-sad melody in my soul: Wild traffic, thronging pedestrians each with the same longings as I for family, safety and significance. The sounds of laughter as men visit on the corner and hungry children cry for protection. This evening we ate at a resort on the edge of Lake Victoria and then bedded down in huts at a resort.
12/30/04 Up at 5:40 a.m. to catch a 7:30 flight to Sudan. It was a MAF flight (Mission Aviation Fellowship). They dropped us off at the dirt airstrip here in Nimule, the port city of Southern Sudan. It is a town of 14,000 with no running water, no paved roads, and no electricity and thousands of IDP's (Internally displaced people). There is absolutely no infrastructure in this place--no sewers, power lines, paved roads, nothing. They live in huts with thatched grass roofs and a kind of clay brick for walls. Many of the children are so poor they have no clothes. But these people are clean. They wash before every meal and sweep their dirt every morning around their homes. There was a discussion about our security when we arrived and it was interesting to see how everyone was brought to the table and each person took their turn to speak before a consensus was reached. The people here are restless, no longer because of Islamic forces from the North are fighting for land, but because the IDP's are hungry for food. We do feel relatively safe, although the pits dug for bomb shelters every 20 feet throughout our compound are reminders of recent days of genocide. We began the teaching sessions about two and went until four. Teaching people, mostly pastors, who have had almost no biblical education but years of teaching under persecution, is an incredible challenge. I realize how little weight my ideas of pacifism hold with those who have fought for, and recently won, freedom through guerrilla warfare. We ate supper outside the classroom building, named "David Louden Bible School." There is room in this building for about 200, we had about 40 participants. We watched the sun set through the haze of the grass fires, glimmering off the Nile. The other guys visited for awhile, I was in bed under my Mosquito net by 8:00 p.m.
12/31/04 My day began at 5:45 a.m. with the melodious echo of drums in the adjacent refugee camp. Our lone musician was accompanied by the harmony of the roosters announcing the dawn. I was well rested and eager for a full day of teaching. We had four 1 1/2 - 2 hour sessions with a break for breakfast, lunch and supper. Breakfast was a cup of Chi with 2 pieces of oiled flat bread. Lunch was a hug bowl of white mush made from corn meal (Ugali), seasoned with goat mean (and intestines, of course). This thrilled the Sudanese who seldom eat meat because they just can't afford it. Yet it is a point of honor for them to give us more than we are able to eat -- thus their generosity has outmatched our ability to receive it. Dinner was a bowl of rice with beans. As I sat with one of the African brothers I asked him if this was how he normally ate. "Oh no," he said, "We can't afford this many beans" and meat is only eaten on rare holidays. Most of these guys would be limited to one meal a day of rice and a few beans. Today is a historic day for this country. After 20 years of war, the Islamic government signed a peace accord with the SPLA (Sudanese People's Liberation Army) because of immense international pressure. All of these guys were huge fans of President Bush because the government had stalled talks of peace until they knew the outcome of the US election. Literally the day Bush won, talks proceeded and today a five-year peace treaty was signed. Here in Nimule, I lectured on Acts, particularly the way the persecuted church of the first century world prevailed against a seemingly impenetrable Roman Empire and they did so by preaching truth, practicing kindness, feeding the poor, and loving their enemies. Their eyes were wide open and their hearts were attentive. They felt dignified and empowered by Acts, by this message of victory and by the realization that Sudan is the gateway to the Middle East and they, particularly are poised to preach Christ in the 10/40 window. I am exhausted from teaching, but more exhausted from multiple requests by my new found brothers. They are pleading for help with tuition fees for school in Uganda. I am perplexed as to how to help them. I need wisdom and I need resources and mostly, I think I need a sacrificial heart.
