FROM SUDAN WITH LOVE
WHY SUDAN? Alcoholism is epidemic in southern Sudan after 22 years of war and a shattered economy. WHY ME? In the Fall of 2005, I was hopelessly numbing out my pain with alcohol.
On Dec. 27, 2005, in absolute desperation, I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
In January of 2006 I got to Step 3, "Give your life and will to God." Life hasn't been the same since.
This June-August, I will share the Gospel of Jesus and alcoholism recovery to the men of Sudan.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I got an update yesterday from, Mike Congrove, the head of e3's Sudan strategy (www.e3sudan.com). He has been in Kajo Keji for the last two weeks with another church planting team.
He said that the Rapha Sudan group is continuing to meet daily and doing well. Mike also said that Pastor Edward Dima of First Baptist Church Kajo Keji is planning on taking Rapha into some of their other regional church plants.
This is all such good news for the people of Southern Sudan and for our brothers and sisters you've been praying for all summer.
Now that the group is meeting, operating and going through the steps all by themselves, it's critical we remember them in our prayers. They are new in their sobriety, new to going through 12 Steps on their own and new in their faith. Please pray that God will strengthen them and equip them and that they would know Jesus more. If you would consider it, please pray Ephesians 3:14-21 for them.
This is the Scripture that I left with them during our last meeting together. It's a powerful one for all of us, too.
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
I can't sufficiently thank each of you for your prayers. I wish you could have seen their faces when I told them that over 400 people in the US were praying for them. Your seconds and minutes and hours that you gave for them in prayer have impacted real, beautiful, humble, faithful people and will ripple through eternity. Not a breath was wasted and your invaluable words reached God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
"Therefore He (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through Him (Jesus), because He ALWAYS lives to intercede for them."
Love you all so much.
john a. elmore
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
In the last week since asking you all to pray for rain, we've gone from ZERO rain to four VERY heavy rains. It would start raining in the middle of the night and continue for hours. Then during the day, the sun would come out - perfect. Prayers answered in huge ways. Thank you.
It's been amazing to see how the rain has brought joy and hope to the people here. The people are in the fields cultivating, making potato heaps, harvesting mangos and are hopeful again.
PRAYER REQUESTS (and then I'll give some more updates later if you want to read-on):
Luka Elijah - this man told me he'll die if he doesn't come to the meeting and leave alcohol. It's true - I watched him try to get out one cough for two minutes. He's dying from alcoholism in this life and has no Savior for the next. He keeps telling me he'll come the "next tomorrow" but the rain has kept him in the fields during the days. His wife is one of our members - pray hard that this man will come. When he does, God willing, we'll go through the first three steps the first day (1. Confess addiction 2. Believe that only God can restore sanity 3. Surrender life and will to God and trust Jesus to be his Lord and Savior).
Old Scopas - we are increasingly friends, which is strange considering five of his best customers are now five of our strongest members. He has made Jesus' command to greet your enemies come alive to me.
Raphael the Soldier - he was called back to Uganda by the government because he's an ex-soldier. He said that they may be drafting to combat the Somali conflict or the Lord's Resistance Army (both groups are terrorists). He's an old boxer, an electrician and is voraciously taking in all the Bible and teachings he can. He was supposed to have been back in Sudan on Sunday - it's noon Wednesday and we haven't heard from him.
Alex Jame - Been out of town for two weeks. He was beginning to be a leader in the group and pray that he has remained strong in the Lord during his absence. Pray for his return to wife Celina and children and back to Rapha - he'll be a great leader.
Jackson Aluma - he's our twenty-something guy that rides his bike an hour one way from Limi each day. Because of his diligence and transformed life, he has been invited to attend the Kajo Keji Theological Seminary and be a pastor. From drunk to pastor-in-training in ONE MONTH. That's what the Lord can do with a life. He's getting a full-ride thanks to our US anonymous contributors. We're also watching one other person as a candidate for school - pray for wisdom and for his discipline.
