Union of Mothers

I had difficulty getting to sleep. My energy level was still high and would not ramp down.

Why? Today I was privileged to attend the final afternoon of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Workshop put on by the Diocese of Khartoum. The title of the workshop was Starting My Own Small Business employing the verse from Nehemiah 2:17 “Let us rebuild the broken walls.”
I arrived a little after noon, while breakfast was still being eaten. I was informed that the participants came from four other dioceses other than Khartoum; Port Sudan, Malakal, Elobeid and Kadguli. Another group participating was from the Cathedral in Khartoum, yet another was made up of sister churches and the community.

From the group pictures you can tell that they are a collection of different types of women, in dress and tribe. The energy and excitement in the room and around their potential was palatable. Exhilarating work.

Throughout the meeting, prayer was woven into the meeting, whether with bowed heads or singing or drama. I smiled, when due to having eaten and then the power being cut, there was a tendency to find heads dipping. Then I laughed when I learned that anyone individual spotted nodding all the women rose and did clapping and singing to wake everyone up.

The facilitators were Mama Darias Kwaje Misaka and Harriet Baka Nathan, two great women working to train and support women throughout the Province of Sudan.

Since most of the ending presentations were in Arabic (sessions were split between that and English) I had an opportunity to glance around at the walls.

The Course Objectives were displayed front and center: 1) to equip women with knowledge and skills to engage in some form of self-employment, 2) to create awareness of their own qualities and latent skills which could help them to adapt to an entrepreneurial mindset, 3) to launch their own small business, and finally, 4) to help the participants understand that they must develop attitudes conducive to generating independent initiatives using inherent skills to build livelihoods for themselves.

The newsprint listing their expectations stated: have a good experience, learn new skills, learn how to start a business, time management, and the ability to teach others.

Their fears were: that they would not over come laziness, the fear of failure, the government policies that not allow them to succeed, an inability to understand, and the fear of the unknown.

I was asked to share my knowledge of technology, the internet and e-business. Do not laugh, Gary and Kathryn. Everyone listened as I spoke first and then the translator. Words like “Google” and “internet” translate the same. Everyone took notes.
They wanted to see the laptop, the MSDL hookup, the camera, how to download the camera, a blog, a website. Only a few had ready access to a computer and even fewer had their own email address. They had questions about how to purchase computers, printers etc.

Their final task of the conference was to define a group Project or Small Business and to develop a plan highlighting the goal, objectives, activities, responsibilities, time frame and budget. They worked in teams.

As they went about finding places to meet, I was struck by how quietly they were working, especially the group of ten from the Khartoum Diocese.

Women were speaking softly and letting each other speak. Unbelievable.

Even though it was very hot, they continued discussing and planning. I cannot assist anyone. They are planning in Arabic.

At 3:30 PM the wrap-it-up warning sounded, using a very large and loud bell. Diocesan Convention could use one of these bells along with a judicious bell ringer.

Here are the groups and their projects.

Group One – Province – Eradicate Illiteracy around the Cathedral
Group Two - Dioceses – Find Solutions to Tribal Violence
Group Three – Sister Churches and Community – Small Business Specializing in knitted work and design
Group Four – Khartoum Diocese – Training of Small Skills of self-reliance
Group Five – Trainers Facilitators – Reduce Poverty in their specific region.

Prevalent in each of the proposals was the partnering with the Mothers Unions throughout Sudan and financial support from other Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s).

At the end of the presentations, the conference wrapped up by cleaning up the room and heading out for tea. Or so I thought.

At the end of each of these training conferences, certificates are awarded to each participant. These are handed out by representatives from the Provincial Staff (Rev. Deng), the Diocesan Staff (Rev. Musa), the Mothers Union Leader from the Khartoum Diocese, and other honored guests. Turned out I was an honored guest.

The Rev. Daniel Deng Anhiany. a colleague at the Provinccial office, had opened the conference and was slated to close it with prayer. However, in between there was singing, drama skitsdancing, and speeches. Turned out I was given the opportunity to speak. It was only one of two in English. The Diocesan Bishop’s Commissioner, The Rev. Daniel Musa, translated for me the rest of the time. (That's him in the birhgt shirt and pants.)

