Category Archives: Sudan

Entries about our trip to the Sudan.


Tall Skinny Kiwi (Andrew Jones) draws attention to the organization Kiva today.

If you are not yet familiar with Kiva, please check out their website (the “about” tab has lots of information). While I know there are some people who question the micro-finance system as a whole (see the first comment on Andrew’s post), I think some people can easily dismiss a very good opportunity in the name of trying to prevent supporting those few who tarnish a system.

I think Kiva is great, in fact they’ve recently won the ThinkSocial Award. I’m personally very happy to support Kiva.

Here’s how it works: Kiva administers micro-loans (in increments of $25) from people around the world like you and me. They work with local groups (verified for their reputation) to identify individuals who want a loan to help their business. Small descriptions of the currently identified loan opportunities are posted on the Kiva website. You pick who you want to loan your money to. Then the benefit of technology comes into play. You make your loan to Kiva and then you get updates about how the loan is being repaid. I know exactly who has my money, what they are trying to do, how long it takes them to repay (it is common for me to get an email that says something like “$2.09 of your loan to xxx has been repaid.” I get to be a “cheerleader” of sorts when I post a note for the entrepreneur (which gets passed on to the loan recipient). And here’s the best part: once the loan is repaid, I GET TO LOAN IT AGAIN!! Right now I have loans out to people in South Sudan, Kenya, and Ghana. Loans to folks in Peru, Ghana, Kenya, Togo, and South Sudan have already been repaid and I reloaned the money.

Here’s a video that shows the process and what Kiva is about.

A Fistful Of Dollars: The Story of a Loan from Kieran Ball on Vimeo.

This video is from Frontline:

Hebrew Without Whining

Dr. Ellen Davis (Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity) has been spearheading a partnership with Renk Theological College in Southern Sudan.

Listen to her describe what the Sudanese prioritized for their theological training, and why:

A FEW YEARS AGO, when I asked the head of Renk Theological College in Southern Sudan to name his top priority for the school’s faculty and curriculum, he said without hesitation: “We need biblical language teachers.”

I work at persuading American students just to give Hebrew a try, so I was surprised to hear that it was the seminary’s first choice. Moreover, crossing the ocean to teach Hebrew in short spurts seemed like a pedagogical stretch.

The leaders of the college held firm, however, and they were unanimous in their reasoning: “We live in the Old Testament. Ours is a tribal culture, like Israel’s. We are pastoralists and farmers, like the Israelites. And like them, we have suffered terribly in war and exile, and from oppressive imperial regimes. The Bible is our story, and our people must have it in their own languages. Why should we read it in English and Arabic, the languages of colonialism? Why should we translate it from those languages and not from the original? We all speak several languages; we know how much difference a translation makes.”

Read her full article, “Hebrew Without Whining,” here.

Book Meme

Daniel and Tonya tagged me in the recent book meme that is making the rounds:

Name 5 books or scholars that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible.

In no particular order:
1. Mark Smith’s (peer-less) work on the Baal Cycle introduced me to the world of Ugaritic and all it has to offer (I would gratefully accept a gift of his latest book, since I cannot afford the $300+ pricetag) . His books (such as The Early History of God) piqued my appetite to understand the cultures surrounding ancient Israel and the text of Scripture.
2. Christo van der Merwe’s A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar. This book gave me a good foundation and also challenged me to think through the description of BH grammar by looking at the data myself.
3. The Art of Biblical Narrative (Robert Alter) and Narrative Art in the Bible (Shimon Bar-Efrat). I know, I’m cheating to list two here, but they both helped move me from an atomistic reading of Scripture and lifted my head up to see the discourse level and the art of Hebrew story-telling.
4. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Jon D. Levenson): “[M]yth does not mean ‘untruth’ or ‘falsehood,’ in spite of such usage in ordinary discourse. One should not allow this pejorative use of the word to prejudice oneself against the Aristotelian position that poetry is truer than history. One implication of this discussion will be that mythopoesis, ‘ the making of myth,’ is a means by which man discerns and conveys truths otherwise inexpressible. If this implication is correct, then the familiar interpretation of the religion of Israel as radically demythologized, besides being factually inaccurate, obscures great spiritual treasures” (104-105). That’s just one gem.
5. John Hobbins: his blog Ancient Hebrew Poetry continues to educate me, inspire me, challenge me, and give me cause to debate. He lives his life as husband, father, pastor, and scholar in a way that resonates with my own priorities.