Rapha Transition - please continue to pray that the group will continue to grow and God will raise up servant leaders...we leave in one week.
Mary Tamalo - our little firecracker has gotten sick - likely malaria. Pray for her recovery.
Arrigar - new member, 30 years old - just completed Step 3 yesterday. Needs freedom from the addiction badly.
Thank you for praying. I promise you God is at work each time you make requests on behalf of these brothers and sisters of your's. May God bless you all for your faithfulness to people you won't meet until heaven.
Rapha is now 100% self-led by the Sudanese. We have completely stepped out of leadership and Kenny and Cosmas have been leading the group, taking people through the Steps and teaching from the Bible. Praise God.
On Saturday, they have planned a Rapha fellowship at Kenny Simon's compound - three mud huts with straw roofs, an outdoor hardened/swept clay floor - all under two mango trees in the middle of farm fields that were a battlefield just four years ago. They have invited anyone in the community and all of the church. They want people to see the work that God has done in their lives, celebrate the healing Jesus has brought and give first-hand testimonies to the public. It was all their idea and they've been collecting money at each meeting to buy enough sugar to make hot tea and have bread and maybe even one or two kilos of meat. Contributions range from 10 cents to a dollar and every little amount is a huge sacrifice. It's beautiful to see and they teach me lesson upon lesson about appreciating simple pleasures, the deceit of materialism, the importance of fellowship based on God's faithfulness, and not worrying about tomorrow - just looking to God today.
As I ran along the road one morning after the storm, an old, wirey man was making mounds in the rain-softened clay to plant some new potato plants. When I circled back by him, he called to me, hunched over to lay down his hoe and ran out to the road in his undersized orange tank-top, cut-off trowsers and knee-high rubber boots. He had a huge grin on his face and couldn't stop talking in Kuku. He took hold of my right hand and began jerkily running alongside of me. I don't what he was saying, but I think God's rain made that 80-something year-old man want to run like he was a boy again. He let go of my hand about 50 yards later, waved with both hands, smiled through some toothless gaps and went back to his field. That old man taught me there is joy everywhere for the taking - but we have to choose it, even in digging with a hoe or running beyond your years.
Love you all so much. I'm sorry I don't have time to respond to all your kind messages. They have each been such encouragements. Time and solar power is limited. I type these offline and upload them.
See you soon.
Monday, July 20, 2009
A La Carte
Thank you all for your faithful prayers.
The last few days have been hard. Found two of our members drunk by 10:30am on Friday and only 7 people came the last two days. Praying that Monday's attendance will be up. The drought and famine are hard this year and it's creating pain and desperation.
As I jogged at sunset tonight, I ran by the white concrete markers posted by the landmine removal crews that left in June showing that the land has been finally cleared, saw multiple AK-47 rifle shells still on the ground as a constant reminder of the war, heard the crunching of sun-scorched corn stalks that won't yield food as people walked through them and went by children and women carrying jugs of water for miles to their homes from the nearest clean water well.
There's a lot listed below - please pray for whoever grabs your heart.
Rain - Drought here means NO food. The mud is cracking it's so dry. It's clear in the bible that rain is from God. God, send rain.
Michael - HIV/AIDS +, in a lot of pain b/c of his sinuses, hungry for bible knowledge, struggles hard to stay sober each day - he's been alcoholic for almost 15 years - God will have to deliver this man if it's going to happen.
Old Michael - Drank the local moonshine for one year and is probably 80% blind now. Pray for his sight to be restored.
Mary Tamalo - the precious little 85 lb-er that had the demon leave her. She is the most joyful person. Pray for her to get a job, food and continue in her journey w/ the Lord.
Rose - was raped, lost a baby, just getting over typhoid and malaria. pray for her financial situation and health
Akudi - pray for her son, Ivan - he's been sick for 2 weeks and she's really suffering and out of money b/c of treatments for him.