Right before the certificates were awarded, presents were passed out to the hosting staff, Mamma Darias, Harriet Baka, and me. (You remember how much I love presents.)

At the end of the ceremony, came dinner.

Chicken from the Delmarva Peninsula.

Shouting Sudanese Sons

Nothing makes me more anxious than a shouting man.

Has since childhood.

Here there is nothing that makes me more anxious than a shouting Sudanese man.

And, these men shout alot.

They shout at people they know or do not know.

They shout at people they work with.

They shout in small rooms and wide open spaces.

They shout about football or not having football.

They shout about accounting issues.

They shout about political issues.

They shout about water and electricity or the lack of it.

They shout about Sudan.

They shout about women.

They shout when they are driving or walking.

They are always shouting.

And, when they are shouting their hands are waving.

This does not mean that they are angry or upset, although often they are.

Lots of anger below the surface.

There is only quiet when they are not shouting.

Or, Rascal is not barking.


A.B. Normal

What is it about the familiar?

Is it the fact that it reminds us of that which is normal or everyday, common and ordinary?

What had become familiar here in Sudan has changed.

Sudan has routines based upon the heat of the day, especially in areas that have fluctuating electricity and water. Work in offices stop when generators are not available or are unafordable.

By the end of my third month, my daily schedule had become pretty routine.

Sleeping with doors and windows open to take advantage of the breeze, you awake when the air starts to stir again, right around dawn.

The sun rises over my back wall, to the left of the front door. At first, she peaks through very tall leaf and palm trees, providing a muted picture of various shades of green that change quickly as she rises slowly in the sky.

The heat is not yet apparent and the breeze feels cool. Energy is abounding.

Dogs begin barking and moving about. Birds fly overhead moving from their nighttime perches.

The small birds in the yard, like finches, are chirping away. Falcons or hawks are high in the sky, wings outstretched as they surf the air currents looking below for breakfast. The flies become annoying.

Rascal is quiet, but starts to stretch legs and neck. Her tail begins to wag and she flops over on her back for her morning belly rub. Then she is up chasing the empty water bottles as if they are balls.

I hear Sadik and Babekah , brothers, open the doors of the corner store, metal slamming against metal.

Two other neighbors start their morning coffee rituals and the smell drifts along with the breeze.
School starts as children catch their buses or walk through the soccer field, so the morning brings laughter and giggles. I do not open the front gate or Rascal will run barking and growling at each of them and disturb whoever might still be sleeping.

Silence within the house had also become normal. No conversations. No English.

Until a couple of days ago, when normal changed.

I have discovered NPR in Sudan. Lake Wobegon in Sudan. Click and Clack the Tappit Brothers. Wait.. Wait.. Don't Tell Me. Terry Gross and Fresh Air from Philadelphia. Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

No way, you say.


Technology has given me podcasts and they have given me NPR and PBS.

Now, I hear voices from Minnesota, Boston, Chicago. My family from Lake Wobegon is meeting those from Harvard Square. Terry Gross is eatting steak in Chicago.

English, but not just any English. American English. Here in my house in Sudan.

And, I am laughing outloud. No one else around.

Rascal hides under the bed.


Countdown (Sorry Keith)

It is official. There is one month left in Sudan.

As my assignment goes, it has been well received, for which I am grateful.

The last person to be trained arrived last Saturday, The Rev. James, from Juba. He is the financial assistant in the Juba office of the Province.

With any countdown, the mind shifts to all it wants to accomplish within a finite period of time.

I am back to making lists:

Find a person to continue loving Rascal.

Find a way to get Sami and Graziella into the states.

Take pictures of Sadique, at the corner store.

Take pictures of Aragash, Sami, Graziella, the kids and their parents.

Get mailing address for presents to be sent from the states.

Start packing.

Get photos up on web.

Take big group pictures of everyone associated in and around the Cathedral.

Get more women's stories.

Start saying good-bye to people I will not see again before I leave. Get phone numbers and email addresses.

I believe that I cannot say good-bye.

