With GRATITUDE // Love, Somaliland and Chad

It might not be Thanksgiving here in East Africa, but we will gladly seize any opportunity to let you know what we’re thankful for. In the last year, we’ve come up with an extensive and beautiful list of reasons to be thankful and we think it’s best you hear it directly from the source.

Below are some words of gratitude and stories of thankfulness from our brothers and sisters in Chad and Somaliland.

From our corner of the world to yours, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Sahra Ali / 30-years-old / Mother of 3 children / Somaliland

“The work we are doing with World Concern is going well. We have built a large sand dam – we have worked 15 days every month for the last three months.”

“Before World Concern came, we did not have the proper materials to prevent flooding.”

“This work is good because we are benefiting by stopping frequent floods, catching water to be used in the future, and gaining livestock as a payment.”

“Before World Concern built two berkads, we did not have enough water in our village. These berkads provide us enough water. They have also benefited us because some people were paid money to help build them.”

 

Yasin Suleman / 32-years-old / Father of 9 children / Somaliland

 “With the assistance of World Concern, we are working to build half moons and other dams. This will block future floods from harming our village.”“World Concern trained us on how to make these dams and provided us with tools and food.”“We are also building dams where the animals eat, so that the animals will have drinking water and more grass will grow for them to eat.”“In the past, floods would often ruin the things inside people’s homes. This happened many times.”“Even after World Concern leaves, we plan to continue with this work because we have been given many examples and we can already see the benefits.”

 

Saynab Suleman / 35-years-old / Mother of 6 children / Somaliland

“World Concern helped us form a women’s self-help group, which has now become a community. Before this group, we never met together as women. Now we are strong – if someone is sick or needs help, we can assist one another.”“We use this group to help each other and find ways to improve our economy, such as giving out loans to group members upon request. Many use this money to open shops and start other small businesses.”“I plan to take a loan to use to open a small shop. I want to sell things like juice, rice, and sugar. I will then use the money from my shop to pay back the loan and to pay for my children’s health care and food.”“I teach the women in my group Somali language and math. The women can now do basic reading and writing. Because my parents did a good thing for me, by putting me in school, I want to give the other women access to learn.”

“We hope to use this group to develop our community. Women in Cala Caule see our group and see that it is good. There are some women who are considering starting another self-help group.”

 

Mohamed Adam / 40-years-old / Father of 10 children / Somaliland

“Most all households in Cala Caule are farmers. We recently benefited from a World Concern agricultural training. We learned how far apart to plant our seeds, how to use pesticides, and how to deal with germination. We were also given seeds and tools to benefit our farms.”“Because we now know how to space our seeds, our trees have been growing faster. Before the training, this mango tree was growing much slower.” “Before the training, we knew very little about pest control. Now our plants are growing without hindrance. In my farm I’m currently growing cabbage, onion, salad, papaya, mangos, bananas, lemons, and maize.”“In the World Concern Disaster Risk Reduction training, we learned how to prepare for floods – that we must arrange our items in a certain way before we flee. We also learned that during droughts it is good for us to divide our herds into two and sell half of them for money. We built these walls to block future flooding.”

 

Zenaba Adam / 45-years-old / Mother of 7 children / Chad

“Thanks to World Concern’s training, this is our first time to farm together as a community. We take turns on the farm in order to help one another.”“We used to get 10 bags of sorghum in rainy season and 4 in dry season. For this year, I’m hoping it will be much more!”“Though we haven’t harvested yet, I am thanking God for the progress and for what I hope will come.”“I am happy for World Concern’s help and I ask that they continue to assist us.”

 

Mademi Mahamat / 34-years-old / Father of 7 children / Chad

“World Concern has been working with our community to sensitize us about better living.”“They distributed to us horses, carts, and plows.”“We have been able to use these tools to farm and we thank God that it has gone well.”

 

Fatuma Bourma / 35-years-old / Mother of 6 children / Chad

“I no longer fear the Janjaweed (rebel group). Life in Tessou is much better than the camps because we are free to farm.”“Before the World Concern training we had never heard of a tontine (savings) group, but we now see the benefits and plan to continue with the group.” “We are collecting this money to be used for a future common goal. Right now, if a member is in trouble, she can borrow money from the group and then later pay it back. We hope to use our saved money to contribute to purchasing a community mill.”“Now that we have a water pump we can use the water for food, we can wash our clothes, and we can bathe easily. We no longer have to travel to collect water at the local, dirty source.”

 

Tena Hamid / 20-years-old / Chad

“Before we got our new well, we used to walk one hour each way to collect water. Now Tessou is better because we have water.”“Having clean water helps because we can now use it to prepare our food, for drinking, and for washing our clothes.”“People no longer become as sick. If they do become sick, it’s not from the water.”“The community is making bricks to be used for a school and maybe even a health center. If there is a school here, I definitely want to go. I want to be a big woman like you (referring to myself and Rose, our interpreter).”

