27 December, 2007

26 December, 2007

Building Process

Ok. So I think it's probably about time I explain a bit of what is happening over here and what I've been involved in over the past year. I had some pictures before of building in process, but I want to show and explain a bit of the most important part of the project. The people of the churches are involved in the beginning stages of the project through gathering materials and making the cement blocks used in the new church building. Depending on the church, this can either be the easiest part of the job or the most difficult as some churches are very agreeable to work with while others are very demanding. It is important for the community to be interested and involved in the project, or else as we continue to partner alongside the problems are only compounded and many of the simple things become the opposite.

Last month I had an encounter with some of the management of another NGO (non-governmental organization) involved in some development projects. This organization is working on building schools and they have had some contact with some of the communities we have already assisted with churches. They came by the office and were asking lots of questions about how we make our blocks, how it works with coordinating the work that the communities do, and other aspects of our project. You see, they also know that unless the community is involved, the end result often is taken for granted and not used nearly as much as if the community has a vested interest. They are planning to have the communities be responsible for the same locally available resources that we do. It is encouraging to know that others have seen how we are doing things and consider that it is a worthwhile idea to imitate with other projects. The other good thing about this is knowing that some of the communities we have partnered with will also be getting schools built for the children to receive an education.

We continue to press on with our tasks, and as the dry season is now upon us again, we look forward to getting a lot done in the upcoming months.

05 December, 2007

Miles and More Miles

651.3 Miles. That’s what the tripometer (or whatever it’s called) reads right now on the bright yellow four wheeler I’ve gotten close to over the past week. While that might not seem like much in a little under a week, the top speed on this vehicle is 40 miles per hour (or a little more), but there are few times on these roads that you actually reach that speed. The rapid survey we are currently conducting is just that, and there were a few teams of us who went out with a translator to some of the far corners of Southern Sudan. I must admit that I feel like a bit of a Nancy. Yes, I may have won Beardapalooza 2007. But, I had a couple months head start on Travis Yates . . . and he still almost caught up with me. I think the mullet helped me convince him to throw in the towel before the end of the year. You may be more of a man than me, Travis, but I’ve got a few years experience on you that gives me the edge in knowing how to prepare for competition.

So, the reason I feel like a bit of a Nancy (yes, that is a derogatory use of a generic female name to signify a condition of weakness. I’ve still got a ways to go to stop generalizing about women in a mostly negative way, but I do recognize that nagging and being physically weaker in general does not equate into being a disadvantage or negative thing in many aspects of life. Nonetheless, being a Nancy is not a good thing.) is because I was supposed to have acquired about another 150 miles or so onto that total. The route I was scheduled for also covered some worse roads and went into some areas that are pretty well cut off from much of anything. I, however, ended up with malaria when the survey was to start and got a less strenuous route to complete once my body recovered. My mileage total also doesn’t include the 125 miles I drove (while sick with malaria but not yet knowing it) on the 4-wheeler back to Yei for the training on how to do the survey. But, that was a couple days before leaving on Wednesday last week instead of Tuesday because of needing the extra day to recover, so it doesn’t make sense to add the mileage total along with the couple days because it will take down my daily average quite a bit. I guess I’ll just need to find another reason why I have to make it to the place where the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and Sudan all intersect. Anybody got some good excuses for me to justify having to make the couple hundred mile trek?

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of the journey. As I’m typing this I’m realizing that to really help you understand what traveling during dry season in Sudan is like I need photographic evidence. It has not rained in several weeks now, and so the dust just collects in open windows on everything inside and outside of vehicles, houses, and otherwise. When on a 4-wheeler, this means that your whole body gets a reddish brown tint to it, especially when you have hair covering your face and sticking out of your helmet. I know I’m not known for being clean in general, but a day of travel on an open vehicle right now is like not showering for a month. So, imagine if I hadn’t showered in 4 or 5 months (because I did at least try to rinse out the dirt everyday, but it wasn’t worth really scrubbing and all every evening). Yeah, I was dirty, but it is a pretty sweet way to see quite a bit of Sudan (when not looking straight ahead to determine how to avoid the potholes that cover the roadway).

