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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sudan




I leaned my head back to calm my nerves. The sun had already peaked to brighten the African plains. Palms sweaty, heart racing, I tried to distract my mind from what I was about to do. I looked around at the 18 other passengers to find someone else who looked as nervous as I. Most were already dozing off or deeply enwrapped in the pages of their books. A few found comfort in the conversation of a fellow passenger. I looked at my teammates Ted and Tim, they too were relaxed. I figured it was as good a time as any to share my nerves. “Wow, small plane! I think this is the smallest Airplane I’ve ever been on!” Ted quickly looked at Tim and with a slight laugh looked back at me to declare, “Just you wait.” “Great.” I thought trying to grasp what THAT plane ride would be like. I’m used to the big planes…the ones were a whole city is packed in, 10 to a row, 2 aisles, 15 flight attendants, 9 bathrooms, 500 sick bags, life jackets, oxygen masks….you know, the whole shebang! I guess when I think about it though, why does a bagillion pound plane seem safer to fly in the air than a little 19 passenger? Somehow it made sense of my nerves at the time.

The cockpit was open so I could see the pilots making their last checks. I too was double-checking the pilots making sure they touched every last button making sure it worked. This was the first time I didn’t care how long it took to get into the air… I wanted the pilots to check everything! Before I knew it we were lined up on the airstrip waiting our turn for the take off. I gripped my seat tighter and leaned my head down to peek through the tiny window. I said a very thorough prayer….and before I knew it we were landing in Lokichoggio, Northern Kenya! I almost prided myself on the fact that I made it through that flight. Aaaaaand then I saw our next plane. When Ted said “Just you wait” he wasn’t kidding….at all. We stood on the little airstrip as I saw this bug come out of the sky and land before us. GULP! “I’m bigger than that thing.” I mumbled as we walked closer to the plane. It didn’t help that the pilot who landed was taking seats out and rearranging the whole inside of the plane. I made sure to double check that they tightened the screws on my chair before I got in…haha, yeah, I’m THAT girl. But seriously, who wants to know how easy it is for their chair to come out right before they are about to fly?


The sun was beginning to set behind the Sudan hills. We had a 30-minute flight into Sudan where we would land on the airstrip in Dadinga Hills. Hmm, Airstrip is not quite the word I would typically use to describe it. After a prayer we were on our way! It was an amazing flight! Even in our little bathtub of an airplane we could see SOOO much more than you ever could on one of those big planes. At one point Ted yelled back “I’m opening the window.” But since I couldn’t hear him all I saw was him saying something and pointing out the window. I acknowledged what I thought he was pointing at. Next thing I know, he opens the window….what in the world? It was an instant tunnel of wind heading straight towards me. If I hadn’t already straighten my hair that morning, it would have been straight no matter after we landed…straight back that is! The coolest part of the trip was looking out the window and seeing all these African huts scattered over the mountains. Each rolling hill covered with unreached people waiting to hear the word of God! As we got close to landing I looked out the window to see a more modern looking hut and a white woman running outside flailing her arms at us in a welcoming fashion. Ted once again leaned back and tried to yell that we were landing. All I could see is this mountain and our plane heading straight for it. I was wondering if this was the point where I’d have to eventually formulate a phone call to my mom from a hospital bed: Uhh hi mom! Yeah, Sudan was good…no, I’m not there anymore. Yeah I did get to really, uh, bond with Sudan! It was a unique experience…it kinda made me crash right into the culture. Yeah, God really broke me when we were there! Yeah, I’m gonna be taking quite a few weeks to recover from the jet crash..I mean lag, jet lag! Oh yeah jet lag…I know I’m on the same time zone but those little planes sure put a dent in your nerves!Instead, however, the pilot did some amazing maneuvers and we were able to land on the top of this mountain, rocks, grass, holes, included!

As we landed and the plane stopped at the end of the airstrip we were greeted with TONS of Dadinga people scattered amongst the missionaries there! They did some sort of traditional dance to match their traditional dress they donned just for us! They broke their dance and charged us. I don’t know how many of those missionaries spit on my hand, but they say it was part of the culture and they were trying to be traditional. I have my doubts though… I never once got spit on the entire rest of the time I was there! (Funny joke, Dadinga TIMO, funny joke.) We were instantly surrounded by the people I’d be living among for the next 7 days. Naked children, curious woman, and strong warrior like men came out of the forest to see who was brought in the plane. I’d never been among such people before but it was breathtaking. Of course this was not the same situation but I couldn’t help but wonder how Jim Elliot felt when he landed among the unreached people group that had been so deeply placed on his heart. So many new smells, sights, people, traditions, a new language, a new culture…everything new to both you and the natives. It’s an amazing experience. Two completely different cultures colliding.

The missions’ team we were documenting is a TIMO team (Training In Mission Outreach) made up of young adults who are seeking to live a life in ministry. TIMO is a two-year training foundation towards a future in missions. I got to spend about a month with this particular team during my time at ABO (Africa Bound Orientation) so I was stoked to find out that our next video would be in the Dadinga hills with my friends! I’d heard so much about this team and was excited to experience everything with them!



