Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Update from Renk

Dwayne, Ellen's husband, spoke with her at 12:30 EST yesterday (July 31, 2007), and emailed the following update:

All are well, and spirits are high.

Yesterday was shopping day, with a trip to the market for fabrics, clothing, and who knows what else. Everyone had fun, including their driver.

The weather continues to provide some rain at night. The Sudanese claim that the hard rains, which they had earlier in the week, are very unusual – usually coming in August. (Global warming?) Ellen said the Sunday rain was torrential - harder than anything she has every seen, (flooding the latrines) but the rain Monday night was more gentle. The school has not yet managed to collect rain for drinking and other uses, although in the compound where they stay the collection of rain water is working. Peter’s push to collect rain water for the school has been reinforced by Bishop Daniel, who said he has done it elsewhere in Sudan. Because water for general use comes from the Nile, which has been stirred up by the heavy rains, potable water is not available for many. The team members have bottled water, but must limit their bathing.

Bishop Hilary and Bishop Daniel are both in Renk, each having set aside time to plan with the team. Ellen has spent a couple of hours each of these past two days planning with them.. Bishop Hillary would like a similar project in Malakai. The two bishops, and Father Joseph, have suggested that it would be great if teaching teams could come three times a year rather than twice a year. Ellen had to nix both suggestions – energy and money reasons. She pointed out that the financing for this project has two sources - Jackie Kraus and her church in Chicago, and the efforts from the Duke team. Neither is funded by grants, or the institution, but by the efforts of the many volunteers. In addition, planning and organizing the teaching teams originates from Ellen’s desk and taking on more such administrative work would detract her from other professional obligations and interests.

Peter has been in the clinic in the morning – which sees 60 people in 2 1/2 hours. He is thinking about how the clinic can be more effective, and how new midwifes could be trained. He has called attention to the fact that a two week trip by another doctor from US could pay the salary of a local midwife for two years. Peter is eager to provide help for the long haul, but recognizes that frequent return trips is not the most constructive contribution.

Andrew clearly has identified that Africa is to be part of his vocation. Besides teaching, he has helped Fr. Joseph with business stuff.

Ellen said that the three of them make a perfect team - much more than the sum of the parts.


Ellen has been teaching about sacrifice in Leviticus for two days. She acknowledged that the Sudanese students are familiar with sacrifice in their daily lives as well as in their tribal tradition. So she began the class by asking students to tell of their own experiences. Once the hesitation was overcome, many spoke of their experiences, and the connection with Leviticus was natural for them.

Renk has changed significantly since Ellen was there three years ago. Fewer signs of the “iron age” culture. More cars, bikes, electricity – cell phone towers and cell phones. Even access to the inter-net for those who came prepared (and I gather Andrew did.)

Peter and Ellen depart for Khartoum on Saturday. Andrew has scheduled two more weeks in Renk.

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