There is a saying that once you taste from the water of the Nile, you will return to Sudan.

I believe this is true. I am planning to return Christmas of 2009. I have promised Tito and his family.

I will have to adapt the saying of "See You Soon", without tears.


Dance Fever

Today was a non work day for American citizens in Khartoum.

The American Embassy had recommended that we stay around our homes Friday and today. Lots of protests about the ICC.

But, today was a bust, very small scale involvement.

So, I got to sit with Aragash and Graziella. There was no water, the propane needed filling, and my neighbors had no electric next door. Typical day in Khartoum.

At some point during the morning, I had brought the laptop outside and introduced Graziella to Josh Groban.

I had an ulterior motive. She is Italian and I wanted to know what he has been singing all these years.

After four songs we determined a pattern. Love lost, love lost, love lost and love lost.

So, I switched to Janis Joplin's Take Another Little Piece of My Heart.

Hey Jude.

Then switched again to the best of Roy Orbison.

Well, if my arm was not hurt I would have been dancing away in the courtyard. As such, I danced from the waist up in my chair.

With my eyes closed and loving every beat.

What I did not see, and what was recounted for Sami and me later, was that Aragash was ...speechless, except for Oh God in arabic..

Aragash, another Eriteran, was brought up in a culture that did not allow sounds to emiate from a women's mouth. She did not, could not sing.

She could not dance. In fact, they told me a story about a woman who when making coffee, her straw mat would pop and the villagers said that the sound was coming from her.

Her husband said no. The next day, everyone came to hear the sound. She said no, but they kept coming back. Later, she took herself outside of the village and hanged herself.

So here is Aragash, watching me clap, snap, sing along, all the time with my eyes closed.

"Judi, the sun is on your face". " OK, feels good".

Eyes never open, dancing never stops.

Graziella is trying to soothe Aragash to say it is alright. But, this is in Arabic. I do not understand the conversation.

And, I keep dancing for about four more songs.

Happy in my oblivion.

My partner?




There are lots of different ways to use the word sling.

Sling shot, sling back shoes, singapor sling, sling that wraps around cargo, or a sling as in bandage.

My familiarity comes in the way of supporting your arm after injury.

Yep. I fell, head over heels carrying groceries and landed on my hands and knees. The fall pushed my arm up to my shoulder socket.

So, what did this experience offer me?

First, to be the object of amusement for four little boys. Anytime I can be of assistance just call me.

Second, I learned that swigging a non-alcoholic Becks beer might help you to think you are at home, but you are not.

Third, removing clothes to clean all the cuts is just a painful here as at home.

Fourth, my next door neighbor helped me clean everything with good old fashioned soap and bottled water. Then she helped me fashion a sling out of the shoulder wraps I brought with me just in case I was going to cover my head.

Fifth, Dr. Fares (pronounced Ferris) meant what he said about coming whenever I needed him. He did and he escorted me to the hospital, made all the arrangments with a doctor, took me to the clinic for x-rays and then back to the hospital. Nothing is broken.

Fares then went to get a sling and the medicine and returned with instructions to email him every hour with a report.

The part of the hospital and clinic that I saw was clean, but I could not tell who was a doctor and who wasn't. No white jackets and name tags.

Finally, even while he is in Juba, Enock made sure that Sapanna, Nicholas and the newly arrived Rev. James came to the house to make sure that I was ok.

So, while I am uncomfortable, I am more annoyed that I cannot drive Tito's car while he is in Juba. I have only gotten to drive it a total of 30 minutes.

However, I can still say that I drove a car in Sudan.



I am not at peace tonight.

I tried sharing with others why I am not at peace. Peace did not come.

I have been playing some Feng Shui soothing music. Peace has not come.

I had hoped that answering emails would distract my mind. Peace has not come.

I have been playing Spider Solitare and am not winning one game. Peace has not come.

What I need is peace and serenity before retiring for the night.

Serenity and the prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr found on Google.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

Peace was not coming because I was trying to turn something I could not change into something I could. Wisdom was not with me earlier in the day.

Many times, I believed that the fact that I felt strongly in an idea, a philosophy, a principle, that in and of itself was to make it so. I have of course, been proved wrong many times.

