This week our whole family ran for radios in support of Every Village. If you're not familiar with them, take a moment to check them out now.
Joy and the kids walked a brisk (and dizzying) 32 laps around our yard...
...which not coincidentally equals a solid 5K!
As I've still been working full-time these days, albeit mostly from my desk during the Covid-19 lockdown, I ran my 5K on the treadmill at a different time. Even Britton did a 5K back in the U.S., along with our niece, Rebekah.
(On a side note, last year at this time, I was just starting out on our new treadmill as part of my rehabilitation. About 5 months prior to that I had been run over by a large SUV, after getting knocked off my motorcycle by a drunk. I remember last April that I was barely able to complete one, very slow and painful kilometer at a go on the treadmill, as I could still feel many acute aches and pains from the myriad injuries I had received. But here I am, one year later, and I'm enjoying running 5k several times a week, and chipping away at my times week by week. We continue to praise God for all that He has done in healing me, and for all the people who prayed, and helped in the process.)
Why did we all go crazy with 5Ks last week? Because we love our partner organization, Every Village, and the awesome work and ministry they do in remote parts of South Sudan. Last week Every Village was doing a fundraiser for solar-powered radios that allow many thousands of South Sudanese to hear the Good News in their own language. Each individual radio is listened to each day by an average of 7 people or more, as they often listen in family groups, like in the photo I took below (you can see the little blue radio in the middle).
Not only do we love what Every Village does (they do a lot more than radio by the way) but we also love who they are! We are privileged to count many of their staff, both South Sudanese, Ugandan, and American, as good friends of ours. And I have had the privilege of flying for Every Village many times, which are always some of my favorite flights. I was actually scheduled to do some flights for them recently, in March, but sadly those flights were understandably cancelled because of all the International travel restrictions related to the coronavirus stuff. However, I got to spend a few days flying them, and helping with a big radio distribution, a few months back, in November. Here's a shot of the awesome team that I got to hang out with for a few days.
And here's a shot of me unloading thousands of those radios, which start their long journey in Canada (check out the amazing GALCOM who makes them, and why), and eventually make their way into the hands of a bunch of very Eager South Sudanese, after flying the last few legs of the journey on the wings of MAF.
The radio distributions are always a huge deal to the communities. There never seem to be enough radios to go around--every family is desperate to get one. The vast majority of the cost for the radios are covered by donors (from the company who makes them and from donors to Every Village--like the 5K run we did). However each family who receives a radio is asked to pay a very, very small fee, and as such, they take personal pride and ownership in their radio, which becomes a hard-used treasure that will last for years.
Here, my great friend Andrew Brown, Executive Director of Every Village, prays over the radios and the days activities, before the well-organized distribution begins.
This radio distribution was fully planned by Every Village's local South Sudanese staff. It was very well organized and orderly. Each of the gentleman you see on the bicycles or motorcycles is a head representative from a church or community. Many have travelled long distances. Each one has come with a list of pre-registered names of the families who they represent, along with the small token 'fee' for each radio, and in a very orderly fashion they line up one by one to verify the above, and to collect their radios for distribution in their own areas.
I was very impressed with the planning and accountability that went into this. It was definitely not a fast process (took all day) but time is not something that tends to stress people out here, as it often does in the U.S. No one was bothered but that. They just hung around visiting until it was their turn, and then, after receiving the radios for the people they represented, they each happily left on the (often long) journey back to their village (picture below).
Sometimes the distributions take place directly in one of the local churches, which draws huge crowds and interest, as in the picture below.
It is a very common sight to see people walking around (like in the open air market below), or sitting in large groups, listening to the radio, which usually broadcasts for a few hours each morning and evening, mostly in their heart languages.
On a much less meaningful note, here's a selfie I took of me and my bushbuck buddy that was always hanging around my sleeping hammock looking for a handout. It was interesting/funny to me that the super-tough South Sudanese dudes who I was chilling with, were actually acutely aware, if not slightly scared, of this bloke. Apparently they know all too well what those very sharp pointy horns can do. I was told that just the week before, this same furry fellow rammed one of his horns clear through the thigh of a guy who apparently ticked him off somehow. Apparently this bushbuck was raised in the compound ever since he was found as a little injured fellow, but my guess is it won't be long (maybe already has come to pass) that he will wind up nicely roasted, and served with rice, as a result of his cantankerous attitude.
One of things I've enjoyed doing for Every Village, on several occasions when I've been able to spend some time with them upcountry, is to take photos for them. The first photo at the top of this post (which is the one that EV used for their Run For Radio promo stuff) and the top header photo on the Every Village Facebook Page, and many others they've been using, are photos that I've been able to take while hanging out with them in South Sudan. I'm glad that I'm able to use my photography to help them out in this way. But that said, I don't often get good photos of myself b/c well, it's not like I'm going to set up my good camera on a tripod to take a high quality selfie... that would be super weird. Sure, I do occasionally take selfies with my phone, like the above shot with my bushbuck buddy, or I'll throw my phone to a bystander and ask them to take a picture (like of me unloading the radios up above) but I don't often get any really great (non phone) shots of me. That's fine, as I'd rather be behind the lens than in front of it. That said, this time there was a really great videographer/photographer along on the team, Zach Callaway, shooting some stuff for Every Village. So we traded... I took some random shots of him and he took some of me. Here's one that Zach took of me, catching a break in the heat of midday. If you need a great video, or photos, check him out--he's very talented and willing to travel.
Next time I'll share a few more photos of the wonderful people in South Sudan.