So, Mom, please don’t worry. Yes I had malaria, but it is not that bad. I am fine. It did cause me to miss out on my chance to have a 2005 Road trip USA style with Phil, Mike, and David (which will never be topped) and instead settle for the equivalent of a trip just to Colorado and back from the East Coast.

12 November, 2007


Most of you are probably more surprised that I have posted 10-15 times on this blog than that I haven’t posted anything for a month and a half or whatever it has been. So maybe this will be me turning another leaf and getting back into the blogging something like every couple weeks or maybe this one will take quite a long time to be followed up on again. Either way, I hope that it helps those of you who are interested to have an idea of what is going on with me over here in Sudan.

Well, I’ve moved. I’m currently in a town (for Sudan standards, maybe it would be considered a city . . . but probably not even) called Maridi. It’s been a couple of weeks of getting a base set-up by making sure we get a fence up, concrete slabs poured for our tents, a kitchen and storage built, hiring staff to facilitate our operations, meeting with church leaders from the area as well as those of the various churches we are able to partner with, and begin helping these churches move towards the building process through coordinating transportation of natural resources, encouraging the churches to work, distributing tools, food, and getting things prepared at each site for the making of cement blocks. Of course, I’m not doing all this on my own. We have a new staff member from the U.S. that is here with me learning the process of things, and there are a number of national staff that we have added who are helping an enormous amount. We’ve met with fifteen churches (the farthest being about 2 and a half hours away from town) that I hope will all be finished with construction by April and already have another fifteen on their way to being ready for construction.

It’s been quite a change from Yei where there were all different levels of things happening. There, we have kind of a factory where all the trusses and steel going to sites are fabricated, doors and windows and benches are made, and churches were at all stages in the process around there. Here, it is only the mobilization of the churches that is really taking place as things will be shipped from Yei for the construction. Facilitating the churches gathering sand, stone, backfill, and water needed for construction as well as ensuring the proper molding and curing of the cement blocks used for the church are really the only tasks regarding the church building here. Coordinating transportation on difficult roads and in the midst of the continuing rains is the biggest challenge aside from making sure that the setup of the base and coordination with local officials is happening.

So, that’s a bit of an update from me, and here are a couple of photos from here in my new area.

-Joe Dirt
Outside my temporary new home (will be moving into a tent soon)
Looking at a sample of river sand to see if it might be useful for construction
So the roads don't have proper drainage. . . On the right used to be
the road some years back, the bypass on the left is used now

02 October, 2007

It Happens


17 August, 2007


I got back to Sudan yesterday after an enjoyable time in Zanzibar with three other South Sudan staff and a few days in Nairobi. There are a few pictures of Zanzi for your viewing pleasure, but if you want to see any that include some of the ladies I met, you’ll have to ask. It is a beautiful place that also happens to be the home of Freddie Mercury. I didn’t and probably still wouldn’t know who that was except that my friend Aaron who was along is a pretty big Queen fan. It was way more fun than it probably should have been, but we spent a whole afternoon searching the island for the birthplace of the lead singer of the musical group Queen. Not only that, but when we ate dinner at a restaurant/bar named after him, Aaron sang “We Will Rock You” and “Fat-Bottomed Girls” in an attempt to get the waitresses to recognize who the bar was named after. It is rather ironic that none of the people who worked in the restaurant even knew who the guy the place was named after was. (Other songs by Queen include “We are the Champions” and “Bicycle”).

Some of the other stories of the island include almost spending a night with some remote fishermen due to the tide coming in after a 20 km walk down the beach when we kept thinking there would be another resort just around the next point. If it hadn’t been for Ndumi, the guy who helps run the bungalows we stayed at, and the rescue boat he sent for us, it would have been a very chilly and uncomfortable night’s sleep. Instead, we got to enjoy a sunset and starlit cruise back to where we stayed. There was also two days of renting dirt bikes and cruising the island, one of which was with some new friends, and also a cookout with the yellow-fin tuna and mahi-mahi that two of the guys caught while fishing off a dhow.

I found out quite a bit happened while I was gone. You can read about some of it on Phil’s blog from the link on the side. Things haven’t slowed down any, but are still rolling along in spite of the rains. Our plans have been changed somewhat due to the conditions of things here, but we are adjusting accordingly and will continue to adjust daily as that is a fact of life here. It was a bit more difficult returning this time compared to last time for some reason, but I trust that getting back into the flow of things will help. I do hope that you are all doing well and enjoying the last bits of summer.