Today was no exception.

I am left with the reality that the belief that justice should be extended to all does not make it so.

Therefore, peace will not come until I turn off the music, the email and game and acknowledge to God that I am powerless and he needs to handle this.

He needs to find a way to keep this person safe.

He needs to make right this wrong.

He will, but in his time and with his methods.

So, peace has finally come to me tonight.

And, through my tears, I turn this over to him.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3, 5-6


Another Sunday in Sudan

It is currently a balmy 88 degrees under partly cloudy breezy skies. Sami, next door says this occurs once a year.

I have figured out how to open the top windows at the back bedroom and now have a breeze throughout the house. There is a tree outside the window.

Also, lots of men sitting under the tree playing dominoes.

When I awoke at 8:30 it must have been a little cooler and it felt chilly.

Yesterday the high was 110.

I have rigged my laptop to run off electricity from an outside plug and have it perched on top of the water storage barrell. All this under the sunshield.

Rascal seems to like the company and I love being outside.

Today, I will be reading the first lesson at church at 6 PM, Genesis and the beginning of the story of Jacob and Esau.

There are many accents at this English speaking service. A great group of Africans and some ex
-pats from around the globe.

I am actually worrying about being understood.

Speaking of ex-pats, there is a heighten sense of awareness about being such in Sudan for the past few days.

The announcement by the ICC tomorrow regarding Sudan means lots of rhetoric is flying around.

You can be sure that what it all actually means will play itself out somewhere in western and/or southern parts of Sudan.

Please continue praying for Sudan, those in authority and its people.


George, I had to love him

I have returned to the house after watching a soccer game from the front courtyard, fenced in of course.

Rascal had spent the evening "playing" with the neighborhood boys who delighted in a number of games.

See how close you can walk to the fence.

See how Rascal charges innocent passerbys and watch them jump, then laugh.

See how Rascal chases empty water bottles like a soccer ball.

See how Rascal likes being petted.

These boys can think of so many things to do with an object they cannot touch.

Since it is now noon on the east coast, I check my emails again and this time, the internet is working.

Just in case any of you might be getting the impression that I am congratulating myself on a job going well. Or, that I have taken the credit for why I am here. Or, that I am racking up brownie points for the big ending, I am not.

To keep me honest, I read The Rev. E. James (Jim) Lewis' Blog, Notes from Under a Fig Tree.

In this writing, Jim calls attention to one of my favorite comedians, George Carlin.

Hearing George's routine as a teenager, I would always look around to see who had heard me laugh. He was so irreverent.

It was such guilty laughter. I was not supposed to think George was funny. But, he was, to me, up until the day he died.

His humor, if I let it, forced me to think about so many issues in such different ways.

I remember hearing his routine about golfcourses and cemeteries. He believed that with all the homeless in the world, why was a little white ball and the dead offered so much space.

At the time, I was heavily involved with the LPGA at the DuPont Country Club which was supporting Ronald McDonald Houses. I remembered initially being indignant that he should attack something doing so much good for so many.

Now, I am not involved and I think was he right?

Well today, Jim reminded me about two other routines that George used.

(Now do not go getting nervous)

The first was the Hippy-Dippy Weather Man.

Weather forecast for tonight: dark.
Continued dark overnight,
With widely scattered light by morning.

The second was one of George's takes on religion.

"Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day.

And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do.

And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ‘til the end of time!

But he loves you.”

I find it helpful to laugh at myself every now and then.

Change of Plans

I am not going to Juba.

That does not mean that I am coming home.

Instead, the person that I am to train in the Juba office is coming here.


Little things like no computer. Or no guarantee of electricity. Staff in Khartoum needs more training.

So, I proposed bringing Rev. James here and Tito will take his place, temporatily, in Juba.

So, Rascal is happy, I am happy, let's hope everyone is happy.

Let's hope it rains a little.


The Bishop's New House

On Thursday, June 26th, the congregation from All Saints Cathedral gathered with representatives of the ECS Province, the Diocese of Khartoum, and friends and family of Retired Bishop Bulus Idris Tia to bless this new house.