I hereby tag: Art Boulet, Daniel Kirk, Ben Byerly, Brandon Withrow, and Ros Clark.

Sudan: Teacher Workshop

This is the long-awaited post about the Teacher Workshop that I was a part of during our trip. I’m sorry it has been so delayed in getting posted. I think the more I thought about our time in Yei, the harder (rather than easier) it became to really put into words all that we have seen and embraced.

While in Sudan my task was to work with Anna Evans and provide a week-long workshop for teachers in Yei. Prior to our trip we had very little direction for how to prepare for that. We did know that we could expect around 20 teachers. We were told that we should bring “modules” for Math, English, and Christian Education. We had no idea what grade level the teachers would be, what kind of curriculum (if any) they were utilizing, what the English language skills of the teachers would be, or what kind of facility we would be teaching in. It was frustrating (Americans really want direction, plans and order). We went online and were able to track down some information that was helpful. We also were able to find some people who had been to Yei and contacted them. They were tremendously helpful and encouraging about things we might encounter.

When we arrived at the designated location (in the local church building, which we could easily walk to from where we were staying) early Monday morning we found we had 18 teachers (16 men, 2 women) from 10 local schools. All taught in the primary grades. The system used in Yei is based on the Ugandan curriculum. They progress from P1-P7 and then move on to a secondary level school (equivalent, more or less, to a US high school). We were thrilled to find that we could teach in English (although we did have some amusing misunderstandings due to pronunciation or cultural differences).

So, what did we do? Well, the week included:

  • Introduction of Learning Styles (Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences)
  • Ideas for using Cooperative Learning in a Classroom
  • Practice using Math Manipulatives (including manipulatives made from local materials…like sticks and bottle caps)
  • Instruction for how to teach some specific math concepts (deriving geometry formulae, generating pie charts, teaching fractions)
  • Ideas for how to teach science (demontrations, hands-on activities, etc.)
  • Instruction for developing lesson plans for the curriculum they use
  • Classroom management and discipline
  • Qualities of a Good Teacher.

But to get a real feel for what happened that week, I think I’ll just tell some stories. They’re more interesting than reading the outline of our notes anyway.

First of all, we had no idea what expectations the teachers had. So early on, Anna and I decided that we would implement a time at the end of each day to get feedback from the teachers about what we had covered that day and what would be helpful to them for us to cover later in the week. The combination of having a plan but being willing to be flexible and change the plan to accommodate their needs worked really well. One humorous result of asking for their “expectations” on the first day was that we got a long list of requests that they were hoping we would give to them… including bicycles, etc. Basically, their idea of “expectations” and our idea of that word were two different things.

While we weren’t able to give them bicycles, we did bring many supplies to share with them. One of the first things we gave each teacher was an inflatable globe. They worked hard to blow them up and had a great time finding Yei, Philadelphia, and other locations on the globe. For a few, it was the first time they had seen the world represented as a sphere. Others were desperately trying to locate all 7 continents. One teacher finally burst out “Where is the 7th continent??” The elusive Antarctica was pointed out.

We also gave them cards, special dice, and other materials to play math games. The most quiet of the group suddenly became the competitors! As they played the games they became more at ease and we had many moments filled with laughter. They used colored pencils and markers to draw maps of their schools. Some of the maps included important details like “mango tree” or “chickens.”

Continue reading

John Garang Dies

John Garang, leader of the SPLM and newly inaugurated vice president in Sudan has died in an air crash. For details read these news releases:
CNN International Edition
BBC News Release

John Garang

The fragile peace in Sudan is being reaffirmed by the Sudanese government, but the South will need a strong leader to step up and fill Garang’s shoes. We grieve with our friends in New Sudan over their loss of this leader and our prayers are with them as they look to the future.

More Sudan Pictures

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, then maybe these photos will buy me some time to write the rest of my reports.

This is a young (maybe 8 years old) girl who is babysitting for a young infant. The child is tied to her back in the traditional way, with a blanket. When you see women walking toward you who are carrying a baby all you will see is the baby feet sticking out at her sides! Continue reading

Out of Africa

We’re still tracking down luggage, but we seem to be getting back to the normal routine. And that means Mark is blogging (and making up for not blogging for a while to boot!). He’s done a great job of describing our travel, our arrival, our accommodations, the worship service, the town of Yei and the people we met at the CWEP compound. I won’t try to duplicate those descriptions (how many times can you describe a toilet and shower room or muddy roads), but we will both start to turn our focus to describing the different activities we participated in during the week. Most notably, Mark taught Biblical counseling to the pastors-in-training at the CLIS school and I worked with Anna teaching 18 local teachers. The Teacher Workshop (coordinated by the EPC Education Coordinator) pulled together some of the faculty from 10 local primary schools.

For now, you can read Mark’s series (so far, 4 parts) by clicking here.

Soundbite from Sudan

Here’s an unedited MP3 of some of the young people in Yei singing. It’s a about 3.3 MB in size, but worth it to hear!

Listen to it here.

We’ll post some more of the music that we recorded after we get it cleaned up.

Safely Home from Sudan (and Uganda and Kenya)

We are home! Thanks so much for all your prayers. We have been up for about 28 hours now, and are ready to hit the sack (but I wanted to get a few pictures up to hold you until we get a chance to really decompress and write about our time). Actually, the team is only half home. It’s a long story, but half the team ended up having to stay one extra day in London. They should be back in the US at 7 pm on Monday night. The other thing that is not home yet is all our checked luggage. We had a very tight connection between our Entebbe, Uganda flight and our Nairobi, Kenya flight. Fortunately, we made it on the plane… unfortunately, our luggage didn’t. But the luggage is not lost, it will just be delayed getting to us. Mark, Karyn, Esther and Nick arrived around midnight on Sunday/Monday and we were picked up at the airport by our pastor (thanks Geoff!). We were so thankful to finally walk up the stairs to our apartment, only to discover that both locks on the apartment door had been locked and we only had one of the keys! Our neighbor had placed some mail in the apartment and had dutifully locked everything up. We were beginning to think we would have to sleep in the hallway until the office opened (it was almost 3 a.m.), but we were able to call on our cell phone to our neighbor’s phone and leave a message. Fortunately for us she heard the phone and woke up and she passed the extra keys out through her door (thanks Elizabeth!). We’ll be traveling up to the Newark airport tomorrow evening to rejoin the remainder of the team as they arrive home. We promise we’ll get more stories, details, photos, etc. up on the blog soon.

This is a view of the Yei River from the back of the CWEP compound where we stayed.
View of Yei River

The building with the bicycle in front is the kitchen. You can see where the women wash the dishes in the back.

This is a view of the side of the church and some goats resting in the shade. This is the building where Karyn and Anna held the teacher workshop.
EPC church building Continue reading

On the Way

Greetings from London! The team metup at Newark’s Liberty International Airport yesterday and begin the long trek to Yei, Sudan. We had a relatively uneventful first leg to London. The only hiccup (that we know of) is that half the team was able to check their baggage on through to their final destination (Entebbe, Uganda) and the other half wasn’t. It may have been new ticketcounter employee training day. There was no apparent reason for why some were allowed and others were denied (one agent said for security, another said, “no, that’s not true”). One other agent told part of our group that they had standby tickets for Kenya, but this was apparently not the code for standby, but the initials of someone who issued part of the ticket. Anyway, we were able to claim our luggage in London and will have to just check it on to Nairobi and Entebbe when we check in for our flight. The Virgin Atlantic flight was fine, but I think a quick survey of the team would find that we would give up the choice of 24 movies, dozens of TV shows, text-messaging on personal monitors between passengers, and the breakfast for a few more inches to spread out.

That may be why most of the team went to stretch their legs for a bit in London. We have a 10 hour layover, so everyone except Mark and Karyn (who chose to sleep and guard luggage for the day…albeit in the airport hotel) took the Tube (London Underground) and went off for a bit of exploring. Nick was thrilled to finally see the signs and hear the announcements to “Mind the Gap.”

We did get to have a team prayer time in the airport before starting out on the trip, and we are so thankful for all your thoughts and prayers for us. Our next leg will be the 8 and ½ hour trip to Nairobi, then a quick one hour jaunt to Entebbe, and then we meet the MAF pilot for our small plane trip to Yei. We won’t be able to get internet access again until we are in Yei. We will try to post some pictures as soon as we can.