Our plans for building the 4 missionary homes, and developing the compound further in Naliel Sudan had come to a stop in December. The foreman had underestimated how much sand they had needed. The cost of sand seemed to be spiralling out of control, hiring trucks, labours, paying for visas etc and it never seemed to be enough. A truck load of sand was costing about $1000 !!! and that when the sand was free for us to help our selfs to in a river bed, there had to be a better way !
"I thought we were all going to die"
So we set of from our cool base in Eldoret Kenya with GFI's Mercedes Unimog a powerful beast of a machine and a large trailer, we were going to go in and haul sand our selfs for a week so there could be no more hold ups or cost implications with getting the project finished. It took 2 days to get the tuck to the border, the team had 2 tyre punctures and worst of all, the breaks failed at the top of the hill - there was a good 2 hour drive where the truck had no breaks at all and a steep dissent ! Jackson the driver did not tell anyone in the car what was wrong for fear they would jump out and bail! He could not change out of 4th gear (4th of 16 available gears) for fear that pressing the clutch would cause the car to speed up and he would not be able to get it in a lower gear. He told us later that he really did think that could be the end as there was a good 500+ feet of cliff to one side and traffic coming the opposite direction. Fortunately he made it to the flats were he was able to run off his speed get out and take a look. Praise the lord !
Crossing the border was as hairy as ever, 20+km of no mans land with bandits hiding in the bush. Occasionally you good hear someone popping off a few rounds in the bush - were they army, bandits, herdsman - who knows. We even came across a armoured tank that was just firing sporadicly in the bushes to warn people off coming near the dirt road.
After driving another 6 hours or so we were pulling into the compound we were setting up - wow it had changed the first house was almost complete, the well we had put in 6 months earlier had a flurry of green all around it, plants, vegetables and animals all enjoining the new water source. The fence was up and a large gate with a watchman was protecting the entrance. We all slept in tents, the sand filling them in the day as the wind washed over them, people stepped on scorpions in the night by accident, the occasional snakes was slithering around but we finally felt a sense of peace as we settled there.
We set straight to work hauling sand from the near by dried up river bed, some 10km away, some of the team was off visiting nearby villages that we had not been to in previous trips. (There were thousands of them ! ) It was not long before we had another puncture and the trailer was rendered useless. We decided to keep using the back of the unimog and keep going as we had come so far.
The next morning we set off to the nearest town a good 100km away to meet the district governor (a formality to introduce our selfs and the work we are doing) on our way back in the evening we found Unimog sitting on the side of the road. It turned out the clutch plate had shattered ! The technical team got straight to work removing the clutch - a long process as we first had to jack up the cab to get access to the engine. (Just lifting the cab took a good 4 or 5 hours) Once we got the clutch we started brain storming what to do. The chief had called a big meeting the next day to meet all the local leaders and chiefs to discuss the needs of the community and for us to push them to support attendance at a school we were planning to build. There was church, built guest speaker in the region was a big deal as they are so unreached but we couldn’t leave the truck standing in the bush for many reasons - Bandits might raid it and take it to bits, the sand would get inside the engine and gear box, and most worryingly snakes would make it a new home.
So late in the night sitting under the stars we decided to split in two. Team 1 heading back to Kenya to find a new clutch and a Team 2 was to remain and meet with the elders, speak in the churches and build relationships with the community. So early in the morning we said good bye to half the team and off they went to get the clutch (I can’t overstate how isolated this location is with no phone reception, no sat phone, and no other way to communicate with the outside world. It was often week or even months before a car passed by on the very un used road that lead no where in particular) Not long after they left the winds picked up and we were in a sand storm, the tents were picked up and thrown into the near buy thorn trees destroying one of them. We spent most of the day trying to hide from the sun and wind. Later that night we saw some lights from a car and wondered who it could be as we were not expecting to see the team for another 3 or 4 days.
It turned out there was a shooting and several children were killed. As a result the border had been closed until further notice. We went back the next day with a larger team to see if we could get through, but the situation was the same. Later that afternoon after sitting on the road for 7 hours we decided to try to cross the border figuring the Kenyan army could not leave us stranded in “no mans land” to be shot. The bet paid off and it wasn’t long before a team of Kenyas highest trained officers came to pick us up in a Toyota Land-cruiser armed to the teeth (Sadly no photo).
(Sleeping at the boarder - then making a quick run for it)
Skipping on with the story, we got home and Jackson set straight off to find the part - First searching Eldoret, then Nakuru (3hr drive), then Nivasha (another 2hr drive) then Nairobi (another 2hr drive) and then finally he heard rumour that there may be a part down near the coast (another 8hrs or so) ! 2 or 3 days later without sleeping a wink, he returned home triumphant with the part !!! Peter didn’t waste a second firing up the plane he flew Jackson back to South Sudan.
Some time later we got a call to say that for some reason the team staying with the tuck seemed to have given the diesel pump from the truck to another tuck and the driver had done a runner leaving the team stranded far to in the bush yet again !!! Sometimes these things happen any you are never 100% sure that you got the full story but they are just some of struggles to have to work with out here.
In the end we ended up leaving the tuck in Sudan so that when we go back in April 2019 we can carry out a full survey to discoverer the extent and number of unreached peoples in the south east regions of South Sudan. Watch this space around April to see how we got on !
All in all this was a great adventure, a good cultural learning experience, but despite all the fun, there is a spiritual war raging, the enemy is not happy with the work we are doing, with the thousands upon thousands that are coming to know Jesus as their personal savour. Mark and Julias are hard at work discipling an entire people group, the cost is very, very high - So please pray for our work here to continue, to grow and to flourish, please also pray to see if you can help support these endeavours. Because Jesus.