The house is located in one of the most western parts of Omdurman.

In another entry I had traveled to the northern most parts of Omdurman, first to attend the Youth Drama Day (Post for June 22) and then Sunday, June 29 to attend church with Tito and his family at Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
Tito and I rode up to Omdurman together, he dropping me off to get my haircut and he to get the Secretary’s car fixed. We met at the Diocesan office.

By small convoy, we made our way southwest, Bishop Ezekiel Kondo, Bishop of Khartoum, in the lead car.

In our car, we traveled with the oldest Canon priest who had long since retired after serving 55 years as the Canon to the Ordinary, the current Canon, a spry 60, and the former Diocesan Secretary.

I felt right at home, taking a road trip to points south.

The service was due to start at 4:30 PM, but got started closer to 5 PM as they tinkered with the sound system. Though, sitting under a tent, one did not need to have sound.

However, no Sudanese can speak without a mike, and once the mike is in hand, they cannot stop speaking.

We finally left at 8:30 PM. Tito traveling north and east and I traveling south and east.

My ride back to Khartoum was in one of the school vehicles owned by The Diplomatic School.

This school started 20 years ago teaching 9 children and teach over 500 this year

The family that started the school is that of Mr. Ustaz Johnson Nyeko, Senior Warden of All Saints Cathedral - Khartoum and chair of this building committee.

Though an extremely gifted man, Mr. Ustez, a Ugandan, can speak just as long as if he were Sudanese. And he really only speaks English, so the former Diocesan Secretary was volunteered into action the entire night translating into Arabic.
After the summary of the project by Mr. Ustez, no mere amount of 66,000 pounds, the house was blessed by Canon Joseph, the Dean of the Cathedral and Bishop Kondo as we held candles and moved from room to room ending up in the back yard.
Once completed, we moved back outside for some brief comments.

The briefest comments were by those not in attendance.

The longest was by the Dean, who even though he said he would not repeat what others had said, he did. And, when he said he only had “one more word” on the subject, he did not. He had several thousand.

At one point, a choir member turned to me and mouthed “ Welcome to Sudan.”

A hint for the Diocesan Convention planning committee: never book anyone from Sudan to speak, ever.

I learned that an Egyptian Muslim couple had donated all of the concrete towards the laying of the foundation. Other firms had donated computers, piping, water all to be auctioned off.
The British Embassy contributed. And, the people of All Saint’s Cathedral - Khartoum each donated one pound each.

The most moving part of the evening was the turning over of the keys to the family.

Not a dry eye in the bunch as the Bishop’s wife hugged the current Bishop. Each whispering into each other’s ear.

Oh, my mistake.

The Bishop’s widow hugged the current Bishop.
Bishop Bulus had died 18 months prior from cancer.

This house was his special project but he had only completed building the storage shed and one wall on the property line when he died. He died leaving his wife and children virtually homeless.
Throughout his Episcopacy, Bishop Bulus spent more time providing a roof over other families
than he did for his own.

He always thought he had more time.
So, for the first time ever in Sudan, a congregation took upon themselves to build a house for a bishop.

And, a beautiful house it is.


Luke 12:48

Disclaimer: I am a child of the 60's and I voted for John F. Kennedy.

That said, go ahead, grab your Bible, I'll wait.





I was reading Dana Milbank's blog, Rough Sketch http://blog.washingtonpost.com/roughsketch/, and his posting of Russert's Grand Goodbye where he provided a link to the video of Luke Russert at his dad's, Tim Russert, memorial service at the Kennedy Center.

It was during his rememberance of his father, that this bible verse was quoted as one of Tim Russert's favorites and it is also one of mine.

The first time I remember hearing it, it was said by President John F. Kennedy, though a slightly different version than Tim Russert's.

President Kennedy also said:

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Anericans were being asked to provide time and talent in service to others. I had planned on joining the Peace Corp after college. Obviously, goal and reality are some years apart.

The Kennedy's and the Gate's use this bible verse to explain their involvement in social, educational, and environmental causes in our country and around the world.

However, I wanted to know the exact wording in the King James Version of the Bible.

Google to the rescue, and inundation. This phrase is used ALOT.

The first link connected me to a post by Dr. Mark Liberman, a linguist.

Dr. Liberman http://www.en.wikipedica.org/, has researched the many ways this verse has been used and how many ways it has been altered throughout generations.

Oc course, the version that Tim Russert and I like, is gramatically incorrect.

Though the intent remains.


An adjective used to describe someone highly favored or fortunate or having good fortune bestowed or conferred upon.

I cannot quite buy into the idea of being highly favored. I tend to think of kings and princesses and concubines. Obviously, too much Hollywood.

However, fortunate or having good fortune that is much easier to accept.

I am fortunate in my family and friends, in having a roof over my head, food of every kind in abundance, steady employment, ownership of property, the ability to travel anywhere, and the expectation that I can practice my faith any where I choose.

I live in a country not divided by war, relatively free of disease, with an education system open to all.

I did not have to leave America and come to Sudan to appreciate these things.

I came to Sudan because of the verse.

What verse?

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.

President Kennedy's paraphrasing:

Of those to whom much is given, much is required.

I expect that in the future much more will be required of me, since much has already been given.


Freedom Forth

Yesterday evening produced a surreal moment.

(Dr.) Fares, one of Rascal's saviors, had come to say hello so I "hired" him as my driver to the power company.

(His car has AC, so theoretically, I would "hire" him at all times, to hell with his job.)

The place was packed, so Fares wanted to know if he should go in with me.

"No, I'll be fine", I said, as I got out of the vehicle dressed in 3/4 length pants and a tank top. "No, problem."

The line was long, but it usually moves quickly.

The older gentleman behind me, dressed in appropriate Arab white, fashionably buttoned at the neck, wearing a matching turban and sandals, smiled at me and told me that I could go to the front of the line.

Not wanting to appear special and not wanting to butt in line, (remember the school cafeteria),I replied that it was OK. I would wait.

No, he insisted. In his country women are given the "priviledge" to go to the front.

I am the only woman in the place, I am obviously not Sudanese, and now every male is staring. Please he says, in this country we "honor" our women.

Oh...kay.. here is a defining moment in my stay in Sudan.

I am, however, spared jailtime, by the entry of two girls and one woman, who go to the front and butt in line.

Given this, I too walk to the front.

Of course, not all men are as "enlightened" as the older gentleman. They still make the girls and woman wait. Such scoundrels.

Getting back into the car, FAres notices my "look". Am I sad?

Nope, just perplexed.

How can one country be proud of allowing women the priviledge of getting into a faster line, but to do so, they should be covered head to toe, preferably in black.

They must study apart from men, they must worship apart from men.

They have arranged marriages, usally with much older men who have more than one wife.

Though men walk around freely holding each other's hands, women must refrain from doing so.

And, when it comes right down to it, getting in another line is not a priviledge, it is an order. Another rule that re-enforces just who is in charge of making the rules.

To choose who to study with, who to worship with, to choose who to marry, or to skip down the streets holding hands, or to stand at the back of the line all day, is truly a priviledge.

So, on this special day in the states, where there will be fireworks exploding, chorus' singing, grills cooking, prayers invoked, service men add women remembered, I say this:

Freedom Go Forth.


Deep River Crossings

Deep river
My home is over Jordan
Deep river, Lord
I want to cross over into campground

Deep river
My home is over Jordan
Deep river, Lord
I want to cross over into campground

Oh, don't you want to go
To that gospel feast
That promised land,
Where all is peace

The composer and lyricist of this Negro Spiritual are unknown.

Hearing this sung affects me spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Just copying the lyrics into the blog are shaping my morning.

I have heard it sung by Paul Robeson and Barbara Streisand. There is a great version performed in Japan and on an internet Christian Cafe.

I weep everytime, but I am never sure why?

I have had many deep river thoughts here in Khartoum. Many want to cross over into print.

However, standing on this river bank one does not make that crossing easily, if at all.

Crossing can be dangersous not only for the crosser, but those you leave behind.

I have made the decision that this river will be crossed upon my return.

I am not willing to endanger those I leave behind.