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Water.
Financial savings.
Community development.
Education.
Flood prevention.
Improved Health.
Economic opportunities. 

WE. ARE. THANKFUL.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou

Villages Transformed: Chad

In July of 2013, I made the trek to the Sila Region of Chad. At the time, my main objective was to document the beginning stages of World Concern’s One Village Transformed projects in 10 different villages. During a period of 3 weeks, I interviewed over 40 individuals and captured more than 4,000 photos. While in the villages, I listened to countless horrific stories of rebel attacks and displacement. I also heard stories of hope, resiliency, and a tangible eagerness to move forward and develop their communities into what they once were… and more.

One year later, in October of 2014, I had the opportunity to return to this scarcely documented and highly fascinating place. As can be rare in my line of work, I was able to reunite with people and communities. And this time I brought photos – frozen moments to serve as evidence of the ‘before’. Each photo tells a story of the major transformations that are taking place in Amkharouba, N’djamena, Harako, Tessou, Karona, Maramara, and Amkereribe villages – the ‘after’ and what is yet to come!

While in Chad, I was surprised to find that I barely recognized any of the villages. This was due in part to the recent rainy season, bringing with it bountiful crops and lush surroundings. It was also due to the fact that these villages are developing! Many now have clean water, schools, and better constructed homes. People look cleaner and are visibly more healthy.

Take a look at the following photos and see if you can see a difference from my photos taken over a year ago. Hopefully, you also don’t recognize these villages.

34-year-old Mademi tends to his improved harvest. “We have been learning about better planting practices and how to transplant seedlings," he shared. // Raibandala Village,, Chad

34-year-old Mademi tends to his improved harvest. “We have been learning about better planting practices and how to transplant seedlings,” he shared. // Raibandala Village, Chad

“After returning from the IDP camps, we had to start a new life, but now it’s going well.”

“After returning from the IDP camps, we had to start a new life, but now it’s going well.”

"I hope to use the money I borrow from my World Concern women's farming group to one day pay for my children's school." - Kouboura Mahamat

“I hope to use the money I borrow from my World Concern women’s farming group to one day pay for my children’s school.” – Kouboura Mahamat

This is hospitality. // Ambarto Village, chad

This is hospitality. // Ambarto Village, Chad

"During the war the rebels came and took all of our belongings. Because we have no clean water, our village is developing very slowly. But, we are thankful for new farming training from World Concern. I farm 6 acres: 2 acres for children, 2 acres for feeding, and 2 for trade." Mahamat Adam // Ko

“During the war the rebels came and took all of our belongings. Because we have no clean water, our village is developing very slowly. But, we are thankful for new farming trainings from World Concern. I farm 6 acres: 2 acres for my children, 2 acres for feeding, and 2 for trade.” Mahamat Adam // Kouraii Bechir Village, Chad

WIth the help of World Concern, Mahamat and his farming group were able to pay for a few horses.

WIth the help of World Concern, Mahamat and his farming group were able to pay for a few horses.

Groundnuts!

Groundnuts!

Kouraii Bechir, Chad

Kouraii Bechir, Chad

Time to let go after a long day in the field. // Ade, Chad

Time to let go a bit after a long day in the field. // Ade, Chad

Life of an aid worker. // Ade office, Chad

Life of an aid worker. // Ade office, Chad

Beautiful Sylvie. // Ade, Chad

Beautiful Sylvie. // Ade, Chad

Home. // Ade office, Chad

Home. // Ade office, Chad

When the solar power runs out... // Ade office, Chad.

When the solar power runs out… // Ade office, Chad.

Yaya and his daughter (one of his nine children). Yaya recently helped build thousands of bricks for the villages first ever school. // Amkereribe, Chad

Yaya and his daughter (one of his nine children). Yaya recently helped build thousands of bricks for the village’s first ever school. // Amkereribe, Chad

WATER! // Amkereribe, Chad

WATER! // Amkereribe, Chad

This group of ladies is preparing to operate Amkereribe's new mill. Not only will this business benefit their families, but it will improve the village as a whole.

This group of ladies is preparing to operate Amkereribe’s new mill. Not only will this business benefit their families, but it will improve the village as a whole.

We meet again! // Miriam Souleman, Amkereribe, Chad

We meet again! // Miriam Souleman, Amkereribe, Chad

Ready for school! // Amkereribe, Chad

Ready for school! // Amkereribe, Chad

Momma lovin'. // Amkharouba, Chad

Momma lovin’. // Amkharouba, Chad

Pumping water from the new well at dusk. // Amkharouba, Chad

Pumping water from the new well at dusk. // Amkharouba, Chad

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Guess which water is from the new well and which is from the wadi?? // Amkharouba, Chad

Guess which water is from the new well and which is from the wadi?? // Amkharouba, Chad

Evening light in Goz Beida, Chad.

