Day 15: Quick Update  

Posted by Michael

All flights were canceled today leaving Darfur, so we have stayed here today. We were supposed to fly out early tomorrow morning from Khartoum and then catch our other 5 flights before getting home-Those flight aren't happening either.
Matt has been stressed working with an airline company who didn't want to work with us and has had an upset stomach on top of that. A few hours ago, Katherine Rudisill, an incredible woman and good friend, drove to see my wife, called us from my home and told us that she woke up this morning with truth and a word for us. We were all sitting around the computer listening to her speak truth that affected all of us in one way or another.
She told us that he had given her a passage which says, "For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But him, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus."
She told us that we needed to confess things to one another and ask for forgiveness from one another and pray and worship and ask him to renew our hope, our joy and our knowledge that he will move and break and heal here. After we got off the phone, that is exactly what we did. It was an amazing time for us. When we were done, Matt's dad called and told us that the flights tomorrow are taken care of, that we weren't going to have to pay the thousands we thought we were going to have to pay, and that we should be home the same exact time we were planning on coming home all along. Incredible.
Thank you for thinking about us out here. We love you all and can't wait to be home.

Darfur: The Villages  

Posted by Michael

**There are updated pic's posted below**
I wasn't able to post these pic's before we headed to the villages (Day 10):

This picture says, "You mess with me and you'll have a 40lb drill bit coming at you with your name written all over it, courtesy of Michael Bleecker":

Laughing Cow cheese, cinnamon honey peanut butter, electrolyte water and teenage mutant ninja turtle crackers. A meal in Darfur:

Faces of children in El Fasher:

Days 11-13 (The Villages):
As we headed out to the villages, we passed Abu Shouk, an IDP camp on the road out of El Fasher:

This was my last pic for a while on the trip. You can't see it, but at the base of the hill on the left is a checkpoint with 20-30 men with machine guns and RPG's. Our driver told me to quickly put away the camera at this point:

Our water pipes shifted 5mi out of town and bent our frame:

The road less traveled(This is a sorghum field we are driving through. They use this to make Asida, an arab dish you eat with your hands that has the consistency of play-dough. We ate this in the village):

It was 1st Century out there:

The truck in front of us got stuck, so we got out to help them:

Then we got stuck and they helped us:

Then our other truck got stuck trying to pull us out and after we got that out,we helped another truck that was stuck. Between our two trucks, we were stuck 7 times in the 4 hours we were in that spot:

This truck had 20-30 live chickens tied to a stick in the back.

Cranking his truck to start it:

Notice the lady in the background getting water:

2 faces I loved during our 4 hours in the mud:

Um Layuna Village:

We drove up to Um Layuna and were overwhelmed. It was amazing and tragic all at the same time. They're just so poor, yet seem so rich. It's so humbling. Some of the kids in the villages that we visited had never seen "hiwajas" (white people) before. They just stared. Some of them ran away scared when we rolled down the windows and waved. It was so crazy to think about the fact that we were the first white people that some of these kids had ever seen. Our contact here told us that during one of his trips to this village, he found a girl shackled in her house. Apparently, she wanted to go to the university and her father wanted her to stay at the village and marry a boy from there. So he chained her up. The guys that were with us talked to the father and told him to let her go. The father eventually did. We were able to meet the girl when we stopped in to stay the night. She was beautiful:

It's unbelievable that something like that happened to her; that something like that is happening in our time.
Her sisters:

This was our dinner that first night:

We stayed inside the village the night before last and it was the loudest cachophony of sounds any of us had ever heard. None of us got any sleep at all. Except Jamie. He has earplugs. It's Ramadan, so the whole village was up until 3am beating drums, singing songs, and partying as they ate their second and third dinners. They would literally wake up at midnight and then at 3 or 4 (before the sun comes up) and make another meal. There were hundreds of donkeys (they call them donks here) that were braying all night long. Then, just as the village was going to sleep, the roosters started to crow at around 5am. And all of this was happening in the school yard that we were staying in:

We were able to watch the guys fix two water wells for the village the next morning.
Here's the inside of the pipe going down to the well:

We helped a little, but it was mostly the two locals with us.

I just felt so manly carrying this around:

I call this the "Bo Jackson" because I look a lot like Bo in this picture:

Jamie and I with our super cool neck protectors:

Random photo:

It was amazing to see the process but even more amazing to watch these people be able to get water again. Some of the other villages that we visited still have broken pumps that are beyond repair. They either have to walk or ride their donks for miles and miles to go to the nearest pump that works, or they just get their water out of the local water hole, the one that all the animal herds drink, pee, and wash in.

We made our way to other villages after we repaired the well. We took a 3 hour break in the middle of the day(matt had a pretty serious bout of dehydration and needed to rest) and we all heard one of the local's salvation story. He's the only local I've met that loves Jesus here in the North.
After our break, we saw 3-4 other villages and then stopped for the night, just outside of the village we had stayed in the night before. It was quiet, except for crickets and far off donks from the nearby village. We ate chicken, rice and bread that night, with a little sand mixed in. I woke up around 5am and had to go to the bathroom. One of the locals had my flashlight with him, everyone was asleep and it was dark but for a little moonlight on the road. I grabbed my toilet paper and started down the road. As I settled in to a nice spot, I heard 6 gun shots probably a mile away. It was a weird thing to be going to the bathroom in the middle of a road in Darfur and hear gunshots!

We woke up, ate breakfast and headed out again. We were supposed to stay out another night, but a storm was rolling in, so we decided to head back to El Fasher around 4pm. It was so nice to take a shower and use an actual toilet to go to the bathroom!

We will be in El Fasher another day and will fly back to Khartoum early on the 15th. This is a dark place which is void of true worship from its people. Please pray for the muslims today. Pray for the corrupt government that is doing nothing to help the people of Darfur and Southern Sudan. And pray for us, that we would have these images, conversations, smells, tastes and memories seared into our hearts and minds, that we would be faithful to pray for these people and hope for their salvation.
Here are some faces of the locals we were able to meet over the last 3 days in the villages: