It is good to hear even short messages from family and friends, and we have heard from many at Christmas. We are having a nice break, as there is less business activity here during the holidays. Local people who had family out of town, and had money have gone to visit. A number of other missionaries are away for Christmas and the referendum for independence (for the week beginning Jan . 9). It is great to take a break, and catch up on some things at home. We are in the dry season, which is a bit hotter and much more dusty. But yesterday there was some rain, and a bit cooler temperature.
We had a wonderful and meaningful time around Christmas, and keeping busy also helped not feeling lonely. We connected with people over the internet (emails and skypes with family) as well as many folks here, through church and missionary fellowship. We were able to celebrate Jesus birth and the love and gifts we have through other people. We had three gatherings with other missionaries, with international Christmas treats, singing, fellowship and children. We found some carols and music on the internet, and played some of the CD's we brought. We attended Christmas day and Dec 26 Christmas services at church. People were extremely joyful. There was lots of singing the favorite songs, lots of jumping and dancing, and people hollering. There were at least 100 children at Christmas (40 in the childrens choir, which is it's max) plus lots of adults, to fill the church. Many children received new clothes for Christmas. Some had plastic sunglasses, and beads in their hair. One of the women in the church invited several people from church to dinner at her house after services. She served us in her grass thatched mud hut (about 12x12 feet), which was considerably cooler than the heat of the compound. She had covered the ceiling and walls with beautiful cloths, brought a small table and a few chairs inside. She served us some fried bread/biscuits and juice first, then brought their typical foods, fried chicken, boiled eggs, stewed chicken in broth, beef stew with lots of cabbage, cabbage and tomato salad, rice and posho (boiled corn flour, like a thick mush). We usually don't have so much variety in one meal!
We were able to do some small extra things for a few people near us. The guards at the compound where we stay had asked Steve for some gospel music a while back. He made a CD from some different CDs we brought with us. Also, Phyllis Hankins and Diantha visited one of the leaders in the church, Edina, and took more gifts for her twin babies: diapers and a front carrier. We have a policy not to give a lot of handouts as many people ask for many things and we are trying to break the stereotype of white people coming here to give lots of handouts. Also, through our work we are emphasizing how we can work together to help provide needs people have in the villages. It was nice to find some ways to give some simple gifts.
Diantha and Phyllis have continued to help various people with medical concerns. One was one of the women leaders who attends the church in Yei. We were told she was very sick, and a number of church members were at her house visiting. She was no longer able to get up, not eating much and was in a lot of pain. Her whole face was very swollen. They had taken her to two different clinics in the past one and half weeks, each with different diagnoses, and she was still getting worse. Some of the family was advocating to take her to the witch doctor. Once Diantha saw her, she knew enough to realize she was misdiagnosed, and need help right away. Phyllis was able to drive the vehicle close enough to load her in the car. Phyllis was also able to pay the registration fee. We took her to a different clinic, which has good equipment and doctors, and beds for overnights. It turned out to be a bad tooth infection. She is now back home and recovering. Diantha thinks in this, and other similar situations, she is able to judge the conditions enough and help people get the medical care they need. By the time some people go for care, their situations are in a state of advanced need. We are both thankful these interventions are possible and helpful, and this woman did not have to die from a tooth infection.
We have heard people partying in the nearby residences most of the night for several nights. There was somewhat of a repeat over New Year's. The referendum should be quite exciting. On Christmas day, Freedom Square, which is the town square was packed. We heard there was music and traditional dancing. We've heard they have scheduled different pastors and churches to be present until the referendum to pray and preach every day.
God is good to us and our new Sudanese friends and neighbors!!