Evening light in Goz Beida, Chad.

Harako Village is heading into their second year of school... ever. The community made all of the bricks for this building and the children already speak French!

Harako Village is heading into their second year of school… ever. The community made all of the bricks for this building and the children already speak French!

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Fixing up desks after their first year of wear and tear. School is back in session! // Harako, Chad

Fixing up desks after their first year of wear and tear. School is back in session! // Harako, Chad

Remember my friend Kaltam? Updates: she has another baby and she LOVES photos. // Harako, Chad

Remember my friend Kaltam? Updates: she has another baby and she LOVES photos. // Harako, Chad

Blacksmiths in Harako, Chad.

Blacksmiths in Harako, Chad.

The best interpreter and assistant. Meet: Aime.

The best interpreter and assistant. Meet: Aime.

Welcome to Karona - the village in the hills.

Welcome to Karona – the village in the hills.

Hassanie pumping glorious water from  Karona's first clean water source.

Hassanie pumping glorious water from Karona’s first clean water source.

The journey to gather water. // Karona, Chad

The journey to gather water. // Karona, Chad

The Chadian noonday heat is not a joke. // Karona, Chad

The Chadian noonday heat is not a joke. // Karona, Chad

Fatuma shows us her home that burned in the recent fires. Due to their resiliency, and your assistance, the community of Maramara were quickly able to rebuild what was lost.

Fatuma shows us her home that burned in the recent fires. Due to their resiliency, and your assistance, the community of Maramara was quickly able to rebuild what was lost.

More clean water! // Maramara, Chad

More clean water! // Maramara, Chad

Standing in front of Maramara's FIRST school.

Standing in front of Maramara’s FIRST school.

Meet Rose, another interpreter (and model) extraordinaire.

Meet Rose, another interpreter (and model) extraordinaire.

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These straws are woven together for homes, fences, and more. They are quite practical, but also dangerous due to the region's dry and windy seasons. // Maramara, Chad

These straws are woven together for homes, fences, and more. They are quite practical, but also dangerous due to the region’s dry and windy seasons. // Maramara, Chad

The walk to collect clean water in a village I hardly recognized. // Tessou, Chad

The walk to collect clean water in a village I hardly recognized. // Tessou, Chad

Tessou, Chad.

Tessou, Chad.

Ade Abdallah was not born blind. "Some years ago, I got a very bad headache and then I started to lose my sight. It is not easy to be blind in these circumstances, but I have been able to do things like help make bricks for our future school." // Tessou, Chad

Ade Abdallah was not born blind. “Some years ago, I got a very bad headache and then I started to lose my sight. It is not easy to be blind in these circumstances, but I have been able to do things like help make bricks for our future school.” I told him that his eyes are beautiful and asked to take a photo of them. He agreed. // Tessou, Chad

Rose enjoys a groundnut break. // Tessou, Chad

Rose enjoys a groundnut break. // Tessou, Chad

Tessou, Chad.

Tessou, Chad.

Bountiful Crops in Magical Light

Exhausted from a full day of travel, my colleagues and I piled into the back of our World Concern Land Cruiser. Thankfully, taking the place of Chad’s unforgiving sun, the cool (er) evening air began to breathe across our weary skin, bringing with it refreshment and renewed energy. We were on our way from Ade to visit a small village called Raibandala. As we drove, the tantalizing rhythms of Congolese music seeped out of the car speakers and into our ears while we observed the slanting sunlight generously bathing the rustling cattail grass and the endless fields of sorghum.

The land surrounding our vehicle was lush – a drastic change from the Chad I had seen in July. Apparently the rains had been plenty, the farmers had been working tirelessly, and the soil had returned the favor.

The Sila Region in Eastern Chad consistently suffers from droughts and floods – making life difficult for its many farming inhabitants. Whatever crops are harvested will be eaten, kept in storage, and sold in the local market. So when the rains are good, families have enough to eat. And when the rains are scarce, families struggle to scrape by until the next harvesting season comes around.

Arriving in Raibandala, the staff and I were warmly greeted by 45-year-old Zenaba Adam. Along with the rest of her village, Zenaba had recently received farming tools, seeds, and technique training from World Concern; her face-claiming smile evidence that she was eager to show us her bountiful crops.

“We formed farming groups in order to contribute money to purchase seeds and tools from World Concern,” Zenaba explained. “In the past there hasn’t been much rain, so our farming has suffered. But this year the rains have been good and we have been improving because of our new knowledge, seeds, and tools. Our farms are looking much better.”

Zenaba is in charge of the farming group in Raibandala. By merely observing her confident composure as she toured us through her fields, it wasn’t hard to see why she was selected as the leader.