1/1/05 The New Years church served began with white clad Sudanese women, heads covered and crosses in hand, bowing to enter the worship hut. The base drum called the community to bring in the New Year with worship. We began at 7:30 a.m. The tinkling of the brass ring (probably cut from a mortar shell), the resonating drums, and the Turkish-sounding chants, brought me to a primordial place of worship. These brothers and sisters (sitting separately) are so strange yet so familiar. Their faith, strengthened with the fire of physical displacement, somehow resonates with my own. After forty-five minutes of greetings, interspersed with prayers and singing, Chris Dewelt preaches on Isaiah 6. Children peak through the windows, nursing women sit outside, and a dog wanders in and lays down under the communion table. Chris's translator, Zechariah, is a war hero in the SPLA. Two boys with boom boxes tape the whole service. The Episcopal robes and liturgy are in strange juxtaposition to the dirt floor, thatched ceilings and rough tree-trunk pillars of the church. I realize I am having an experience that is deep, primal, pure, complicated and one which I will remember for eternity. The children point at Chris, a white man as tall as their own Dinka Warriors, and as unique to them as this whole experience is to me. 9:00 a.m. happy new year to my on the other side of the globe, I missed her kiss and noticed. After the worship service we came back to the compound for bread and Chi then on to the school to complete the course. Yarid proctored the exam while Chris, Mike, Ian, and I went to the home of Captain Metiope, a brother whose little girl received a heart surgery through the generosity of Christian doctors who had visited earlier (the girl is still in the states without her parents). He had gathered everyone of note in the city who was part of his kinship group. They sat us in chairs under a Mango tree and as new people arrived every hand shook every other. It was a fascinating study in cultural anthropology and I was honored to be a part of it. This was Africa at its essence. They cooked a whole goat for us in several different sauces, piles of bread and each dignitary received a warm coke. The family drank water. After the meal speeches were given by the host, the reverend, a lieutenant colonel in the SPLA, by Ian and by me -- the professor. I was surprised that Chris was not asked to speak. But here education is highly honored, even over age (yes I'm talking about Chris). They thanked the Americans for the political pressure that forced the signing of the declaration of peace and pleaded with us to remember them and help them rebuild their country. Everywhere I go some young man corners me and begs for sponsorship to continue his high school or University education. They realize this is their only way out of the bondage of poverty. As we left Captain Metiope's house, the sun was low in the sky, blazing orange through the haze behind thatched huts and bush. We walked to the center of the town where New Year's celebrations, fueled by the declaration of peace (and not a little libation), erupted into a traditional dance. More than 2,000 people jumped and swirled, stomped and clapped to drums, singing, and the trills of women. I couldn't resist this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Yarid and I jumped in the circle and were swept away in the dizzying callisthenic celebration. Chris joined us under duress and the crowd exploded in approving laughter, shouts, and joy. To them we symbolized the support and partnership of the entire United States. And for the moment, for the three of us, it was good in the extreme. We returned to the compound and cleaned up. I heard Chris whelp from his bungalow. Apparently a wayward lizard scampered across the roof, down into the bathing area, and apparently blinded by Dewelt's altogether, ran down his arm and fell dazed onto the floor of the cubicle. Both the lizard and Chris flailed about, banging their lanky extremities against the cement walls until the lizard was extricated by the broom Chris used as a scabbard. By far I feel more sorry for the lizard who got the worse of the encounter. As I go to my room the celebration in the adjacent refugee camp is reaching fever pitch and will likely continue much of the night. The sky is speckled with clouds and the stars are blazing more clearly than I can ever remember in my life. Sudan has a pulse like no other place I've been.
1/2/05 The spiders in my room are 3" in diameter. They have been leaving me alone and I have retuned the favor. It's not so benevolent really. It's simply that I dislike flies and mosquitoes more than spiders. At worship at 7:40, the meeting hut already has 500 people singing prayers and will double that in the next 30 minutes. Of course it is relatively easy to rise at 6:00 when you have no electricity (although the New Year's celebrations did last deep into the night). The music consists of two drums--large base on a 4/4 beat and a smaller one on a 6/4 beat. The second instrument is a rhythmic stick with beads and the third instrument is a metal ring struck on a 4/4 beat alternately holding it, and then releasing it so it rings out resonantly. There are chairs of honor in the front of the church. These three rows are for elders (men on the left and women on the right). The seats for the rest of the congregation are made of rows of hardened dirt with a plaster over them. The women lay cloth on them so their white dresses are not soiled. Most of them carry 2' crosses that bob rhythmically as they sing. The state is also raised dirt and clay with a table at the rear. It is for the offerings they will bring. On the floor is an incense burner which looks like a small cooking pot and fills the whole place with a sweet fragrance not unlike roasted marshmallows. The reverend sits in the largest chair to the left of the pulpit which they call the throne. Prayers and scripture readings are interspersed with singing.
The Dinka are a very tall and dark people with sever buck teeth. In fact, for them, the larger the teeth, the straighter and further they stick out, the larger the gap between them, the more beautiful it is considered. They often pull the bottom front teeth so their lower lip sticks out less, making the upper buck teeth more pronounced.