Zanzi pics

Fletcher’s catch of the day

Out for a ride

Is this Freddie Mercury’s home?

The second largest smile I saw on Matt’s face. . .

Some sweet sunsets

04 August, 2007

Aversion to Polls

Ok, ESPN.com is one of my favorite websites. While I am a sports fan, possibly the biggest joy I get out of going to the site is often because they always have a poll on the side of their website. Plus, at some of the various individual sport main pages, they will have various additional polls. For some reason, I love voting on polls. I like comparing my votes to others and putting my input into various questions I have an opinion about. And while Page 2 of ESPN usually provides some good reading, I almost always vote in a poll while there are many times I only read the titles of the articles on Page 2. Of course, whenever March Madness is going on, I'm definitely going to be checking how I'm doing in the tourney challenge.

So, I've noticed that only 10 people voted in my poll that I started last week. And two of those people work with me here in Sudan (in fact I think they each voted two or three times). While I am considering that maybe I'm odd in my fascination with polls, I'd imagine at least a few more people would be interested in voting. Unfortunately, I've also considered that it is likely there aren't many people who find my blog interesting and so they don't come to the site and thereby don't have the opportunity to vote. The poll is one way that I will try to keep the information on this blog interesting, but if you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment and tell me.

I am leaving in just a few hours on an overnight bus to Dar es Salaam and will be catching a ferry from there to Zanzibar where I will spend a little time. So, I hope that you are all enjoying yourselves as much as me this week. My poll this week will be related to this journey. And, for those of you intersted in last weeks answer, I accidentally had a trick question there. At first I thought it was between one and two months, but then when I was trying to track back to the last time I had actually used soap or shampoo, I realized it was probably right about the two month mark. So, if you voted early, it may have been in the one to two month range, but it is likely that it was actually the over two month answer that was correct. Well, keep on keeping on.

30 July, 2007


Denominationalism. It's interesting how the Christian community has traditionally had so many divisions and distinctions. I wouldn't want anyone to associate me with a church that speaks in tongues or preaches about miracle healings or any of that nonsense. People might think I'm crazy. Those people who baptize children are wrong; I better make sure people know that I believe the "right" stuff about God. At least for me, there have been many different reasons why I've wanted to distinguish which denomination I beong to over the years. I'd like to think I've gotten beyond all that separation (for the most part anyway).

It seems sometimes that different denominations are more concerned with having more followers than another or trying to convince more people that they have more of the nuances of Christianity right than another church than in helping non-believers to know the Truth of Jesus Christ. Africa is no different (maybe worse than the USA) in this respect. I hear about churches wanting to start new churches right across from existing ones of other denominations or in the same communities as already existing churches. Communities where people in general are already "Christian" at least by name. Nominalism is rampant. But, there are so many communities that still have no church and people walk for miles to reach a church. Yet the efforts to form churches is not there. As you could imagine, building new, lasting church buildings could easily cause some denominational animosity and friction when most churches meet in grass-thatched, mud-walled buildings. We don't discriminate based on how you practice faith, but there are some factors that affect which churches we are able to partner with that results in partnering with one or two denominations much more often than others. And the sizes of church building vary somewhat, providing more opportunity for jealousy or fighting. I've seen this other places and especially seen it in society in general which, like most of the negative aspects of society as a whole, means it is likely just as large a problem for the church.

It is with this line of thinking that I was surprised and encouraged yesterday. Attending a church opening celebration for a church that was recently finished, I witnessed a service that included and incorporated members of all the other denominations in the area. The speakers from this denomination as well as those from the others and even a representative from the local government spoke of unity. Many people commented on it being the first time they had been in a service like this with leaders from all different denominations present, and the leaders of the church were thanked for including and incorporating everyone. And, traveling with two leaders of different (competing) denominations for the two hour ride to and from the celebration, I heard them talking together and laughing a lot of the way. It is encouraging to meet men of God who are truly concerned about God's kingdom.

