In three days we are getting on a plane bound for Africa. In my last post about our trip to South Sudan, I told you the reasons why we want to go on this trip. But that begs the question, “Well, what are you actually doing over there?”
Glad you asked.
The best way I can put it is this: We are helping and documenting the establishment of basic societal institutions in the town of Kajo-Keji. South Sudan only been a country for about 1.5 years, so we are helping establish three things that any new country has to establish: an education system, a clean water system, and a health system. Now there is much more a country has to establish in order to become stable, but these are the three systems we are giving our time to.
Our trip is broken up into two weeks:
Week One is education-based. We will be in a safe compound in the town of Kajo-Keji. Our day-to-day duties are two-fold: helping the local administrators and teachers to learn a more efficient system in which to educate their kids, and taking pictures of all of it.
This is their current state of schooling: 600 students in a big room with one teacher. Now, we applaud them for having any sort of schooling, however, we are trying to help them divide up into smaller classrooms, and more importantly, learn how to work together in teams. This comes very natural to them, as their culture is very communal. They like being together. However, they have never had any formal training in how teachers can work on collaborative teams, or how students can have a greater understanding of a topic if they are taught by one person who knows that topic very well. What I mean is this: in advanced schools, when go through the trouble of switching classes in order to switch teachers, because each teacher has a specialty. We can learn more from each teacher if that teacher knows one subject very well. Kajo-Keji is still in the phase where one teacher teaches everything. This is why most of the population hasn’t moved past a grade-school education.
So there is a conference being held at a school in Kajo-Keji for teachers and administrators to learn how to function as a team and as a school system. Our trip leader, Tom, is the Conference Head. We will be breaking up in tables and walking the teachers through the training Tom has created.
Of course, mine and Cole’s role is a bit different that the rest of the team, given that we’re photographers. Another huge part of why we’re going is to document it. Every newly birthed country deserves to its first steps to be documented. We are also documenting to help our church and our community see the progress that’s happening within the education system of South Sudan.
Our second week in Sudan we are switching gears. We will be working with a different organization altogether, East Africa Ministries (EAM). Our job in Week 2 is strictly photo-journalistic. We are documenting two things for this organization:
1. The digging of fresh water wells for towns that don’t have clean water. This branch of EAM is called “Water Harvest International.“
2. The Mobile Health Clinic that travels to towns and teaches them about hygiene and sanitation. This branch of EAM is called “Mobile Health International.”
It greatly helps EAM to have up-to-date photos of all their efforts to provide clean water and good health to the villages of South Sudan and Uganda. There are a lot of American donors that give generously to EAM and our photos give them a clear picture of what their contributions achieve. They get to see what they are investing in, and they get to see the lives that are changed.
Please pray for us as we leave this Thursday! We have a lot of planes to catch and buses to jump on. There are lots of ways we could get sick and lots of unpaved roads that I know I’ll get nauseated on. We will be living in a tent during Week 2 and washing out of a bowl. We’ll be “in the bush” of Africa as the saying goes.
Now I’m not much of a camper, as my close friends will tell you. I know these issues of mine aren’t “overwhelming sacrifices.” Anyone can live in a tent for a week. But, listen, these issues are the little things that get in the way of a joyful heart, and I want to be as joyful and helpful as I can to these people. Why travel all that way to grumble the whole time?
Jesus tells us that when we offer food or water to those less fortunate, it’s like we’re doing it for Him. This is what I love about Jesus. He puts value on every human soul. In the passage below, his meaning is obvious: we’re all dignified creatures of this earth. Offering a hand to the person on the bottom is the same as offering a hand to the Highest of them all. We should offer our part equally to everyone, not just to those who can benefit us. Like the saying goes, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. As Christians, our hand of help should be extended to all.
Jesus says that turning our backs on those who truly need help is like turning our backs on God Himself, the Lover of all who are oppressed.
Listen to His words. He tells us about the Day of Judgment we will all one day face. He tells us that it will be like facing a King one day. See how He explains it to us in Matthew 24:34-45 below:
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
So, friends, pray not that Cole and I will be comfortable. Pray that we won’t even notice our discomfort given the amazing opportunity it is to serve these people. And pray for Cole to give grace to my ignorance when it comes to African culture! I’m a newbie, but I want to try. I hate large spiders, but I like adventure. I’m scared, but I want to go. I want to serve God by serving the people He loves. And I want God to make me a person who sees needs and meets them.