DeDe with Nuer Tribe Pastor's wife, Rachel, at Kakuma, Kenya Camp.
DeDe and I are excited . . . and somewhat nervous. We will both return to Africa in September to be part of what God is doing in Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and beyond. This will be our first trip back since leaving in 2015.
It is a great opportunity for us to be part of the fresh work God is doing among the people groups we grew to love deeply as we worked with them.
Here’s how you can hold the rope as we go:
Pray fervently during September.
As God leads, give to help with our travel expenses and distribution of Bible story cloths and Audio Bibles. You can give by sending a check (see address below) or using your credit card at our Open Hands Missions Go Fund Me account.
DeDe’s trip will be during the first two weeks of September. DeDe and my sister, Colleen Glaser, will travel to Kenya with our former co-workers David and Renee Crane, who now serve with Calvary Road Ministries. They will be part of a small team traveling to northern Kenya and the sprawling Kakuma Refugee Camp. God is working among two South Sudanese refugee camp people groups, the Nuer and Anuak people. We were privileged to build relationships with churches, pastors, and leaders of these groups during our three-year African sojourn.
The Kenyan team will be teaching Bible storying to the women in the camps. It will be a ripple effect that can spread beyond these two people groups to the over 100,000 refugees in Kakuma who are natives of Somalia and Ethiopia.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17
I (Curt) had already committed to a trip I feel strongly about. As the Lord stirred my heart to return to Africa earlier this year, I prayed about how I could be the best steward of time, ministry, and money/resources on a month-long trip in September.
I’ll spend two weeks at our wonderful Uganda Baptist Seminary (UBS) in Jinja, Uganda teaching the book of Acts. My co-learners (I’ll learn as much from my students as they learn from me!) will come from seven African countries. From my prior association with UBS, I’m aware that many will have traveled through war zones, left their crops and families, and sacrificed greatly to attend seminary.
Pastor James Metaloro shares from the Bible Storycloth in his Kakwa, Uganda village.
It will be one of the privileges of my life to teach from the mission book of Acts and live and learn among these pastors and church leaders. I’m excited and humbled that the ripple effect from teaching God’s word can, and will, spread back across a wide swath of the Continent.
After I complete my teaching assignment, I will travel to northern Uganda to visit our pastors, churches, and fellow missionaries along the South Sudanese border. Sadly, the war in South Sudan has continued and most of the civilian population have crossed into the border countries. In fact, the International Mission Board team we will work with, the Borderlands Team, is tasked with bringing the gospel to the hundreds of thousands who continue to pour into Uganda.
I’ll visit churches that began under U.N. tarps and mango trees beside water wells we drilled by our organization. Many of these refugee churches have multiplied. I cannot wait to see with my eyes and heart what God is doing among the Kakwa, Madi, Murle, Dinka and other South Sudanese people groups now residing in Uganda. After ten days in the camps, I’ll return to the U.S. on September 30.
As funds allow, we will distribute two items to churches in both Kenya and Uganda:
Two types of Bible story cloths: the original forty-two picture cloth plus a new story cloth depicting the book of Acts. They cost $8.00 each.
Additionally, we are asking for help on transportation. My Ugandan ticket has been paid, and I plan to travel in-country by bus and matatu (small bus taxies). DeDe and Colleen will need two tickets: from America to Nairobi, Kenya (about $1000 each) and a Mission Aviation Fellowship bush plane ticket from Nairobi to Kakuma Camp ($400 each).
Any additional funds we receive will be used to buy story cloths, audio Bibles, and incidentals such as required immunizations and in-country expenses.
All gifts will be funneled through Open Hands Missions, a 501 (c) 3 organization* we formed for missions in Africa. Your gifts will be tax-deductible and we will keep you posted on how monies are spent.
As God leads, you can give by:
Checks made payable to “Open Hands Africa” and sent to P.O. Box 6060 Alexandria, LA 71307.
Most of all, we need you and your church to hold the rope in prayer. We return to Africa fully aware of the challenges and obstacles we’ll face. We won’t go without your prayer support. Our plan is to make use of Facebook and our blog (www.creekbank.net) to keep you prayerfully informed.
Thank you for allowing us to share about our September trip. Through your prayer and giving, you’ll be there with us.
Curt and DeDe Iles
*Open Hands Missions IRS 501 (c) 3 # 46-1138573
PO Box 6060 Alexandria, LA 71307
Wherever we're at, our goal is telling stories that connect and change lives.Learn about our thirteen titles at our Creekbank Book Table.