The Lord made me put my money where my mouth is during this week. Forever I’ve been thinking how great it will be to live in Africa, serving God, traveling, documenting all these amazing stories and so on. I think I had this romanticized idea that wherever I go, my little comfortable house, shower, and bathroom will follow. And of course NO bugs, snakes, or animals would be anywhere I went! Not so much. I spent my first night with two of my friends. It was fairly dark by the time we headed down, yes down to their house. Not “down” as in just like down the street. I mean DOWN the mountain, down. It was about a 30-minute hike down a pretty steep part of the hill. My foot often slipped on a softer part of the path, which I found out in the morning was cow dung! Finally, after the hike in the dark we came to a clearing and there was their tukal! (correct me on the spelling, TIMO) Their tukal was two round rooms divided in half on either side of a small square kitchen area. The houses are made of woven sticks splattered with mud and dung. The roofs were a combination of a metal and thatched roof. The bathroom was a drop toilet with a small-sloped area for washing. The thing that surprised me the most was how cold it was! My first night I had to borrow scrubs from one of the teammates and tuck them into my socks while I had my rain jacket zipped up to my chin and tied my hood tight around my face. Ok, fine…that was partly for the cold and partly from my fear of bugs! Haha…yes, I do live in Africa and have a huge fear of bugs. I can testify that God can still use those who fear bugs! (Can I hear an amen?)

Our week was extreme, to say the least. It consisted of constantly hiking up and down these steep hills, rewriting our script, documenting different parts of life and ministry in Dadinga. We got to spend some time with the Dadinga people, seeing how they live and how they interact. We were privileged to share in with prayer and every day life with the team. Just being with these missionaries serving them and with them brought back my spark of excitement for being here…and is priceless. I loved sitting with the woman and hearing my friend talk to them in their own language. I loved seeing the TIMO team use their hands to minister to the Dadinga people in their new clinic as they bandaged wounds, prayed for the sick, and held new babies.
I adored the Dadinga children.


They were SO playful and SO curious. An “Agotuno” (hello) in their language coming from white lips was a delight in their eyes. Their precious little faces could melt any heart. Although they don’t have much in the hills, they made games out of EVERYTHING! I kept thinking about the little one’s and praying for their lives and the lives of the TIMO team here to serve them.
The trip couldn’t end without a bang, of course! We were supposed to be picked up at 9am by the same small plane. Due to the size of the plane, however, and the winds that rush through the Dadinga hills, our departure was cancelled for that day. I sat in the kitchen overhearing the conversation between David, the team leader, and the pilot through the radio. I could only understand bits and pieces of the broken conversation but what I could catch was the words “Hike, tomorrow, Nagishot, and Caravan.” Putting two and two together I realized the adventure that we were about to have…as if living in the hills for a week wasn’t enough! The only plane regulated to land on the closest airstrip was being serviced in Nairobi so we would have to hike to the next closest airstrip about ten miles away. 10 miles seems like a piece of cake until you add the factor of Sudan hills and tons of media equipment. Being the only female on our hike I felt I had to make sure I kept up with the pace of the men. I kept my camera close and was able to take a few shots of the incredible landscape, but pictures could not, I repeat, COULD NOT do the landscape justice. At a few different points in our hike we paused on the bridge of two mountain peaks that connected and looked at the vast amount of land on either side. It was beautiful and it was amazing to think about how the God of this universe created that very spot, in the middle of nowhere, Sudan and that I was privileged to view His creation.

As I spent time with the people I knew that this is why the Lord called me here. Being among these people and the people who are there to serve them, watching them interact and understand each other was incredible. These are the stories God wants me to tell. Of course, God doesn’t NEED me to share these stories. No, he doesn’t need me at all. That’s the beautiful thing. He doesn’t need me and yet he allows me to share in and be apart of His great work throughout Africa. After 5 months here, I've come to a simple conclusion: God is SO big, that me being here is of course to further the Kingdom but it is also about God caring so greatly about me that he would bring me all the way to Kenya to stretch me, break me, and refine me into a more pliable person willing to be placed wherever the calling may be. And when he calls, we have to be ready enough to say “Ok, Lord, I don’t fully know what this is for or how you can use me, but I’m here…please, use me.”


For more pictures, follow the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79334967@N00/show/

4 comments:

ashley said...

Alright, tears started welling up in my eyes as I read your blog and looked at those photos---particularly the picture w/ the 3 kids' arms around each other (turned away from the camera). I am speechless, Kate, after reading that....and I don't know if I've ever seen scenery like THAT! Thank you for sharing how God is using you and other AIM missionaries.

Praying...

Sujatha said...

Lovely essay. Your words are very evocative. And beautiful pictures. Just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing them.

a tribe called PINK said...

Kate, you amaze me! First... you are a funny, funny girl. I'm sure your dad got a kick outta the plane story. Second, you paint a beautiful picture of Sudan with your words and of course capture it also in your wonderful pics. Tim and I are praying for you and enjoy hearing your parents and sister brag!!!!

Bhavya.B said...

An incredible account of Sudan.It was nice reading your words.

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