Alex Jame - prodigal Christian gone muslim and now back to the faith after years of alcoholism. Considering full time ministry or a new job. Pray for safe return from Juba and reconciliation with Selena, his wife.
Rafael - old boxer and soldier who is 8 days sober today - multiple decade alcoholic, but is really doing amazing things - he's the local electrician and isn't going back to his hometown in Moyo, Uganda until he finishes the 12 steps. He wants to start a Rapha group in Uganda - pray he will and God will bless it.
Kenny Simon - my faithful translator - one month+ sober - pray for longterm work in ministry opportunity and continued strength - he hasn't had a day off in a month.
Old Scopas - owner of a drinking place and desires to quit the life, but wont come to the meeting - pray God will turn his heart.
The Chief - alcoholic and local leader of the Kuku tribe - same trouble as above - always promising/ never coming.
Rapha Kajo Keji - I'll be leaving them in 3 weeks and then they'll be self-led. Pray for God to guide them, leaders to be raised up and the group to continue to grow in an evangelistic way among the drunks.
Henry - sweet 70 year old soldier who lost every single member of his family and has no home. He sleeps outside and cries when it rains. Pray for someone to take him in and provide meals for him.
Moses Kiriasuke - almost one month sober and his wife tried to commit suicide right when he started the group - pray for their mutual growth and reconciliation.
Rose Kiden and Mary Tamalo - reconciliation - there is some sexual sin that involved a common man in the family and it has created bad blood - pray for them to be good sisters in Christ to eachother and for forgiveness.
Joseph Lo - old soldier who lives across the street from a drinking place and many drunks sleep at his hut each night - pray he'll either be strong or find a new place
Pray that the drinking places and brewers in Kajo Keji Sudan would be shut down and go out of business and that their owners would come into the body of CHrist.
Jobs for all members.
Health for our members' children - Ivan, ivan, Nancy (cries always), aristarcus, Rebecca, Wannie, Hope, Cornerstone
Holly Lungren and Rose and Alia - doing women's ministry now - pray for women to grow, put their faith in Christ and for accurate translation
Microfinance/Internet Cafe/Vocational School - pray for the logistical roadblocks to be removed so that these people can be developed in careers, learning and hope.
Jackson and Balerie in Wudu, Sudan - started coming, but have been gone now for a week - concerned about their state.
Chaplain Jego - promised to come, but never showed - needs help badly for alc recovery.
Singer Rose - needs a job and food and relationships restored
Rapha Kajo Keji needs to learn their bibles and how to pray - we're teaching them, but they need growth and confidence
Emmanuel - pray for his shop's business and his continued strength and involvement in the church - he's the member who now leads worship.
Julius and Mogga Moses - pray they'll continue to get good jobs and become leaders for Rapha
Limi Jackson - pray his sight would be fully restored, possibly seminary candidate and for work. Rides his bike an hour each day for our group meeting - one way and then back an hour.
Santa - she's the precious recovered addict who cares for the church grounds and attends Rapha - she loves well, but has three kids and little help for herself. She's a joyful servant.
Monday, July 13, 2009
One Month Wednesday
Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Old Scopas and the Chief and a man named Michael - I'll explain more below if you have time. Old Scopas continues to promise me he'll come, but hasn't been around each time I go by on the way to the meeting. I haven't seen Chief in over a week.
Mondays are the best day of Rapha. We start the week and dedicate it to the Lord by celebrating the Lord's Supper in rememberance of Jesus - 1st Cor. 11:23-26 (two or three buns of bread each with hot, sweet tea).
During communion, we have open share time. Today, Michael came back to Rapha for only the second time.
The first time was last Thursday. He came drunk and filthy. We were meeting inside the church because it was raining. I met him at the door and asked what he was looking for. He immediately responded by saying that he was an alcoholic and needed divine help from God. We brought him in and he made it through about half the meeting before passing out. Before going out of consciousness, he spoke during the share time.
