The Neglected Middle

A local believer and member of our staff had been caring for her nephew of about 18 years of age.  His father had asked that the boy live with her, and she provided food and shelter for him.  The young man got increasingly involved with witchcraft, and resented the consistent faith in Jesus that he saw in his aunt.  One day, he “went into the river”—to call on evil spirits to harm her.  (Local witchdoctors will go under water and stay for long periods of time where they describe contacting local spirits.  They will promise to do something for the spirit if the spirit causes harm to someone they despise.) 

However, he was unable to cause any harm to his aunt.  He sought out other ways to harm her, such as poisoning, but she discovered his intentions.  She took him to the police station, and he confessed to going into the river and trying to harm her.  The boy’s father was then called and he took him back to the village. 

Stories such as this are not uncommon in South Sudan.  For those of us from the West, they seem like fiction.  But, we have heard these stories over and over from credible people and with key common elements.  When we consider the reality of the spiritual world of which the Bible speaks, and present day reports like these, we are forced to re-examine our Western worldview and its neglect of the everyday interaction of the physical and spiritual world.  This is the neglected middle—between the world we see and the God to which we pray there are angels and demons interacting with our lives. 

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December 2015 04:53

Non-Medical Augmentation of Labor

At Bet Eman (His House of Hope) Hospital, we strive to provide safe deliveries.  In order to do this, we induce labor in pregnant women well beyond their due dates, assist difficult deliveries with a vacuum device, and do Cesarean sections.  However, sometimes these aren’t enough…

Our South Sudanese staff have taught us that many local people believe that if they have unconfessed sins, they won’t go into labor and deliver normally.  As we struggle to get their labor started, often a social, emotional, or spiritual battle is going on in the patient and family—of which we are unaware.  At times, our chaplains encounter their stories and draw out the unspoken issues—so they can be free of them, and discover the forgiveness that Jesus wants to give.  And, sometimes the labor only begins after such a conversation…

Recently I was called in for a difficult delivery.  The baby was close, but even after 3 pulls on the vacuum device, he didn’t come.  I prepared to give a quick speech about the baby not coming and the need to quickly go to surgery, but instead felt prompted to first pray out loud in Arabic.  I simply asked God to give her strength to deliver the baby.  On the next push, she did just that!  Where the vacuum failed, God succeeded in response to prayer.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December 2015 04:51

Grace upon Grace: The very real struggle to have a healthy baby in South Sudan

Grace J. was followed carefully in antenatal clinic for several months.  This, her 8th pregnancy, was hoped to be different than all the others.  Her first baby had been born alive, but died after a few days of life.  For the next six pregnancies, she faithfully attended antenatal care at the main hospital in Juba, South Sudan.  Her husband emphatically stated, "We did not stay and deliver in the village-- we were at the big hospital!"  However, each time she would arrive at a checkup at about 35 weeks along, and find that the baby had died inside, without any warning signs.  He implored us to help them have a live baby this time.  We carefully monitored her after 28 weeks, giving her steroids to mature the baby's lungs in case of an early delivery, and checking the baby each time on a fetal monitor.  Around 34 weeks, the husband began asking us to deliver the baby, but we were hesitant to bring baby out too early.  He asked to sign a consent for a C-section operation, in case we needed to emergently deliver the baby.  Their village is about 50 miles from the hospital, so he worried that we wouldn't be able to reach him if surgery was needed.

We kept her in the hospital and monitored daily until 35 weeks, then made the decision to induce labour.  Grace was stable, but as soon as contractions started, the baby showed signs of distress, so we prepared urgently for C-section.  Her blood pressure was suddenly noted to be extremely high, so we modified the anesthesia we were planning to use, gave her medicine to lower her blood pressure, and quickly delivered the baby by C-section.  