26 July, 2007

Another Day

This will be a quick post after a couple weeks of silence. Here's a couple of the sweeter pictures I have taken. This church was finished last month and is having it's opening celebration in a couple days. Beautiful place. Unfortunately, climbing the mountains in the background could lead to some problems with the authorities due to local folklore (unless there really is mercury that someone back in the day decided to bury at the top. . . who would want to steal mercury anyway?)

Also, notice at the side of the page that I have added a poll to the site. I am hoping/planning to change the question each week in an attempt to make sure I at least do something each week on the site and to encourage me to add more posts also. So, be sure to check back for next weeks question to be posted next Thursdayish.

11 July, 2007

Semi-Annual Gala

So we had our first ever semi-annual gala recently for the staff. The clever name for it kept our staff in suspense as I don't think any of them had any idea what a gala is. And apparently I didn't have any idea either, or else we gave our staff an incorrect impression of what a gala is. Anything with the name of a gala makes me picture fancy clothes, ballroom dancing, formal speeches, and the like. While our head carpenter from Uganda named Belmos did bust out a tie and some of our staff dressed smart (the way to say when someone looks nice here), most of us had on t-shirts and shorts, some of which had been washed in the previous week. Belmos is a great guy who loves to talk about his wife and family and keeps trying to convince me to find a Ugandan wife. He laughs a lot and always has an interesting story to tell. On top of that, we keep him around because he can put together some incredibly nice doors, windows, tables, or anything else you would want to be made of wood. And since most of the wood we work with is mahogany, these things look immaculate.

Back to the gala: Well, after bringing back about 70 field staff from various church sites (a real logistical nightmare) we started in the morning a little late with devotions and a big thanks to the staff before the big soccer tourney. The carpenters beat the masons and the welders beat the mechanics and drivers in the first round with the welders winning the next round. Then, once we had tired them out through having them play two games (had to get an advantage somehow), the administrative/ex-pat staff took on the welders for the championship which we won 3-0 thanks to a hat trick by our Ugandan finance officer, Andrew. Quite a fun lead in to the main event for the day. . . the 7-8 goat roast. When you're feeding probably 125-150 people it requires quite a lot of food. The clothes line (steel post not the line itself) actually provided a nice place to hang the goats for butchering. And now we're trying to figure out where we would be able to butcher a cow for some other reason we haven't yet figured out, but would like the excuse.

It was a pretty fun day, and our staff we were able to laugh and play alongside our staff that have worked so hard to help us accomplish what we have. Good times. Of course getting staff back out to sites following the celebration was not so fun, but it was worth it. By the 2nd semi-annual gala (maybe we'll actually have another one in the next year) I'm sure our staff will probably have doubled or more and I'll wish we only had 60-70 people to worry about getting back.

01 July, 2007

One of those days

So we had our biggest transport truck get stuck overnight for the first time with an entire crew over the weekend. I was actually traveling down the same road the day before while the truck was headed to pick up the crew and their materials to take to a different site. I met the truck between two spots where there were other big transport trucks stuck in the road. Thankfully the Land Cruiser I was in is a really nice 4-wheel drive truck that got me through the mess with only a bit of tricky maneuvering that included pulling one van-taxi out of a place where it was stuck blocking me from passing. Our truck eventually made it through the mess with a lot of patience and a little help from the D-8 Caterpillar bulldozer that is being used to help fix the road. It's just too bad they hadn't finished things before the rains came, and they're still leaving it a dirt road that would be and is being ruined by the rains. And when they spread the soil for compacting and it rains before running it over with their roller it just makes a big slick muddy mess.

Well, the road did improve through no more rain overnight and a day of sun, but the 25-30 trucks that were backed up in either direction didn't really allow the road to heal up all the way before our truck got loaded up and hit the road. The biggest problem with the fact that a 3 to 4 hour journey gets turned into a 9 hour journey is that around 15 people were in the truck. You see, here in Sudan, there are no McDonald's or Wendy's to stop at for lunch. Which leaves Taco Bell as the only choice. While this would be no problem for me, the Sudanese don't like Mexican for some reason. Anyways, it takes hours to prepare beans, and since rice or posho/ugali and beans are what we provide to our crews for meals, stopping to eat is quite a process. And we don't encourage open fires in the back of the truck, so cooking while traveling doesn't work nearly as well as it did for me and the crew from Bear Lake when we were cooking sloppy joes in the crockpot plugged into the cigarette adapter of the van on our way to Teen Missions. (Quite a fun and memorable trip.) On top of that, there aren't really lodges on the side of the road at the places where trucks get stuck, so you just keep digging out instead of stopping and waiting for things to dry out which results in some worn-out and tired crews and drivers.