Michael has been HIV/AIDS positive for 17 years and alcoholic for most of those. He lost all hope and purpose in living and started numbing out the emotional and physical pain. He's probably in his early thirties and speaks raspy English from years of smoking. He's in the nearby town of Wudu doing contract work for a HIV/AIDS hospice house called Loving Hands. After that meeting, he took the first step - admitting he is an alcoholic and that life has become out of control.
We hadn't seen him since until today.
He came walking up in clean clothes and in his right mind. He apologized for not having been at the group, but had been sick and in great pain.
Today in share time, he said some beautiful things. He talked about how for years he has tried to quit alcohol. He's tried will-power, he's tried medicine, he's tried counseling and even some strange treatments. Some would work for a few days at best and then he would go back to drinking.
But now, with the strength of Jesus, he is feeling freedom and is strong. He assured the group that any other means of leaving alcohol will be done in vain. After the meeting, he said he would be coming more regularly and asked for a bible...King James Red Letter with extra large print.
And so after his humble and honest words, we went around the group listening to others who will be one month sober come Wednesday. These are literally the drunks and rejects of the community. And now they are the most cheerful, kind and genuine people. They are being called on to lead church service Bible readings, worship and prayer and are trophy's of God's grace and redemption.
They are receiving all sorts of mocking from their old drinking friends and even some "religious" in the community who insist that they are being paid by the church to attend Rapha. They have concocked this story about being paid to explain away what they can not reason.
They see people gaining weight from their restored appetites and proper use of money, buying new clothes from the work they are getting as a result of being reliable and strong, they see their children in school uniforms and enrolled with school fees once again, they see their mud hut compounds improved and cleaned and they see what appears to be years of trouble, stress and pain melted away from their appearance - and they insist that we must be giving them medicine and money.
They laugh and say it's God. It's their Savior and Lord Jesus.
And then they joke back and say, "If we are being given money, you'd be a fool not to come and receive it too - because it's no secret that anyone is welcome at Rapha." They scoff. But they'll come around. You can't deny a living testimony. You can argue that the Bible isn't true or that all religions are the same, but it is impossible...impossible to deny a radically changed life.
All this and it's only been a month. Think what God will do in a year in their lives.
And for all that talk about money and medicine being given away at Rapha - it just makes Jesus' reputation that much greater. The change is so drastic that they've made up ridiculous stories about the recovered people. Nope. It's Jesus. Everything He said in the Bible is true - and people are seeing it firsthand and are dumbfounded by it. Because the town drunk is now leading worship in the town's biggest church with brand new shoes on.
The Lord gets all the glory. Not "a" Lord. The Lord.
Please continue to pray for Old Scopas and Chief to come to Rapha. And for Michael's pain, inside and out.
Love you all.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
God continues to grow the Sudanese Recovery Group daily.
And I think we have arrived at a name: Rapha Sudan (from the Hebrew words, Jehovah Rapha from the Bible - God of Healing...thanks to my mom and dad's idea).
Currently we have about 25 members and our meetings are consistently about 16-20 daily.
The sobriety dates range from Kenny S. (4 weeks on Tuesday) to Mary Tamalo (5 days).
I want to tell you Mary's story.
Every time we went by one of the "drinking places" on the way to the church, we would pick-up Joseph L., put Neosporin on/pray for Betty's finger (a moonshine brewer who had a gash down to the bone...which is now healed - thank you, Lord), try to get "older" Scopas to come with us and try to talk with Mary. Mary was like a zombie. She would stumble up to us, mumble words and shake our hands about 5 times each. She would always say through translation, "I'll come tomorrow," but she never did.
Mary might weigh 90 lbs soaking wet. She wears the same clothes every day. A purple nightgown-ish dress, a satin wrap around her waist (which she says doubles as a sheet when she lays down to sleep) and a gypsy styled yellow head wrap.