The sermon is on the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34. He applied it directly to the peace agreement signed yesterday. While he recognized the new covenant in Jesus' blood, he suggested that their present situation only now enters them into his new covenant. This new agreement must not be broken as the former peace agreement. It is about story (ours), not merely history (theirs). This is classic liberation Hermeneutic and it is deeply embedded in faith not merely politics. They are inextricably tied together. After service we walked to the Pentecostal Church where Yarid was preaching and then back to the compound for lunch. During the afternoon we packed twelve people into a land rover, including 2 SPLA guards armed with AK 47's, who escorted us to the park where we enjoyed the rapids of the mighty Nile River. The Elephants, crocodiles and hippos had better sense than to be out in the Sudanese afternoon sun in the late spring. We came back, at supper and returned to the compound where Yarid and I finished scoring the exams (mostly Yarid). Tomorrow is our last full day in Sudan and we only have meetings planned to hear appeals for help.
1/03/05 Today was given to meetings with Ian and various groups seeking assistance. These negotiations are very complex and potentially volatile. They lasted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The four Americans gave the day to prayer. Specifically we prayed walking the perimeter of the nine acre property. Later we prayed over Kennedy and David, the two Kenyan missionaries to live here in Nimule. And we prayed for Ian. The morning was chilly, but by mid afternoon it was all we could do to sit around and sweat. We missed the evening meal at the school so we all shared a package of M&M's a chocolate bar, a granola bar, and an Airline snack mix. It was more than sufficient.
1/04/05 Today will be the first day I'll be able to communicate with Barbara. I can't wait! I dreamt about her all night. It was a day of grueling travel. We boarded the twelve-passenger MAF flight and then made several stops, up and down six times picking up passengers and dropping them off. We left at 10:00 a.m. and finally landed in Entebbe at 4:15 p.m. I was not feeling very well, but we did get all our luggage. They told me only one of mine had arrived but that was because somewhere along the way it was renamed "Clark" instead of Moore. Go figure. We also received the very sad news that Carol Dewelt's mother passed away suddenly. So Christ immediately boarded another plane for Nairobi in an attempt to make it to Tulsa for the funeral Thursday morning. We talked about what his remaining goals were for the trip and Mike and Yarid and I will try to make those connections and conversations in his absence. Much of my heart goes with him and certainly Cairo will not be the same without him. We had a four hour ride from Entebbe to Mbale in a crowded vehicle over poor roads; normally not a problem but tough with Sadness and Fatigue. I called Barbara but got an answering machine. Just left a message that we were ok.
1/05/05 I taught hard from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a thirty-minute break in the morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch. It was a marathon but the students were up for it. There for just over 50 students, mostly from Kenya and Uganda but a few from Tanzania. One who struck my heart was a woman named Judith. She bowed before me when she turned in her papers and always dressed in striking Uganda traditional attire. This woman seemed so passive and submissive but she has started numerous churches and trained their leaders. I met a true, living Deborah. This is an exciting work going on here. I'm looking forward to time with the Email. Perhaps tomorrow night. It is after 11 p.m. and I have another marathon day tomorrow.
1/6/05 We finished our course on Ephesians, teaching all day again. Thanks to the generosity of Ozark Christian College and Christ in Youth, we were able to hand out two T-shirts to each person since our bags did not arrive for the Sudan. The students were more than grateful. Ozark also donated enough pens and wristbands for each person and College Press gave two boxes of books for the missionaries (Ian Shelburne and Shawn Tyler) and the Library of the Messiah Theological Institute. We will also give a free signed copy of my Encounters with Christ to the top five students of the class. We had students from the following Nations, Tribes, and Languages in the course of our time here:
I finished the course in the same way Paul concluded the book, with an appeal to prayer. I prayed for my brothers and sisters what Paul suggested -- that every time they open their mouth, God would give them a message of power to proclaim boldly the gospel of Jesus. They were deeply moved by the prayer and returned the favor. I knelt on the concrete floor while the elder men surrounded me and prayed for blessings, power and beauty on my ministry and family. It built into a crescendo of classic African excitement, and it was overpowering. It was, almost without parallel, a great moment of prayer in my life.
1/07/05 Today was given to an eight hour meeting. We talked about everything from interns, Good News Productions, Ozark Christian College, Lubbock Christian University, Messiah Theological Institute and our participation in bringing leadership training to the Sudan as a window into the Middle East. Mike Schrage (GNPI), Kirk Hayes (LCU), Shawn Tyler, Ian Shelburne, Yarid Martian, and I were the participants. It was fascinating to hear each person bring his expertise to strategically plan for future development. Normally such a long meeting would be worse than being beaten with a bat. But these men, in this place, at this time is terribly exciting.