Considering the roads won't really be getting better until late September (hopefully), this probably won't be the last time something like this happens when you consider that we are running 4 crews presently with the fifth about to start up again, and they finish building each church in three to four weeks. That means about 6 times of transporting crews between churches each month. With trucks that keep breaking down, given the road conditions they travel on and the difficulty of predicting when the rains are heavy enough to cause the severe problems, the next few months will be a logistical nightmare. And we had just really been getting the logistical issues ironed out (I thought). Oh well, that's what keeps it fun.

Hope all is well wherever you are. Life's a garden. Dig it.

p.s. It's not nearly as big a deal for people here to go through the above scenario as it would be for most of you or I. It's actually pretty normal for people who travel the roads often during rainy season here.

26 June, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

It's amazing how God works. In the last post I was contemplating how we as Christians should use the resources God blesses us with. Is it possible to waste what God has given? Definitely. But, there is no formula to figure out just what is enough or what is too much. Personally, I think focusing on costs so much and being so worried about being "good stewards" that it is the money that is the central factor in a decision is more of a danger for many Christians than being poor stewards. Our focus obviously should be on answering God's leading, and sometimes it might not make sense either financially or through human reasoning to follow God's leading. I am glad that God works in different ways in different areas when it comes to church buildings, and I trust that the leaders responsible for building churches in Liberia, Sudan, or Pennsylvania are (and have) all spent time in prayer and are continuing to seek the Lord's leading.

Along those lines, something that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately is how God works. It is frustrating (refreshing) how He always does things in spite of us (me) and doesn't work the way we (I) would like or understand. A friend of mine who is working here in Sudan recently said that the trick to this place is simple: Nothing is going to go according to plan, so accept it. Now, I like to think of myself as pretty smart. For some reason I think I can plan well and know or can figure out the best way to do things in a given situation. That's not easy here. (It's probably not easy wherever each of you are reading this either, though.) But for me, over the last several months as I try to make plans for how we can accomplish the most in getting churches ready to build and in getting materials and crews out to sites once the church is ready, I make a lot of plans. The trouble is, things never go according to plan. In spite of this, there has been a lot that has gotten done while I have been here in South Sudan. I'd like to think that this is in large part because of me, but it can't be. Things work out often times because the obvious choice for how to get things done presents itself at just the right time. When I try to do something that I think would work best logically, often times I create extra work for myself that proves unnecessary as something else happens to nullify whatever I did, or immediately after I do something it becomes clear that the situation could have been taken care of with half the work had I only waited. Frustrating, of course, but then again, it is good to know that it's not about me (less pressure anyways).

First Corinthians 1:27-29 says "Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God." I'm glad God humbles us (at least today I am, unfortunately many times I can't say that honestly). It's not worth trying to figure everything out all the time. Faith in Christ will lead to some unexpected decisions and situations. Life stays interesting that way, and that is something I can definitely say is a good thing.

So, money isn't nearly as important as we make it out to be. Wisdom isn't as important as we think. Power and importance really mean nothing. Knowing Christ and following him is what matters, even when it doesn't make sense. Being in a place where things never go as planned you would think that I would realize some of this quicker or easier, but it is still a constant struggle to become less and allow God to become greater and greater (John 3:30). I wish you all a pleasant day or night wherever you may be.

10 June, 2007

More Comparisons

Hmm. . . Don't know what to think about the differences. Any comments? Three very different churches, three very different costs, same purpose but different ways of meeting that purpose.

Cruising in Style

A sweet ride:

Not such a sweet ride:

If you ever buy a motorcycle for a place where you are never going to be travelling on paved roads, never under any circumstance purchase a TVS. Yes, a Yamaha AG 100 may be 6 or 7 times the price, but it is worth it (I mean come on, if it costs $300 that should tip you off from the beginning). Sure I may have ended up in a river along with my Yamaha in Liberia when we fell off a bridge together, but when the TVS lost it's seat and took away the option of going over bumps while standing and using my legs as shock absorbers since the TVS's are more or less non-existant. The last 10 minutes to church and then the 45 minutes back weren't very comfortable this morning.