Last Monday, Rob Sherman was in town (professional counselor from Dallas). He met Mary in the morning as we were making the rounds to visit our members and felt in his heart that she HAD TO COME TO THE MEETING TODAY. Later in the day, as we drove by and picked-up Joseph L. near the drinking place. There was Mary standing on the roadside staring with a blank face. Normally, the ride is only given to Joseph L. because he has to walk with a cane. There was no room for Mary in the vehicle (already 10 people in a small SUV). Rob Sherman immediately jumped out of the truck and said, "put her in my place; I'll walk."
We rode in silence. You could smell the sweetish, steamy alcohol on Mary in the hot car.
When we arrived, we greeted the rest of the group and Kenny said, "Before the meeting, why don't you talk to Mary about what this group is and how it works." Kenny, the shepherd, always thinking.
Holly Lungren, Kenny S. and I met with Mary on the side of the group under the African Sweets tree where we meet in the shade on the church grounds.
I told her my story of hopelessness and alcoholism. As I told her about the life change that came in surrendering my life and will to Jesus, she began crying and softly shaking her head. Holly got her a kleenex. And as I continued, she cried more and more. Holly gently put her hand on Mary's back and she instantly buckled onto our knees wailing and moaning. Rob, David and Missy Williams started praying for her.
We immediately kneeled beside Mary, laid our hands on her and began praying for Jesus to free her from Satan.
After 5 or so minutes, she lifted up all of a sudden and frantically showed us her hands. They were stuck in a contorted position. We continued praying in Jesus' name, sensing this was all because of a demon in her. Then she told Kenny something in Kuku. She was going to throw-up.
We walked three steps from the group and she fell to her knees. She dry-heaved once and then spit. She rolled over and sat. Rob got the one bag of vitamin chews that I had in my shoulder bag and she was given a 1.5 liter bottle of water. Both were gone in a minute.
We helped her to her feet and she gave us hugs. We held her in our arms trying to make sure it was over.
It was over.
She was in her right mind, peaceful, and able to speak.
All we could think about was the verse in Luke where Jesus says that when an unclean/evil spirit goes out from a person, it goes through arid places. When it returns to the person, it finds the house cleaned and put in order, so it goes and gets seven spirits even more wicked than the first. And they go into the person and the final condition is worse than the first.
We walked into the church, explained to her the hope and eternal life found in Jesus and she told us that she understood, knew she was an alcoholic and that everyone thought she was mad (mad as in insane). She went through the first three steps, surrendering her life and will to Jesus. Ephesians tells us that when someone believes the gospel and puts their faith in Jesus, they are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Sealed...period. Sealed, as in unable to be possessed ever again.
God delivered this woman from a doomed existence. She'll be sober a week as of 3pm Monday.
Now Mary throws her head back to the side and laughs and laughs. She is full of joy. She shares in the meetings how people are asking how she's changed. She sings the worship songs. And she smiled all through the church service today as we talked about being a daughter of the King.
Regardless of what you think about spiritual things, demons and Jesus - one thing I can tell you: the Mary I know today is not the Mary I knew 6 days ago and there's no explanation otherwise.
Mary is just one story of many. Every person at the group looks between 5 and 20 years younger, full of joy and loving life. Marriages are being restored, people are getting jobs, children's school fees are being paid and most of all, names are being written in Heaven and God gets all the glory.
Please take 30 seconds to pray for Rapha Sudan - we all stay sober one day at a time, by God's strength alone.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Update from Monday
Dear Friends and Family (sorry - these are getting longer and longer, but I feel like it's important to give you all the full picture since you're praying for these brothers and sisters)-
Thank you all for your prayers - I promise you that they are so necessary and evident in these peoples' lives. We have just completed our first week of our recovery group. We have 14 members and about 12 attend regularly each day (some get labor for the day, have chores or attend funerals - which are frequent - there have been 4 in the county since I arrived two weeks ago). We have gotten great feedback from our time on the radio when five of our group members vulnerably and confidently shared their victory from the past week. We had two new people join the group today - Michael and Jackson.