1/8/05 We had a down day. Mike and Yarid and I went to the center of town and just walked the shops for about two hours studying culture and buying tea. Then we met back at the house at 10:00 a.m. and drove into the mountains where we saw a fantastic trilogy of waterfalls. We hiked an hour and a half to see the base of the largest of the three. It was spectacular. On the way home we stopped at a coffee plant and purchased some beans grown and roasted locally. This evening the missionaries will gather for a time of singing and fellowship. Tomorrow we are off to Cairo.
1/9/05 Worship in Kampala, the largest city of Uganda with Bantu ("people") and Nilotic (from the upper Nile originally) and Nilohamitic (from Ham) comprising the 3 major language groups excepting Arabic Bushmen/Pigmy. Ian has left us in the hands of the local missionaries who will take us to the airport by 1:00 to catch a 3:00 p.m. flight to Nairobi on to Cairo. This worship is in English (the preferred inter-tribal language) and due to being in a larger city, the dress is more western. It is outside under a canopy and the weather is idyllic--72 degrees, sunshine and a light breeze. It was a pleasant non-instrumental worship, using familiar American songs along with native African songs--it was a wonderful international flavor. After a wonderful lunch we drove frantically to make it to the airport and found more strict security then I had ever been in. Even the cars were searched before driving up to the airport, We barely made our plane. Then we were late arriving to Nairobi due to being put into a holding pattern because of VIP departures. But we made it just fine to Cairo and were picked up by Sahfah, a Christian teacher in the city and a dignified older gentlemen who has arranged for all our travels here. It is midnight and time to sleep.
1/10/05 Our room was freezing! Regardless, I feel somewhat refreshed. After a good breakfast we are poised to tackle the pyramids. We met Sahfah at 9:00 a.m. and it took an hour to make arrangements because the police insisted that we have an armed security guard go with us. As election in Iraq draw near, the entire Arab world fells more betrayed by the U.S. We're not really in danger, at least we don't sense it--but our guard has his eyes and ears out for disgruntled rogues. Well, off we went to the Cairo Museum and saw the unbelievable treasures of Tutank Amen, only to find out that he was only 19 when he died and was a relatively insignificant Pharaoh. This sheds light, comparatively, on what glorious treasures must have been robbed from the major pyramids. This is the world that Moses saw; this is the cradle of the people of God. After the museum we drove to the 3 pyramids of Geza, the largest in the world. Truly I was not prepared for their massive size. I stood today at the great pyramids and marveled . Mike and I paid over 20 shillings ($3.50) and climbed to the center of the second one through narrow and cramped hallways that opened into a massive burial chamber . Certainly not advisable for one with claustrophobia. The Sphinx was next, an impressive spectacle, it actually sat originally enclosed in a temple built in honor of the Pharaoh who was eviscerated and mummified and its red granite halls. Odd that the temple had this single purpose, to mummify the dead Pharaoh, celebrated here as a god. After that we ate dinner in the shadow of the pyramids ad the sun set behind them. We had a chance then to visit with Sahfah for a couple of hours before going to the train station. Here I sit in a 1st class reclining seat on our 8 hour ride to Luxor. The clocking tracks and rumbling wheels will be my lullaby as my thoughts and prayers turn to home. It was 2 weeks ago to this hour that we pulled out of my driveway at to begin this journey and my heart it already beginning to return.
1/11/05 I woke up surprisingly refreshed after 6 hours of interrupted and very cold sleep. Arrived at the station in Luxor (Thebes of the Bible) and began our trout at 7:30. Our guide was a nominally committed Muslim, very outgoing and friendly, and extremely competent in Egyptian history and hieroglyphics. I have had a crash course today on in the history, religion, and symbolism of Egypt. We were able to walk deep into the mountain and see the intricately decorated and highly detailed writings on the walls. It was overpowering. But this was surpassed by the temple of Hatshepsut, the only Egyptian to rule in ancient Egypt. She took the power and robes of a Pharaoh, so effectively, in fact, that for many years scholars did not know she was a woman. The temples on the West bank were for the dead, the temples on the East (where the sun rises) are for the living. We saw two of them. The Luxor temple, visited and partially built by Alexander the Great. The largest temple (not just of Luxor, but of the world!) is the temple of Karnak, I've seen many temples in many lands, none would surpass this one in its prime. I simply was not prepared for its grandeur. The Egyptian civilization surpassed all others I know of in their education, medicine, and architecture, in relation to their period of history. The Greeks still have pride of place in philosophy and art, the Romans in politics and warfare, India in religion and Hebrews in ethics. But all told, this is the most impressive culture for its totality that I've yet encountered. I find Egyptians proud, yet kind, peaceful, friendly (yet still closed in many ways), and well aware of their unique contributions to history.