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[caption id="attachment_16036" align="aligncenter" width="300"] "Rain, Rain. Appalachian Trail is your Name." Blue Ridge Mountains vista on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. [/caption]
As you end a fine Memorial Day weekend, may I remind all of us that our freedom isn't free. Generations of Americans died on battlefields and asea to preserve the amazing freedom we have in America.
I just finished a week-long hiking trip in North Georgia on the Appalachian Trail (AT). From time to time, I have this wanderlust that leads me to sleep on the ground (in a tent), trudge up and down mountains, and be awakened daily by bird's singing.
As I walk, I think and I pray. I learned on this trip to listen to God. That's part of the equation I often forget. It's not about me talking. It's often more about listening.
[caption id="attachment_16038" align="aligncenter" width="300"] AT Plaque at Unicoi Gap, GA[/caption]
One thing I like about the AT is the juxtaposition of walking alone for hours, then camping with a group of strangers who quickly become friends. The AT is a both social and solitude experience.
I met many folks as I walked north. There were three that stood out. I walked off and on with them for parts of three days. Their names were Luther, Garson, and Nate.
Garson and Nate were former Special Forces soldiers who had served in Africa together. They were still carrying their Army packs. When I discovered they'd served in Chad, we had a good foundation to build conversations on. DeDe and I spent a month in Chad and it is an unforgettable country in the dead heart of Africa.
[caption id="attachment_16037" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Luther and his pack on a summit[/caption]
By the way, Luther was Nate's dog. He was my favorite hiker I met on the trail. I've encountered obnoxious hikers before, but never a bad dog. Luther, carrying his own pack, was constantly by Nate's side.
The second time I encountered the trio, I worked up to courage to ask, "Y'all weren't far from the Niger border where our American soldiers were ambushed by ISIS?"
Garson and Nate looked at each other. "We went through every level of training with one of the guys killed. He was a great guy."
We walked along in silence for a half-mile. When we stopped for a water break, I asked, "What was his name?"
"Dustin Wright. He was from Statesboro, Georgia. Not only was he a nice guy, but an excellent soldier. He was killed going back to rescue a comrade."
"I'm so sorry for your loss."
Nate stared across the Blue Ridge skyline. "I want to do something in his memory so people won't forget."
"I won't forget his name. Dustin Wright. I'm writing it on my heart," I said.
We split up and continued our treks.
I caught up with them atop Tray Mountain on Saturday. It being Memorial Day weekend, the trail was packed with hikers of every size and (out of) shape.
Garson and Nate were setting up camp on the mountain. I was heading on northward and figured our paths wouldn't cross again. "With this being Memorial Day weekend, would you guys be offended if I offered a prayer for soldiers like Dustin who've paid the ultimate price?"
"That'd be nice."
I prayed a simple prayer thanking God for our freedom and asked blessings on Dustin's family. I prayed that we'd all live with gratitude for the freedom bought by the blood of Americans buried all over the world and in the sea.
Each of the vets said a quiet amen. They had a look in their eyes I cannot describe but will never forget. Nate said, "Thanks for that, Man."
I shook their hands. "I believe it was appropriate."
"It was," Garson said.
As I plodded down the trail, I don't believe I'd ever been more proud to be an American. A free American.
I was walking a trail that stretches 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Anyone can walk it for free. You need no permits (except in the Smoky Mountains National Park). You'll not be stopped and hassled at any checkpoints for passports, bribes, paperwork, or fees by soldiers, officials, or a state police force.
I recalled another spot on the AT I saw in about 1996. It's at the foot of Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies. At the edge of the parking lot, a sign states, "Freedom of Speech Spot." It explains that anyone has the right to stop there and give a speech, sermon, or an "I'm mad as hell and ain't gonna take it no more" diatribe.
I don't remember the short speech I gave, but I did wax eloquent about some governmental subject that was stuck in my craw. Then I hefted my pack and continued up the trail. Glad to live in a country where you can go where you want and say what you think.
Much of the world lives in totalitarian states that allow neither.
We have this freedom in America due to soldiers like Dustin Wright who died in the desert fighting to keep freedom-killing groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al Queda from coming to our shores.
May they never be forgotten.
[caption id="attachment_16039" align="aligncenter" width="225"] AT Foot Path[/caption]