Today, Kenny (our translator) led the group and I assisted where needed. At our last meeting, Emmanuel spoke up and said that the group needs to start coming together as a family, meeting for dinner fellowships at homes and also must become self-leading. This was a great thing for them to realize - he told the old fish/fisherman story in first person about him feeding a friend by giving him a fish each day, but one day he died and the friend starved. He continued by saying that I could leave anyday and that they would need to know the skills to continue without me. In light of Emmanuel's story, it was a great time for Kenny to lead a meeting and also opened the opportunity for other's to lead as they feel comfortable (this is a similar model to Alcoholics Anonymous). Speaking of, here's our typical format - the meetings last between 1.5 and 3 hours.
Welcoming - Meet and Greet (handshakes, hugs and I try to read from the Bari-translated Bible sometimes during down time as we wait for the others to arrive). Holly Lungren comes to every meeting to work with the women and loves them so well.
Opening - Statement of Purpose "We are gathered here because we share a common struggle. We are all addicted to alcohol and seek daily healing from the Lord. This is not a place of condemnation or judgment, but a place of hope, healing and encouragement. Anything that is said and all persons who are present are confidential and private and not to be used for gossip. Anyone is welcome here; the only thing that is required is an honest desire to quit drinking.And lastly, the reason why we sit in a circle is because we are all the same and we all share the same struggle and seek the same healing."
Prayer and Worship - someone volunteers to open us in prayer and dedicate the time to the Lord and we sing three songs in KuKu - this is one of my favorite times in the day. One of the songs we regularly sing is roughly translated to, "Satan, we are not following you anymore. I don't want anything to do with you. We are putting you behind us; we have decided to follow Jesus."
Communion and Share time - this is a time that we have a meal of bread and hot sugar-sweetened tea together. Each person eats two or three little rolls/loaves of sweet wheat bread (about $.13/each which you all have paid for with your support) and then we share challenges and victories from the week. Each person typically speaks up, although it's not required, and the others politely wait and say, "Tenate' Moses (or Rose, Joseph, etc)" after they finish. This part of the meeting is beautiful. These people are very open with their lives. They freely share their pain, mistakes and humble circumstances. And also celebrate little things - like two of the women who were invited to have tea with a woman who previously would not greet them because she didn't approve of their lifestyle...the woman gave them 1,000 Ugandan Shillings (about $.50) and they were confident that it was God's provision that they had received favor from this woman and a financial blessing. Moses also shared. He said that the brewers had asked him to gather/carry firewood to their moonshine still. He did so and when finished was offered a large amount of "white stuff" (horribly strong and poisonous moonshine...one of our members suffers from mild blindness b/c of it). He declined and said that he was done drinking and would like to be paid. She laughed at him and said that she would give him credit so that he could come drink in the morning. He said he wouldn't be there in the morning, he had quit for good and would like to be paid immediately. She questioned him and said, "What's going on here? Where have all the drinkers gone? All of my best customers never come anymore." He said that they are all leaving alcohol together. She said, "Then who is it that is giving you the medicine to quit?" Even she knew the power of the addiction and how people traditionally can't quit without having to be taken to the hospital for IVs, vitamins and treatment. He said that there was no medicine. That they had given their lives to Jesus and He was healing them. Thank you, Lord, for this miracle of healing, and thank you all for your prayers - they have been answered in miraculous ways. Not a single person in our group has had ANY withdrawal symptoms.
Lesson - This is a time that we teach through one of the 12 steps and give an accompanying scripture and Bible lesson. They LOVE learning about God's word and quickly write down the reference of where to find the Scripture verses. If applicable, we go through one of the steps as a group.
Commitment - We state that we will commit to remaining sober for the next 24 hours by God's help and strength (this is something that my AA sponsor in Austin, Charlie P., taught me).