“This is our first time to farm together as a community,” Zenaba proudly proclaimed. “We take turns to farm in order to help one another.”IMG_9879

Each farming group also operates as a savings group.  After harvest season, the members will put their earned money from their shared farm into one pool.  This money will then be given out to individual members in the form of loans – bolstering each farmer’s ability to improve his or her personal farm and yearly income.

Currently, World Concern is partnering with farmers in over 30 villages in Chad, empowering hundreds of people with the knowledge and tools to bring health to their farms, families, and communities.IMG_9969 IMG_9971 IMG_9985

“Though we haven’t harvested yet, I am already thanking God for the progress and for what I hope will come,” shared Zenaba, glowing in the magic (to any photographer) evening light. “I am happy for World Concern’s help and I ask that they continue to assist us.”

I am not meant for dust and darkness.

If you had asked me how I was feeling five minutes prior to this conversation, it would have been impossible to lie – I was exhausted and my drooping eyes were evidence. Days of driving on poorly maintained dirt roads in inadequate cars and sleeping in a new bed every night was wearing me thin. To clarify, I was not miserable, just plain tired.

We were sitting on floral printed foam couches in a one-room home, nestled between a few of the DRC’s endless rolling green hills. As my supervisor and I sat in a daze, the two men hosting us (we will call them John and George for the sake of anonymity) began to talk.

“I did many, many bad things to my neighbors. It was war, so we killed and raped – we did many horrible things,” John shared. “But now we are forgiven.”

Looking directly into his eyes, as if trying to see deeper, to better understand the meaning of his seemingly contrasting statements, I woke up – every bit of my sleepiness immediately disappeared.

Without requiring any prodding, the men continued to share. Though their stories were painful, they were clearly willing to tell them – to shamelessly testify about transformation and reconciliation.

“After the war ended, a group of us did not feel well with ourselves. We could not focus on our work or our families and we knew something was wrong,” said George. “Some of us, with the help of church leaders, came together and began to talk about our problems.”

“We learned that what we did was wrong, but we have been forgiven,” explained John. “In God’s eyes, no one is ever beyond forgiveness.”

John and George spoke with conviction and passion – as if speaking directly from their renewed hearts.

“The leaders of our group helped us to understand that because we have been forgiven by God, we must also seek forgiveness from those we hurt. So we have.”

John, George, and the other men in their group traveled to the neighboring village, where they committed most of their crimes.

“Walking to the village, we did not know how the community would accept us. We knew we could be killed, but we were willing to take this risk.”

Upon reaching the village, John and George gathered everyone together. They proceeded to publicly confess everything they had done, and ended by seeking the community’s forgiveness.

Wives who had lost their husbands, girls who had been raped, and children who had seen their parents killed all came to listen to the men’s testimonies.

And they all forgave their perpetrators.

In fact, the community was so moved by the men’s humble confessions that they decided confess their own wrongdoings. You see, the war was not one-sided – it was neighbor against neighbor – everyone was involved in some way.

To this day John, George, and the other men continue to travel to villages affected by the war. Though not all of these villages were directly harmed by John and George, the men confess on behalf of other perpetrators.

“Sometimes we are not received well, but we do it anyways,” said John. “And every time we do this, someone approaches us – wondering why we have chosen to be so honest. This is good because it means we get to tell them about the one who forgives us all.”

Sinking deeper into the foam couch, tears welling up in my previously drooping eyes, I am in shock. The moment seems surreal and I am practically pinching myself, attempting to comprehend this reality.

Forgiveness is not easy, even for the little things. Offering forgiveness is hard and asking for forgiveness is even harder. And I’ve never even had to forgive someone for killing my family members.

The amazing thing is, forgiveness is possible and it transforms lives.

In addition to the many things we need to forgive ourselves and others for on the daily, we continue to see countless stories of seemingly impossible reconciliation and forgiveness in our world. Take the shootings at Westgate – non-Muslims forgave their Muslim brothers and sisters, telling them that they do not blame them for these horrendous acts. And what about the Rwanda genocide, where victims later forgave their perpetrators – and some of them are now dear friends!

None of us are exempt from harming our neighbor, which means that none of us are exempt from forgiveness.

What can I believe,
except that beyond the limits
of my little prayers and careful creeds,
I am not meant for dust and darkness,
but for dancing life and silver starlight.

Help my unbelief
that I may have courage
to dare to love the enemies
I have the integrity to make;
to care for little else
save my brothers and sisters of the human family;
to take time to be truly with them,
take time to see,
take time to speak,
take time to learn with them
before time takes us;
and to fear failure and death less
than the faithlessness
of not embracing love’s risks.
(Taken from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder)

We Are Connected

“And the real name of our connection to this everywhere different and differently named earth is “work.” We are connected by work even to the places where we don’t work, for all places are connected…”        - Wendell Berry

If you happen to have read two or three of my blog posts and newsletters, you may have picked up on my frequent Wendell Berry name-drops. Basically, I think he’s the bee’s knees.   [While writing this post, I discovered that he and I share a birthday…all the more reason to like the man.]

An outspoken poet, author, and activist, Berry inspires and challenges humanity’s response to environmental and social justice issues. He is most infamous for his stances on environmental degradation and the importance of community.

In the polluted, expansive, and bustling city that is Nairobi, it is more often than not that I feel disconnected from nature and the land. Yet, removed from side-walks, exhaust fumes, and sky-scrapers, it is obvious that every surrounding detail is intertwined: Cows graze on freshly sprouted grass from recent rains; people collect water from deep wells and water-pans filled by these same rains, using it to hydrate themselves and boil their tea; trees are cut down in copious quantities and made into balls of charcoal, later used to boil the collected water for that same tea.

Navigating my way through Nairobi, I often wonder, “There must be a balance, some way for us to feel connected to the earth, no matter our surroundings.”

If, as stated by Berry, “all places are connected,” shouldn’t humanity be compelled to be good stewards of every inhabited place?

The following photo essay tells the story of land – it’s integral role and unmistakable connection to the people and places in which World Concern works.

The pictures and quotes serve as reminders that stewardship and care of land is not optional, for in giving to the land we humble ourselves to the one who created it all.

“Good work is always modestly scaled, for it cannot ignore either the nature of individual places or the differences between places, and it always involves a sort of religious humility, for not everything is known.” “…the care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.” “Good work can be defined only in particularity, for it must be defined a little differently for every one of the places and every one of the workers on the earth.”IMG_8887

“…it is clear by now that we cannot exempt one place from our ruin of another. The name of our proper connection to the earth is “good work,” for good work involves much giving of honor. It honors the source of its materials; it honors the place where it is done; it honors the art by which it is done; it honors the thing that it makes and the user of the made thing.”

World Humanitarian Day 2014

Today is a very important day.

World Humanitarian Day.

As declared by the UN, WHD is ‘a day to commemorate all people who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and to celebrate the spirit that inspires humanitarian work around the world.’ This year’s focus lies on ‘humanitarian heroes’ – those who risk their lives and sacrifice much in order to assist people in need.

I’ve had the GREAT and humbling privilege of working alongside many a humanitarian hero in South Sudan, Somalia, Chad, and Kenya. A large portion of my colleagues have moved significant distances away from his or her family and community, often even country, in order to live and work in very challenging environments. For example: 120 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, limited sources of produce, consistent power outages, poor to no internet connections, many a large insect, and threats of insecurity.

Below is a collection of photos that barely scrape the surface of development work behind the scenes: life as a World Concern humanitarian worker in East Africa.

These folks are to be acknowledged and, more importantly, celebrated.

Madut and a little boy play with my tripod at an IDP site in South Sudan.

Madut and a little boy play with my tripod at an IDP site in South Sudan.

Vistas on the way to villages in Somaliland.

Vistas on the way to villages in Somaliland.

Meeting with community leaders in Chad.

Meeting with community leaders in Chad.

When all rooms are booked, we camp out at the WFP compound in South Sudan.

When all rooms are booked, we camp out at the WFP compound in South Sudan.

Working alongside farmers in South Sudan.

Working alongside farmers in South Sudan.

When the cell connection is weak...

When the cell connection is weak…

Discussing with locals at an IDP site in South Sudan.

Discussing with locals at an IDP site in South Sudan.

Max leads a rent-to-own discussion in South Sudan.

Max leads a rent-to-own discussion in South Sudan.

Humanitarian eating spots.

Humanitarian eating spots.

Destination: reached.

Destination: reached.

Scouting sites in Kenya.

Scouting sites in Kenya.

Staff give back to the land in Nairobi.

Staff give back to the land in Nairobi.

Meeting spot, Somaliland.

Meeting spot, Somaliland.

Community meetings in Somaliland.

Community meetings in Somaliland.

Nebiyu surveys a rehabilitated water catchment system in Somaliland.

Nebiyu surveys a rehabilitated water catchment system in Somaliland.

One of the most important humanitarian roles: driver.

One of the most important humanitarian roles: driver.

Meeting with a village chief in Chad.

Meeting with a village chief in Chad.

IDPs wait for transport in South Sudan.

IDPs wait for transport in South Sudan.

Sustainable agricultural training in South Sudan.

Sustainable agricultural training in South Sudan.

Being a humanitarian isn't all serious. Chad.

Being a humanitarian isn’t all serious. Chad.

Surveying a dirty water hole in South Sudan.

Surveying a dirty water hole in South Sudan.

Always on the road = views from the car. Chad.

Always on the road = views from the car. Chad.

Humanitarians need tea breaks, too.

Humanitarians need tea breaks, too.

 

 

On the road again, Somaliland.

On the road again, Somaliland.

Another day, another bed.

Another day, another bed.

Going to visit a village... or on a safari?!

Going to visit a village… or on a safari?!

 

 

 

Sister Kim in Quotes // Part III

By now you’ve heard enough about the life and legend of Sister Kim from my perspective.

It’s time the stories of her 30 committed years of service are expressed by some of the individuals those she’s impacted the most.

Reverend Stephen, Diocese Mission & Youth Coordinator

“My relationship with Sister Kim is very close because I take her as my mentor. She molded me. Without her, I would not be sitting in this office – I would be at home.”

“She is forward – if something is wrong, she tells you. But she always does it in a loving way. That is a friend indeed.”

“Without the help of World Concern, we would not have this level of health care. The government of Uganda steps in when they see you are working hard – so when Sis Kim came, they also came in to assist.”

“If we had power, we would actually strengthen her to have more time – expand her days of living on the earth. Sister Kim has an open heart. Whatever you give to her, she will use it on behalf of others.”

IMG_9317Reverend Pons, Diocese Secretary

“We have had less money to take on the capacity of our staff, but Sister Kim has always mobilized funds. She has sponsored many students – including the staff in our health center and the pastors in our church.”

“Sister Kim is so passionate about prayer that it is difficult to get her to take medication when she is sick.”

“She helped establish the first ever health conference in Nebbi and, thanks to her mobilization skills, we currently have two doctors.”

“If it were to be the wish of the people, Sister Kim should be here forever.”

“When Sister Kim is out of this community, it is very noticeable.” 

Geoffrey, Lead Administrator at Goli Health Center

“What I like about Sister Kim is that she is very cooperative, even if challenged.”

“I value her as my mother, sister, and friend.”

“Our staff unite as one body to do our services.”

“Goli is different than other public health centers because we want to show love to the community.”

Anne, Principal at Kuluva Nursing School

“It was very nice to have SIster Kim as a mentor – she’s full of energy and I learned to be the same way.”

“Sister gave scholarships to the best students.”

“She recruited young girls and boys and trained them as assistants because we were short on local staff.”

“You can imagine me trying to step into the shoes of this kind of a person.”

“At first I had no idea where to start from, but she continued praying for me, visiting me, and supporting me financially when necessary.”

“She taught me about trusting in God and persevering, even when things are hard.”

Charity, Nursing Assistant

“Patients feel good to come this way because we have good services and treat them with kindness.”

“All of the staff here are cooperative – we work hand in hand, so we feel good.”

“Sister Kim makes sure there is no shortage of drugs in the pharmacy.”

“Sister Kim paid for and organized my nursing training. This makes me very happy because I did not know what I was going to do.”

“Before I was just at home with no money. I wanted to go to school but had no resources. Sister Kim made it possible for me to be where I am today.”

Over the course of her time in Uganda, Sister Kim has significantly transformed the lives of hundreds of individuals. She would never admit it herself, but her selfless spirit has seeped deeply into the roots of Nebbi, Uganda.

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Sister Kim // Part II

She knew little more than the title of her next life chapter: Uganda. Its sentences had yet to be formulated, its paragraphs were waiting to be compiled. She was particularly unaware that this new so-called chapter would turn out to be more of a series – a life commitment.

In 1985, pursuing the unfamiliar, Chung Yoon Kim, referred to by most as Sister Kim, packed her life and moved from South Korea to Uganda. With the support of World Concern, she began to make lasting imprints on villages across the country, and they accepted her as one of them.

In a span of 30 years, Sister Kim established a fully functioning health center in the very rural village of Goli, opened a nursing training school, founded a prison ministry, and built a mountaintop retreat center.

This is Part II, in what could easily be an endless part blog series, on the life and legend of Sister Kim.

Before you continue reading, make sure to check out Part I.

“In 1967 I was talking with a nursing school friend about how we could one day go to Africa. We were just dreaming and talking casually, and then we forgot about it.”

It’s nearing nightfall and Sister Kim and I are perched on dining room table chairs on her front porch, basked in the late afternoon sun. A breeze makes its way through the rustling branches of the trees she planted in order to keep the area cooler. Mosquitoes begin to saturate the evening air, buzzing to tease ears and tickle vulnerable ankles.

After graduating nursing school in South Korea, Sister Kim moved to the U.S. to continue with her studies. She was, and still is, the only one of her seven siblings to live outside of Korea. Sis Kim spent the subsequent years working in between the U.S. and South Korea.

During the late 1970’s, Sis Kim found herself working relentlessly in inner-city Philadelphia.

“I was very busy back in America,” she tells me. “I was very committed in a Korean community and had a full time job in the hospital.  I assisted others with a lot of translations. I was working 24 hours a day, I had no sleeping hours.”

In an effort to save money, serve others, and above all, please God, Sister Kim poured her entire being into her every minute of every day.

Sis Kim & Goli Health Center Staff.

As is apparent in Sister Kim as a now 73-year-old woman, her perpetual energy and committed work ethic are deeply integrated parts of her character.

Despite her sacrificial Philadelphia lifestyle, Sister Kim continued to feel like she wasn’t pleasing God.

“When I was working I gained a lot of money and offered it all to the Lord, but it wasn’t pleasing Him.”


Perhaps it wasn’t that He wasn’t happy with her work, but rather He had something else in mind.

Curious how such seemingly selfless work could possibly displease the Lord, I prod Sister Kim for a further explanation.

“I knew He wasn’t pleased because I couldn’t pray,” Sister Kim replies. “So one day I went to a vacated room in the city and decided to pray until I heard an answer. I closed all of the doors and windows and just prayed.”

Sister Kim prayed for three days straight.

“At sunset on the third day, I was suddenly reminded of the conversations I once had with my nursing school friends- you said you wanted to go to Africa. I knew this was my answer, so I left the room and went back home.”

In what can only be described as complete faith, Sister Kim spent the next few years pursuing moving to a foreign country to do a professedly foreign work.

“As soon as I arrived in Uganda and stepped onto the ground, a peace overcame me,” Sister Kim recalls, tears welling in her remembering eyes. “Any worries about Africa I had once had were all gone. In me was only peace – and this peace has not left.” 

Curled up on my chair, I physically feel as if I’m swimming in the details of Sister Kim’s narrative. As I listen, I envision phrases and quotes swirling above her head. One of her comments is bold and italicized – it stands out from the rest:

“I thought I was humble but, unknowingly, there was pride within me.”

[Heeeelloooooo…reality check. Her words like a scalpel to my core – I was left to dissect my character, my life, and my intentions. I’m sure Sis Kim had no idea that in sharing her story, her raw words spoken over cups of lukewarm tea were sharpening and molding me.] IMG_9377

Sister Kim’s first eight years in Uganda were spent working at a health center and establishing a nursing school in a village called Kuluva. Originally a school of 70, Kuluva is now equipping over 250 nursing students.

During her time in Kuluva Sister Kim dealt with a gamut of challenges. A war in Uganda was being waged and patients with missing limbs were entering the health center on the daily.

“We were running out of resources and had to recycle whatever materials we could find,” she describes.

While simultaneously tending to wounds and organizing prayer groups, Sister Kim was suffering from monthly spouts of malaria.

“It was not a big deal,” she casually shares. “I always knew when the malaria was coming because I would begin to feel heavy and achy.”IMG_9286 IMG_9231

There reached a point when Kuluva nursing school became sustainable. Sister Kim appointed a local principal and declared it time to head back to Korea and the U.S.

“I told God, ‘Isn’t that enough?’” she says. “But he did not answer me. Then the Anglican diocese called me back to Uganda – I felt frustrated. What should I go back for? So I spent another three days in secluded prayer.”

Again, on the third day, God answered her cries.


“A verse came to me that I still have on my wall to this day,” Sister Kim energetically shares. “So I moved back to Uganda.”

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4: 22-24

Dusk has turned to nightfall and the mosquitoes have migrated around artificial lights. Sister Kim and I sit comfortably in silence, processing stories unforeseen and stories yet to come.

For more on Sister Kim, read Part III here.

 

Sister Kim: The legend of a life lived for others. // Part I

In the year of 1941, unbeknownst to a rural Ugandan community, a distant sister and unparalleled pioneer was born.

Her given name was Chung Yoon Kim, but most (an underestatement as you will soon read) refer to her as Sister Kim.

If it were possible, I would love to write an entire six part blog post describing Sister Kim. I would tell you that she is incredibly selfless, hospitable, intentional, prayerful, hilarious, driven, energetic, resilient, beautiful, and every other positive adjective that when combined only scratch the surface of her character. But Sister Kim wouldn’t like this because, well, she really is that selfless. [I consider it a minor accomplishment that I was able to spend four plus hours interviewing her, as this required that she talk about herself.]

Instead, I will tell you about Sister Kim (still in the form of a series) via voices from the gamut of communities, projects, and individuals who have been transformed in the last 30 years.

IMG_9555In 1985, prior to the advent of widespread internet access, Sister Kim courageously packed up her few belongings and moved to a land she knew little more of than it’s name: Uganda.

“To be honest, I did feel fear,” she explained. “But the very moment I descended from the plane’s staircase and stepped onto the red soil, I was overcome with a sense of peace – and this peace hasn’t left me since.”

Sister Kim attributes this peace entirely to God. It is a peace that has kept her through Uganda’s 20 year civil war. A peace that has caused her to remain in a very rural village when other missionaries fled. A peace that pervades so much of her being that for 30 years, Sister Kim has lived and worked in a culture that’s not her own, learning to speak an entirely new language (among endless other cultural nuances), all the while living alone – without any immediate family or a husband.