02 June, 2007

More Opening Pictures

Breaking and Entering

So here in South Sudan it is pretty easy to end up in jail. Any traffic violation (from failure to indicate with the proper turn signal to driving along the same tracks that obviously 50 or more other vehicles use every day across the central soccer field in town), taking out a pocket knife around a police officer to clip your fingernails with the scissors (threatening a police officer), taking pictures when police are anywhere around, or even climbing a mountain all could end up in you going to jail. In fact, all of these have happened at some point within the last year to staff here in South Sudan. This is what makes last Saturday all the more ironic and comical.

Church dedications are exciting events with lots of singing, dancing, many guests and visitors, and food. There are many people who put lots of time and energy into making sure that the church is ready and decorated and beautiful. And last Saturday one of the churches that we recently finished was ready for opening. The week before, we had sent some carpenters to do some finishing touches to the doors and windows, and deliver the benches and pulpit. So on Thursday a couple other staff and I stopped by the church and were informed that they didn’t have the keys to open the church in order to clean it before the big celebration. Of course I had no idea where the keys were, but would check back at the office. I did mention it to one of the other staff that evening around dinner, at which time there wasn’t much to be done. The next day (Friday), I forgot about it in the morning and didn’t ask the carpenters or the driver of the truck that carried the materials. While out and about, I remembered again, but couldn’t get through to the office to remind them to check the times I remembered. At 6pm, when I was returning to base and passing the church, I again stopped to find out that the people were there cooking and getting things ready while waiting for the church to be opened so they could clean and decorate inside. Oops. By the time I was able to contact the base, I was about 15 minutes away, and all the national workers had left the compound including the carpenters, and the driver had taken a tractor to a church about 45 minutes away and wouldn’t be back until the next day. So, we spent the evening tracking down anyone we thought might have the key to no avail. We called it a night hoping the next morning the key would be found, while also trying to determine the best way to get into the church causing the least damage in case we couldn’t find the key.

Well, of course the next morning still no one had any idea where the keys were. We swayed back and forth between trying to grind the lock off from between the double doors, trying to squeeze in between the ceiling and the wall, and just taking a chainsaw to the door (we don’t really have a chainsaw). So, we took hammers and chisels, a grinder and welding machine (to power the grinder), a drill, and the biggest crow bar we could find. We got there about 45 minutes before the scheduled opening of 10am (3hrs and 45min before the actual start of 1pm) and thankfully didn’t have more than 50 or so people look at Dan and I rather surprisingly as we walked around the church checking windows and door s and propping ladders up trying to fit between the roof and wall and trying to squeeze between the bars that went above the window. Upon realizing a six year old would probably fit it dawned on us that the 7 or 8 foot drop to the cement floor might hurt the unsuspecting child and leave him inside the building with a broken arm, leg, or back, and us still outside trying to get in to help.

After all the deliberating, we came to the conclusion of trying to break a window and crawl through the lower bars which were quite a bit more spread out than up high. So, as a few more people had gathered, we began banging the new church window as hard as we could (which also happened to be quite loud) and we demonstrated to all present how the window locks are the weakest point of the church and provide the easiest way to break in and steal anything from inside. And by 9:40am, we had successfully opened up the doors so that the celebration could begin. Thankfully, the fiasco of breaking and entering the church the morning of the opening didn’t dampen or dishearten any spirits as probably 400 or so people sang, danced, and celebrated from 1pm up until almost 5 before breaking to eat

(I didn’t actually have a camera with me, so there aren’t any photos of the mission, nor did I stay for the celebration, but these pictures are of an opening celebration I attended the next day and should provide a good picture of what a typical church would look like so you can imagine our attempts to break in.)

And although breaking and entering is probably the most unlawful thing I’ve done in Sudan, it is one thing that didn’t lead to me having to sit down in the police station trying to talk my way out of a prison sentence. Good times.

(Of course the inventory guy found the keys on Tuesday in the most obvious place you would have thought he would look.)