Closing - someone volunteers to close us in prayer, beginning with the Lord's Prayer.
Please pray for Moses M. - he got a letter that his separated wife had been raped and they were trying to get back together. Alex J. - two deaths in his family this week and he doesn't have money for his children's school fee (especially his 12 year old son John). Rose K. - she had a relapse last week during one day, but continues to come to the meetings and will always be accepted. Also, our little group needs a name - send any ideas you have. Big Kenny has $10 in outstanding alcohol credit to a brewer that he has to pay back in one week - that's a huge amount of money here - he wants to be honest and pay it back and never spend another penny on alcohol. Moses K.'s wife tried to commit suicide last week - we are going to visit with her and the local pastor tomorrow.
Also, I feel like I should write something. I don't want anyone to feel like I am condemning having a drink. This program, blog and mission is about alcoholics. Many people can drink without any problems and keep it in moderation. But for us, once we have a little, we always had a lot. Some people can have one or two drinks and then quit for the time. An alcoholic has one or two just to get started and almost always get drunk each time we drink. It's like a car with no brakes. This is all clear in the AA literature and website if you want more information and my email is email@example.com.
Love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers.
From Sudan with love-
john a. elmore
Friday, June 19, 2009
A little about your new friends...
We just finished talking on the Grace FM of Kajo Keji, Sudan, for 2 hours straight.
I was there with five of my new favorite people in the world...here is a little about the people you are praying for...
Scopas (a young man who I am convinced would be an instant movie star - he is lean, muscular and is the most animated talker I've ever met - he gestures with his hands, inflects each syllable and smiles from one corner of his mouth with bright white eyes while wearing his tattered shorts and a used-to-be-white button down - he's getting used to my hugs slowly but surely),
Rose K. (she's a ex-moonshine brewer and alcoholic as of last week - she professed over the radio tonight that she used to hate people like me...Christians who talked about the hope of Jesus - in fact, we first met because she was mocking me from the brew pots as I walked by her...we began talking, I told her my story of pain and addiction and the mocking stopped...she has attended every meeting since...tonight she told about her relationship with her husband and how it's improved immensely in just a week and that her skin is changing),
Joseph L. (he's the one you keep hearing so much about. He literally looks like a different man. He drank for 25 years straight. He would drink himself into unconsciousness daily and then eat the spoiled moonshine mash for food. He lives across the street from the brew house and has been sober 5 days...his hand and hip are crippled from the war, but he is quickly on the mend. His mud and straw hut used to be a complete mess of overgrown grasses and trash. When I jogged by this morning, he was out cutting it all down w/ a machete. Literally, the most incapacitated town drunk is now God's greatest picture of transformation here),
And there's Emmanuel (He told me his friends are asking him why he doesn't sleep during the day like a dog anymore, why isn't he passed-out at his little shop in the market place. He started drinking when he was at the refugee camps in Uganda and drank every morning since. Last week his daughter asked him why they can't eat meat like the neighbors - he knew it was because he spent all of their money on alcohol. This week, he has been repairing bicycles and is providing for his children),
Finally, there's Kenny S., my translator (this man faithfully arrives at 7am every morning to our compound. He rides his bicycle beside me as I jog a little loop through the dried, cracked mud streets and sand past the children in uniform walking to school...in the mornings, I call him Coach. He's a brilliant guy who always sees the big picture. He's been sober 11 days now. What I love the most about him is his shepherd's heart - I'll often be thinking that we need to go buy bread for the communion meal or get him through another step and he'll say, "Yeah, okay, but I think we should go and pay a visit to Peter or Moses...they should know that we are thinking of them and that we want them to come to the meeting."). I put my arm around him and thank him for teaching me.
I love you all. Thanks for your prayers - God is at work in mighty ways and seeking and saving the lost sheep...like me.
John A. Elmore
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