Thanks to the grace of God, it was a healthy baby boy!  Grace struggled with a post-operative headache due to the urgent spinal anesthesia, requiring Jeff to learn a new procedure ("blood patch")-- which worked (thanks to a consult with Charlie, our hometown anesthetist!).  It was a happy day when Grace and her husband took their healthy son home, reminding us all that our lives themselves are only due to the grace of God.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 May 2015 15:59

Conversations in the Saloon

By Lillian R. Perry, age 15

So I was in the “saloon” (aka, hair salon) in Yei getting my hair done, when one of the ladies who was waiting started complaining to the hairdresser that it was taking too long to have my hair done (in Juba Arabic of course).  I said that I was sorry (in English).  The lady looked at me and said, ''Who is this lady who speaks very good American English?''  The hairdresser told her I was Doctor Perry's daughter.  When she heard this, she said ''Oh, Doctor Perry, the nice man with the funny beard!"  Well, if that was not enough, she said "I didn't know Doctor Perry had such nice coffee colored children."  For the next ten minutes all they talked about was the hospital and my dad.   Just as my dad was pulling up the lady said "I just love the color of the hospital—bright blue!" 

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 May 2015 15:14

Not Quite the Slow Boat-- But Close

After a 3 month medical leave in the US for Jeff to have several eye surgeries, we were eager to return to our home in South Sudan in early March 2015.  This is the tale of a family of ten traveling around the world...

It used to be that missionaries took several months on the “slow boat” to get to their field of service.  Thankfully, we live in an age of rapid global transit—usually…

We arrived at the Denver airport on schedule for a Sunday evening departure.  Our 30 bags were neatly stowed in our cargo trailer, all under the allotted 50 pounds (according to our highly calibrated hand scale from Wal-Mart).  The skycaps met us at the curb and took our bags into the check in counter, where there was just a short line.  Our booking was a humanitarian fare, and we were allowed 3 bags per person, but our travel agent warned us that the agent might not see the notation, so she had prepared us.  As expected, the agent balked at the 30 bags, but we were able to refer her to “lines 38-39” of the reservation.  Somehow we ended up with 32 bags (those higher math skills are a challenge to us doctor types).  We were prepared to pay the overage, but their computer system kept displaying that we owed them for 22 bags—over $4,000!  The supervisor couldn’t solve the computer issue, so she simply let it go (she has apparently seen “Frozen”) and didn’t charge us anything.  We were grateful for the reasonableness of the agents.  It seemed that this trip was off to a smooth start…

With that saga over, we were prepared for 2 long flights, and happy not to have to manage the checked bags again until we reached Uganda.  We were free of jackets and sweaters, as the next time we would leave the airport would be in ever-warm East Africa!  We slogged our way through security with the inevitable “illegal” items that were in our kids’ suitcases unbeknownst to us (the 10 year old, freckled, strawberry blonde Olivia was the suspected terrorist this time, with a large tube of shampoo, conditioner, and cream cheese as her weapons).  Our remaining concern was the short transfer time we had in London—1 hour 50 minutes—especially as it took us 2 hours 30 minutes to make the transfer the last time.  We got the sense from the Lord to not worry about it, but we did fret about it some, as our experiences with security screening in London was obnoxious to say the least.  Upon check-in, we noticed that the departure was delayed one hour, which increased our concern even more.  They assured us, however, that the arrival time would still be the same because of favorable tail winds.  Sure enough, as we got airborne, the expected arrival time was even a bit earlier than scheduled, so we relaxed and got some rest.

Elizabeth and I awoke to the sensation that the plane was slowing and descending.  The pilot got on the radio and explained that a passenger was very sick and the plane would have to make an emergency diversion.  We were about halfway through our journey from Denver to London, about to cross the Atlantic.  They would be dumping jet fuel to allow the plane to land safely in St. John, Newfoundland, Canada—the easternmost city in North America.  He assured us that we would be back in the air shortly, after refueling.