22 May, 2007

Still Going

Well, here I thought I was holding things together as the one responsible for things getting done around here only to come back from R&R to find two churches that had just begun construction before leaving nearly done and a third that began the day I left only a couple weeks from finishing. That and two churches finished getting all the materials ready in preparation for a crew while I was gone as well. In the first 8 days after arriving, there were/are 3 church openings. Guess I’m not as important as I thought to the operations around here.

Seriously, though, I have been blessed beyond measure to work with the guys I do and it is exciting to be here at such an active time. There are two people from this base who have been with the project from the beginning and have laid a solid foundation for the work that is happening. Unfortunately for us, one of those guys is not renewing his contract this time and will not be around here in June. So, if anybody is interested in being a technical advisor to a massive church construction project, let me know.

I also get to work with a couple Kenyan engineers, one of which is unfortunately moving to a different site that needs him a bit more. They both have been busy running several crews and sites at once and have been incredibly patient with me when I haven’t had all the stuff they needed at the site to get the job done. The eagerness in helping to rebuild churches that they have and the desire to help the Body of Christ grow is encouraging. After being with Oliver from the beginning of building churches, it is quite a bit disappointing to know that he won’t be back here in Yei working, but it is good to know that he will be able to spread his joy and share the love of Christ in a different area.

I’ll have to try to keep updating about some of the others that have been my encouragement and support over the last three months and will continue.

21 May, 2007


Ok, so the pictures didn't turn out so good. For some reason they wouldn't post with the text before. Sorry they don't line up based on the info in the other post and you have to use your imagination for the ones that are pictured as well as the other names I'm called that aren't pictured.

Law and Order

So I previously added a list of names I get called to the sidebar of the blog with the intent to explain a bit and include pictures for everyone to see what they thought fit better, but it has been quite awhile up to this point with none of that. I have recently managed to upload some pictures from coworkers and am now asking for everyone to go ahead and vote on who you think I most look like. For those who can’t figure it out . . . the picture on the left is Chuck Norris, the one in the middle is myself with a pastor here (I’m on the left and Pastor Wilson is on the right), and the one on the right is one person’s representation of Jesus.

Rambo was a one day thing, but there were multiple people who called me it that day so I thought I’d include it. Chuck Norris was the main name being called back at the beginning of April through the end of the month with quite a few times being called Jesus in there. For the last three or four weeks now, however, Chuck Norris has definitely slid to second with me hearing people call me Jesus (or the local language equivalent) at least fifteen times a day. Go ahead and compare the pictures and see what you think.

P.S. If someone who understands could please explain how the title relates to the body of this post, I'd appreciate it.


Well I’m back in Sudan after two much-needed (or greatly appreciated) weeks of R&R. It’s amazing what 10 days in Uganda followed by 3 in Nairobi with not too much office time will do when you’ve just spent the last eight weeks juggling a knife, ball of fire, chainsaw and anvil (figurative). My energy level and excitement to get back into things is amazingly high considering by a couple days before leaving here I considered not coming back from R&R (ok, not really, but the last few days my frustration level was sky high).

So I was able to spend the time with one of my college friends and this Canadian that works out here in Sudan out of a nearby base. Thankfully by the end I managed to keep from picking up any of those crazy Canadian sayings like “eh?” or anything. Here is a pic of us at the amazingly powerful Murchison Falls in central Uganda. The crocs and hippos were cool, but the amount of force as the Nile goes from what looks like about 60 or so feet wide to about 10 as it drops about 20 yards was definitely more impressive to me.

16 April, 2007

The God Card

Ok, I'm sure we're all familiar with it. Whether it is a girl telling you that she is dating Jesus or that she needs to spend more time with God as a reason why she will not date you or if someone tries to guilt you into doing something because God is telling them that you should help them with whatever it is, no doubt at some point we've all had someone pull the God card on us. And what can you do? Do you know for sure that they are wrong? Hardly ever, and if you think that they are, do you call them out for trying to use the name of God to accomplish their own wishes? Unfortunately, it's not a fun situation to be in.

