Over the last two months, my days have been filled with seeing the Lord work through His servants in a variety of ways. I feel like I have been caught up in a whirlwind of excitement laying witness to what our great God is doing. I have wanted to write, in detail, about each mission activity and the impact that it is making, but alas, contemplative times for writing are few and far between. So, below I have just tried to provide a snap-shot of what I have been seeing with a brief narrative. These are exciting times in the Kingdom of God!
Southwest of Nairobi, I flew to the land of the Orma People. Under the stars, we sat on mats in the local village, enjoying a delicious meal from our Orma host. We sat in groups of three and ate with our hands from the same dish, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. There I heard the most unusual story. The Orma People in this area had been very sick. Many of them were bedridden for months with little strength. The missionaries had never seen anything like this in their 25 years and were perplexed at what could be the source of the illness. Consulting with physicians via satellite, they came to a diagnosis from centuries gone past. It was scurvy, the enemy of sailors hundreds of years ago. The Orma People eat meat and drink milk with very little else in their diet, but they have not had the problem of scurvy, so what has caused the change? The answer, the drought! Since the area is plagued by drought right now, the cows have been giving very little milk. Raw milk contains Vitamin C, but now the Orma are receiving almost no milk, so scurvy came to visit. Thankfully, the missionaries were able to offer low dose vitamin C pills, which quickly brought bedridden people to health within just a few days. God used the missionaries to bless the Orma in a mighty way.
The Orma People are a semi-nomadic people that believe in folk Islam. Pray for the Orma that the Gospel would penetrate their hearts and that many would receive the Good News!
Persecution of Christians in Sudan/South Sudan is all too common. This photo, above, courtesy of Persecution Project Foundation, is of a Nuba Pastor who has undergone beatings for his faith in Christ, but continues to preach the Word. On a recent flight, I had the privilege of flying Voice of the Martyr and Persecution Project Foundation personnel who were supporting the pastors in the Nuba mountains, located on the Sudan/South Sudan border. Pray for the marginalized of Sudan/South Sudan as they experience persecution for their faith in Christ.
The economic situation in South Sudan is desperate as runaway inflation ravages the economy. People are paid in South Sudanese pounds, but their salaries are becoming worthless. One night, staying in my hotel room (I was the only guest in the otherwise vacant hotel) I took this picture of my South Sudanese pounds. I had just turned in 50 U.S. dollars for this stack of pounds. Three years ago, when I started flying in South Sudan, this stack of money would have been worth $1,461.00 at the official government rate. Now it only goes for $50.00. If a school teacher is paid 200 pounds a month, that would have been worth $58.00 three years ago, but now the school teacher would make only $2.00 a month. Hyper-inflation makes a desperate economic situation where US dollars become highly sought after for stability.
While flying in South Sudan I conducted numerous flights in the Caravan dropping off supplies and personnel for Christian Aid Mission. Above, a village receives roofing supplies.
At this location, I picked up an elderly man who had been bitten by a snake. His leg was swollen and he needed urgent attention. I told the leaders that I could take him, but that I needed to stop in another location for fuel on my return to Juba, the capital. This concerned them because that area for the stopover has an opposing tribe and it would be risky for the man to go there. Thankfully, the winds were favorable and I was able to make it all the way the capital city without needing to stop along the way for fuel.
While offloading the metal roofing from the aircraft, I cut my finger. It was dripping blood profusely. As I was walking around the plane, I heard some of the villagers laughing when they saw the blood. This would have bothered me when first arriving in Africa, but now I have become used to it. In many of the cultures in East Africa, the people laugh when something bad happens. Kind of a nervous laughter, indicating that something is wrong and they feel bad. Understanding the culture helps in stressful moments like this.
As I was dripping blood on the ground, a leader in the mission organization brought out a bandana so I could wrap my finger. The bandana was the Stars and Stripes! I thought that was an appropriate bandage for me!
On another flight, I went to the Dadaab refuge camp in Kenya, located near the Somalia border. This camp is Kenya’s largest refugee camp with 600,000 people living in it. Due to security problems, Kenya is trying to close the camp. Buses in the above photo are taking Somalis back to Somalia, and the aircraft in the photo below are flying in to take other nations refugees to the Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya. Closing the Dadaab camp could take years to accomplish.
We came to the camp to encourage the small number of Christians in the camp. To be a Christian in a predominately Muslim refugee camp is incredibly hard. They reported the persecution that occurs in their daily life. While watching the refugees being loaded on the bus to be repatriated to Somalia, I prayed that the Lord would send Christians back up to Somalia. Would you join me in that prayer? As this camp begins to close, may the Lord send Christians back to their home countries to share the Good News and be a light in great darkness.
Flying on to Lira Uganda, I was blessed to take a pastor from Wyoming to visit the school their church started several years ago, pictured above. The Wyoming church has partnered with other organisations, but it has been their unwavering determination to see a godly school develop from the ground up that has led to its success. The school disciples kids in the Christian faith, while academically preparing them for higher education. Around the school there are many signs posted to encourage the kids, such as “study hard,” and “be respectful.” All signs that you would expect to see in East African schools, but one sign really stood out to me. It said, “Jesus did not come to make your life better in this world, but He came to prepare you for the next.” I thought that was really right on the mark. So much of mission work seems to be in trying to fix problems here on Earth, that I wonder at times if we might be inadvertently sending the wrong message. I was impressed with this church’s tenacity, vision, and focus on making disciples. If you ever travel through Cheyenne, Wyoming, please pass by Cheyenne Hills Church and give those guys a big high 5 for their passionate work for the Lord!
Flying on to Kisumu, Kenya, I had the privilege of spending a couple of days with missionaries who partner with local pastors to reach the community. The above pastor is removing jiggers from the kids’ feet. The sand flees lay eggs below the skin for 14 days and then, when the eggs hatch, they eat the flesh, producing terribly painful sores and holes in their feet. The jigger mainly affects the kids, as they do not have shoes or do not immediately take care of the problem when it appears. Flee removal is painful, as you can see the tear stain on the girl’s cheek in the foreground of the photo. This brave pastor patiently works through the tears, as he makes sure all the flees are removed. Within 30 minutes the kids are off playing again. The ministry also tries to provide them shoes whenever possible.
What is so helpful is that the community sees the pastors out ministering to their needs. This is incredibly powerful, as they see their pastor pouring his love into his people.
On another day, we visited widows in the villages, bringing them food while praying with them. The lady on the far left in the photo is a well-respected leader in the community who helps coordinate which widows are in the greatest need. It was an incredible joy to sit with these ladies of the faith. May God use them to continue to impart wisdom in abundance to their communities before He takes them home.
The photos I have provided have just been a few of places that I have been blessed to serve over the last two months. I feel like I could talk for days about all that I have been seeing the Lord doing. I guess the bottom line though from all that I have been observing is this: God is expanding his Kingdom in a mighty fashion and He is graciously using His servants to accomplish His purposes! Thank you, ministry team, for supporting the Halvorson Family with your prayers, encouragement and support, so that we can be here serving with you for our Lord!