After some time on the ground, the captain again came on the intercom to explain there was a problem with the refueling valve, but that the engineer was on his way to fix it.  After about one hour, the engineer arrived and starting working.  The pilot later came on to explain the good news that the problem was fixed, but the bad news that the crew was now near the end of their legal amount of time on duty.  If we took off, we would need to land in Ireland to change crews prior to continuing on to London.  Several minutes later, he returned to say that they couldn’t even make it to Ireland within the time limit, so we would need to overnight in Newfoundland.  We continued to sit in the plane, on the runway—now about 14 hours since we left for the 9-hour flight.  As the airline did not use this airport, they had no ground crew to manage the 300 some passengers.  We continued to sit in the plane as they tried to figure out where to put all of us.  The passengers by now were quite agitated, and tempers flared.  It was a bit scary, mostly sad, to see the stress response of people.  We noticed a man near us who was moving constantly, and talking to himself incessantly.

The children did great, and we were thankful that God kept us in peace as we tried to keep our minds staid on Him.  We disembarked and learned that we would need to collect all of our 32 checked bags.  And, it was cold there, with a foot of snow on the ground, and none of us had jackets (Winnie was in a T-shirt only!).  Thankfully, we were able to store the bags at the airport (though they were not completely secure).

We decided to embrace the delay—perhaps God was going to allow us some rest in a most unexpected place.  The airline put us up in a nice hotel, the kids went swimming, and we had some good meals.  Elizabeth found some great jackets at a thrift store, where things happened to be 50% off that day!  Most of us needed jackets for the rare times it gets cool in East Africa, and the Lord provided some great ones.  We were up the next morning at 4:30 AM, but felt refreshed.  We collected all 32 bags (nothing missing as far as we know) and rechecked them after waiting in the 300 person queue. 

The flight resumed.  Again we were seated near the man who evidently suffered from some form of schizophrenia.  His talking got louder and his movements more erratic.  We visited with some of the other passengers who were now becoming an unusual cohort of total strangers undergoing a difficult situation together.  Plans were being disrupted. 

People don’t watch how you act during good times; they watch how you deal with trials.  Near the end of the flight, a flight attendant came and knelt by Elizabeth and shared that she and her husband were getting ready to start a family, and she wanted to raise kids like ours.

“What’s your secret?” she asked.

“There is none—simply to train your children to worship the one true God,” Elizabeth replied.

“Yes, I know, I am a Christian, but what is your secret to raising your kids?”

“Only to be a worshipper of Jesus and follow Him before our children.”

We are not sure she received that—there truly is no parenting secret other than this.  Elizabeth did also refer a book to her—Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

We arrived in London on Tuesday evening (rather than the scheduled Monday morning).  We would have to overnight in London as well, and arrive to Uganda 48 hours later than expected.  The children’s new passports were quickly getting filled with unplanned entry stamps—Canada, United Kingdom, and then Uganda.  The Jordanian man with schizophrenia was again next to us at the customer service counter.  We were prompted to pray for him—such a stressful situation for anyone to deal with, much less if one has under/untreated mental illness.  We may never know the specific effects of our prayers, but effects there are.

Usually on a 9-hour flight, one barely gets acquainted with any of the other passengers.  In a bizarre sort of sociology experiment, we were with this group of people for nearly 60 hours.  The reason for the whole flight delay?  A young man tried to kill himself by taking pills and drinking alcohol.  A large, for-profit airline spent huge amounts of money to divert its flight for the sake of one passenger’s life.  How much more did our God of Mercy do by spending the blood of His Son to save our lives!

Just before we left our town in Colorado, I noticed a church sign which rung true with me—“Change is easier when you trust in an unchanging God.” Along the way, there was much time for being in God’s Word and listening to Him.  We are grateful to serve an unchanging God, one who is more concerned with His people knowing Him than a “smooth” travel experience.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 20:12

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Our Mission:

Share the gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthen His Church through medical care and education, discipleship, and loving the people of South Sudan as a family.

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