“I never feel fear,” she pragmatically promised. “Why would I feel fear when I know why I’m here?!”

Indeed, Sister Kim, beyond a shadow of a doubt, knows why she is still living, working, and thriving in a very remote Ugandan village.

Located in Nebbi, a district in northwest Uganda that is situated between Gulu (an area known by many due to its recent history involving the Lord’s Resistance Army) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (one can literally see the DRC from the town’s center), Goli village is home to Sister Kim and the level three (soon to be four) Goli District Health Center.

When she first arrived in Goli, the so-called health center consisted of a couple of thatched-roof huts. Inside these semi-permanent structures, doctors dealt with everything from fistula to leprosy, all while a variety of critters crawled overhead.

“There was a time I saw a cat crawling above us while we were administering surgery. But I prayed, and the patient never became infected.”

And that’s what she does. If there’s one word to describe SIster Kim, it is prayer.

For the last 22 years, Sister Kim has woken up at 4:30 am to attend a 5 am prayer service. Every. Single. Day.

This ritual is both a reflection and causation of Sister Kim’s unprecedented selfless nature. She prays because she knows and believes in the one who made her – and this is the reason why she is in Goli.

Sister Kim prays because, she will tell you until her face turns blue,:

cannot do anything.”

 

 

A Man and His Camels // A Series of Eyewitness Accounts [Part II]

The following is a brief Eye Witness Account [Part II] as shared by Saleban – a father and camel herder in Faraguul, Somaliland. 

I am uncomfortable.

The UV rays are direct, piercing through my thin cotton shirt. I immediately feel fatigued and sunburned. I’ve been sitting in the Faraguul afternoon sun for a total of 25 minutes.

While I had been sitting inside an air conditioned vehicle, 40-year-old Saleban had been walking for 3 hours, alongside his 30-strong herd of camels, to reach our meeting point. After using a tethered rope attached to a weathered plastic jerry can to draw countless litres of water, he finished rehydrating his long-necked beasts and proceed on the redundant 3 hour journey home.

Saleban does this every day.3 - Faraguul, school wat, well_999_288-138

Faraguul is a rural village located in the Sanaag region of Somaliland, the self-declared independent state of Somalia.

The climate can best be described as a semi-desert; Its flat, arid land stretches seemingly endless distances. Stoic trees can be found sparsely scattered between Somali homes and small variety shops.  A dried river bed divides the tiny village from a number of shallow wells, whose salty water is consumed by the antiseptic tongues of hundreds of camels and the lips of parched goats.

Though Faraguul is divided by a ‘river’, it is more a hallucination of what could be; the land is frequently plagued by devastating droughts.

“I travel this far because this is the nearest water source for my camels,” explains Saleban, his lanky figure leathered from a lifetime spent in the desert sun. “The journey makes me feel tired.”

Recently, World Concern partnered with the Faraguul community to rehabilitate 4 of their shallow wells.

“Before, the wells were made of wood,” says Saleban. “They were not covered so the water was very dirty. Even my animals didn’t like the taste, so they would only drink a little.”

A shallow well pre-rehabilitation.

A shallow well pre-rehabilitation.

I can’t even begin to imagine the exhaustion of walking six hours every day to water animals that refused to drink.

“Now the wells are better,” Saleban continues.  “They are properly covered and made of quality materials. My animals drink a lot of water.”

Though the number of hours Saleban spends walking in the scorching sun has not decreased, there are still tangible improvements. With healthier animals, Saleban is encouraged, in energy and spirit to provide for his family of ten.

Saleban's son cools off in the noonday heat.

Saleban’s son cools off in the noonday heat.

According to recent reports, only one in three people have access to safe drinking water.

Though progress is being made, 2.9 million Somalis are currently living in a state of humanitarian crisis. Like South Sudan, the situation in Somalia rarely makes headline news, but the severity of the crisis remains very real.

Let’s not forget our dear brothers and sisters. Stay informed:

  • 2.9 million Somalis are in humanitarian crisis
  • 50,000 children are severely malnourished
  • Women in Somalia face the second highest risk of maternal death in the world and babies are at the highest risk of dying on the day of their birth
  • 1.1 million people are displaced within their own country
  • Polio has returned, with 193 cases recorded in the last year
  • Just 30% of the population has access to clean drinking water
  • Fewer 1 in 4 people have access to adequate sanitation facilities
  • 1 in 7 children are acutely malnourished

Further reading:
Somali Children ‘at death’s Door’
Somalia risks “catastrophe” as warning signs echo 2011 famine – agencies

Strapping on collected water for the journey ahead.

Preparing collected water for the journey ahead.

Strapping on collected water for the journey ahead.

Recently rehabilitated shallow well.

Recently rehabilitated shallow well.