The other day I got a little upset at someone pulling the God card on me. The card that trumps even four of a kind and can be used even if it opposes reason or logic. So, it all started when there was a question regarding a certain item that a church ministry group was using that I (and others) did not think belonged to them legitimately. Of course, at first the person that I needed to talk to was not there to answer my questions, but I could come by the office the next day to inquire with the proper authority. So, because we are all "Christians" I could let them take the item and everything would be ok to discuss the next day. Surprisingly (I wish I could say I was actually surprised), when myself and another guy stopped by to inquire about the object, the identifying mark that was the point of contention the other day had astonishingly disappeared. When this concern was raised with the proper "authority" who served as the leader of this "Christian" group, he began with the good old "we're all Christians here" statement. Then, the fact that an identifying mark that had been on the machine this group had had for five years (so they said) miracuously disappeared within three days from the time when it was brought to their attention. But, alas, we're all Christians, and so there is no reason that I shouldn't trust them and believe their stories. And then of course I am the evil heathen when I begin writing down all the other identifying marks that might help lead to any type of conclusion as to who bought this item and where it came from. How "unChristian" of me to not trust them and try and get them to sign that the serial numbers I am writing are the ones that are actually there so that when I come back the next time and they are missing too there can't be the excuse that what I had written wasn't what was actually there. Christians have to trust one another.

Anyways, I still don't know what exactly happened and how the item came into their possession, but there's no real point to concern myself with it right now. I just really can't stand it when people pull in the name of God and use that as the only excuse for something. Trust is not something that is given just because the person says that they believe the same thing you do. It is earned. If God is telling you something or leading you somehow, there is some way that you know it. I am tired of people blaspheming the name of God by using it to get the things that they want. And it's not only in Africa that this happens. I was actually talking with a Ugandan just before all of this about the different ways some pastors in the States do similar things. The Bible is always talking of false teachers leading people astray. Test the spirits, ask questions of those in authority. But ultimately, ask God. God chooses not to always follow human reason and logic but rather chooses the foolish things to shame the wise and the weak things to shame the strong. But He also reveals himself to us in different ways so that our paths can be straight and we won't fall away.

Sorry if this is too long or if it leaves you asking what I'm talking about. I left out a lot of details but I hope the point translates. And I hope to soon be adding a few pictures, so keep checking in.

08 April, 2007


(Cue music) It's the most wonderful time of the year. (end music) Even better than Christmas . . . sure, Easter is the event that provided a way for us to be justified with God, and that would make Jesus death and resurrection more wonderful than his birth alone, but I am speaking from a humanistic point of view now. . .

Woohoo! It's the beginning of mango season!! And here in the Yei area of South Sudan I am never more than 50 feet from a mango tree. So for the next few weeks, I get to look forward to eating mangoes morning, noon, and night. Bananas are fairly plentiful around here, and although tasting better and fresher here than in the States, they can't compare with a mango. Fresh pineapple is a bit better, but they are quite a bit more expensive and are not always available. So, I am very eager for these next few weeks. Right now the head of the project I am working on in this area is back in Georgia cursing his sister for planning her wedding right at the apex of mango season. He may have gotten a few in before leaving last Thursday, and by the time he returns in another week and a half there will be some mangoes still available, but the best two weeks to be in South Sudan he will miss . . . Sorry Matt.

For me, this season is very exciting. First off, I love fruit. I always have and hopefully always will. I always enjoy the different seasons back in PA as we go from strawberries to melons, peaches to apples, and all the others. When working for Flohr Pools, I always tried to pack some of whatever fruit was in season, and often times when working with Derek and Troy, they would possibly even have some fruit I didn't. So it was always enjoyable to get done working out in the heat and bite into a nice juicy fruit. This past year, however, I missed the most amazing season of all for the first time in quite a while. Peaches. Peach season still is my favorite time of year in PA, and I would prefer to have fresh peaches to fresh mangoes, but I am more than content to be able to partake in mango season and it should help me to get over the fact that last year I missed the peaches.

Starting Off

So here I am writing from South Sudan. I'm not sure what you can expect from this blog, but anything I share will be based upon how I see things from my perspective. Please do not take everything written as the way things always happen here, and know that I cannot and do not often see the underlying issues or factors in different circumstances. Also, South Sudan is a very large area, I believe it is more than twice the size of Texas, and it encompasses many different tribes of people and varying types of cultures and communities. This blog may give you a glimpse into my life here and some stories of things that are happening and have happened. Happy reading (and maybe viewing if my camera turns up).