19 December 2013

Update

I've arrived safely at home. Thank you all so much for your prayers!

Praying

For those who have not heard, allow me to update you on the news in South Sudan. What has been called a failed coup attempt has resulted in military clashes in the capital (relatively distant from my current location), and the clashes are beginning to spread into other regions. The clashes have resulted from infighting among factions of the South Sudanese army. The death toll exceeded 500 yesterday, including many civilians. Several countries are beginning evacuation procedures for all of their citizens. The US embassy has told us to "depart immediately."

This morning, I am waiting to make an important phone call--and praying. I need to make a final confirmation that my scheduled flight to leave Yei will indeed be departing as scheduled. MAF, an international aviation association, is handling the flight, and they have assured me that the plan is to pick me up in Yei according to the original booking. But they also wanted me to call to confirm this morning.

I am in a city several hours' drive from the unrest and have seen no significant disruption of normal life—except that everyone is hanging around TVs and radios listening for news. The class went smoothly, and the students were attentive. Some of the church leaders in the class had never had an opportunity to thoughtfully consider several of the core ideas of the book. I am thankful to God for the awesome privilige to open up these powerful words of God and watch his Spirit work through those words in the hearts of these men. I left them yesterday with this prayer:

"Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen" (Rom 16:25-27).

Please pray for peace in this already war-torn country, pray for the progress of the gospel, especially through the dear men and women I have had the opportunity to teach this week, and pray that my scheduled flights back to home and family in Nairobi, Kenya, will not be hindered.

12 December 2013

Greetings from Yei

I have arrived safe and sound in Yei, South Sudan. The guest house where I am staying has been very accommodating and even has an internet cafe with decent speed. Praise the Lord for safety and for a dozen answered prayers about logistics and details along the way.
As of yesterday, Jenny and I have completed our formal language school training. Jenny commented at the beginning of the week, "Now begins the difficult part." One of the advantages of classroom-oriented training is that the student is paying the teacher for the external discipline and accountability for progress in the language. Daily exercises and regular testing become an enforced routine. The challenge of the coming months will be to continue to grow in our fluency through practice even when we don't have to be in class each morning demonstrating that progress.
We've covered a good deal of grammar in the last few months, and that's another advantage to the classroom. Often native speakers think little about the mechanics of their language. For instance, why do American English speakers say, "big, fat liar," but not "fat, big liar"? Uncountable repetition has given us an ear for what sounds right. From here out, our language study will focus mainly on learning from fluent speakers who have an ear for Swahili whether or not they can explain the grammar. Jenny and I are thankful for the opportunity to study some of the mechanics beforehand. Hopefully this will result in less frustration in the coming months.
On my way into South Sudan this morning, I've enjoyed a number of first-time experiences. Today was the first time for me to be alone on the plane with the pilot. It's also the first time the pilot has prayed with me before the flight! Also this was my first flight taking off from an unpaved airstrip. (See view from my seat below.)
Here are a few prayer requests on my mind at the moment.
Please pray for continued safety in travel and for open hearts and minds as I teach through Romans.
Pray for logistics in getting our container through customs. We just received notice that it has cleared the Arabian peninsula, so it's close, but often there's more of a challenge in unloading it than there is in getting it to Kenya.
Pray that the good news of Christ would reign in our hearts this Christmas season.
Thank you for your faithfulness in prayer!

02 December 2013

A Happy Thanksgiving

Huffstutler, Moore, and Pittsley Kids Feasting
Thank you for keeping us in your prayers as we concentrate on language study. We were glad this last Thursday to be able to spend the day with our Grace Baptist Mission team members. We have had an amazing year, and we're thankful for the way our Sovereign Captain has led, defended and protected us this year.
Because I am doing my best at this stage to take the position of a learner (especially focusing on the Swahili language at the moment) before presuming to teach, I am not involved in a specific Christmas outreach this year. On the other hand, God’s unspeakable gift of his Son transforms and compels us to open up ourselves and give of ourselves no matter what our level of preparation.
Recently, we were able to visit a man and his family in their home. I befriended the man when he was working close to the school where I am studying Swahili. He has since moved on from that job, but he still lives close by. I asked a local Kenyan pastor (who is also one of my Swahili teachers) about the best way forward, and he encouraged me to continue to befriend the man and his family. The man claims to be a believer, so the pastor encouraged me to disciple him and help him become securely attached to a local body of believers. I am hoping to carve out some time in the coming month to do just that. Please pray for wisdom and the progress of the gospel in and through me, this man, and his family.
Thanksgiving with the GBM Kenya team
God has provided an opportunity to train pastors in Yei, South Sudan. South Sudan emerged from decades of civil war as one of the world’s youngest countries in 2011. The church there has certainly felt the sting of societal instability, and many pastors have very little training in handling the Scriptures whatsoever. Please pray that God will use the block classes my ministry teammate, Dan Huffstutler, and I will be teaching to establish, stabilize, and grow his church in South Sudan. Dan’s class on Bible interpretation will be held from 6-Dec to 11-Dec, and my class on the book of Romans will be held from 13-Dec to 18-Dec.
We are elated about your specific prayers for us. Thank you for sharing with us in the work “for the sake of the Name” (3 John 7).