Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lists. Piles. Trash.

Lists. Piles. Trash.

More lists, piles, and trash.

In some ways I feel like I am dying, or at least what I perceive part of the slowly dying process might be, as I make lists of things to do before I leave, stack piles of give away stuff, write letters to people I may never see again, and throw into the trash anything I don’t plan on giving away and can’t take with me. Oh, and I am preparing for my final prayers as they say here – my final thanksgiving-farewell-prayer-celebration-of-sorts. I even plan on killing a cow. Maybe two. Not as a sacrifice, but as a means of feeding the hundreds of people I’ll be inviting to the celebration.

I spent my first four months back in South Sudan this year cleaning up messes, throwing things away, and organizing others things. And almost none of it was mine. I don’ particularly enjoy that kind of work, and I don’t want to burden others with it, so I am determined to clean up all of my stuff and take care of as much of my business as I can well before I leave South Sudan.  Luckily my house is small, only two rooms, so not too much extra stuff has accumulated over the years.

There will no doubt be some unfinished items before my departure arrives, but I’m trying to minimize them now. I want to spend my last few weeks here visiting local people as much as time and energy allow, so I anything I can do now to make that happen later is my goal. My departure date from South Sudan is January 6. I’ll be in Uganda for a few days, and then arrive in Dayton, Ohio on January 13.

Earlier this week sickness laid me low and confined me to my house, so I went on a cleaning/sorting rampage. A pile of things to give way (big pile). A pile of things to burn (medium pile). A pile of things to take back to the USA (very small pile). I was feeling good in the Zen of my task-oriented mind at the moment, trying not to hold onto to too much stuff I’ve amassed over the years, but rather praying that God would help me hold onto memories. And then in walked Kaya.

John Kaya is the South Sudanese boy, well really more like young, tall man, that I have been living with for over two years. He is like a younger brother/friend/roommate/son-all-wrapped-up-into-one to me. He had just returned from school and was in his normal jovial mood. After several minutes of watching me run around and enlarge all my piles, his mood slowly changed. He was quite. Contemplative. He’s been this way more than usual lately.

I asked him what he was thinking about. His reply, “Seeing you clean up all your stuff and sort out things to give away makes it seem like you are leaving tomorrow and not in two months. I’m just sad when I think about you leaving.”

I’m not exactly sure how to help Kaya and other South Sudanese friends process my leaving. I’m not exactly sure how to process my leaving either. That’s what makes all this goodbye stuff so hard. Perhaps though, I am lucky in that it is hard to say goodbye. I’ve seen and heard of others in similar situations in which they were absolutely ready to leave. They may not have expressed it that way, but you could tell they were eager to leave one foreign culture and head back to biological family and culturally similar friends. They were more than ready to go. And that is not a bad thing, as it likely speaks of their deep love of their families. Perhaps it speaks more of me than it does of them, in that I am more eager to stay here than I am to return to the USA. Maybe I am clinging too much, or maybe I just think life is seemingly more unstable here in South Sudan, and I will likely be leaving while South Sudan is still in the midst of war, and I am not sure what all that will mean for my friends here. Regardless of my feelings one way or another, I consider it a blessed thing to have crossed cultures, and seas, and languages in an effort to have made friends here. And not just casual acquaintances that I call friends, but people that know me well, people that know of my hardships, people that I have offended and subsequently apologized to, people that have allowed me to enter into their lives and walk amongst them amidst their joys and struggles. And for that I am honored and overjoyed.

So as I continue to navigate these murky waters over the next few weeks, I pray the Lord will fill me with grace upon grace. I pray for many moments spent with friends, listening, talking, laughing, and sharing life. I pray the task-oriented side of my personality is not overly dominant, as it tends to be in times of great transition, and my love of relationships will grant me the favor and mercy to let some things go that I am not able to accomplish or finish before I leave. I long to be present, in the moment, each moment.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Bundibugyo Blessings

I just returned from a trip to western Uganda, a farewell tour of sorts. It was important to me to say goodbye to my friends in Bundibugyo, both locals and fellow missionaries, before I leave Africa in early January 2015. My Africa experience first began in Bundibugyo in February 2006, and I have been to Bundibugyo at least for a few days many times since. I was there in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and now 2014! I never really lived there very long, despite want many people think, but I have just been back so many times!

To say that I was blessed unexpectedly in numerous ways during my brief jaunt would no doubt be true. I traveled with my current teammate in South Sudan, Justin, to Nyahuka, Bundibugyo district for two days. The first full day I was there I literally ran into almost everyone I know! Every corner I turned resulted in another shout “SCOTT!”.  I saw almost every single person I had hoped to see on the first day, and without me planning anything in advance – I just showed up! Even some friends from neighboring towns found a way to arrive in Nyahuka when they heard I was there. It was such a blessing from the Lord that I could not have planned more perfectly.


I was able to visit numerous staff members at the hospital, friends from church, neighbors, kids at boarding schools, friends at their places of employment, and many people came to the home where I was staying. I even went on a three-mile walk outside of town and ran into numerous friends along the way! God was surely smiling on me! 

Since I saw all my friends the first day in Nyahuka, it afforded me the blessing to be able to sit with several of the current missionaries in Bundibugyo on my second day and hear more about what is on their hearts. Truly, a sacred and blessed time – to listen, discuss, mourn, and praise with fellow sojourners.
On the third day Justin and I woke up at 5:00 am to catch the bus out of town. A brand new paved road made the trip oh-so-much-nicer and faster than what it used to be! We arrived safely in Fort Portal, our next planned stop, to see Patricia Abbott, a long-time missionary friend, and her two beautiful girls.  

The following day Justin and I left at 5:00 am again (I will hopefully never do two days in a row of getting up that early ever again!), but this time we were headed on a one-day whirlwind safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park. I wanted Justin to experience his first safari in Uganda as I experienced my last. And again, God was smiling upon us as we saw animals all over the place – lions, elephants, kob, buffalo, wart hogs, and more! We were truly graced with God’s goodness to see two different families of lions, and one male lion walked a few feet in front of our car! Later in the day, it was so awesome to see a whole herd of elephants walking along the water banks as we were on a boat tour. Thank you, Lord! May the glory of your creation never cease to amaze.

Justin and I are now back in Kampala, Uganda.We have a few days of errands, and ice cream eating, and coffee drinking, and cool weather relaxing before we head back to South Sudan on 30th October. 


I’ll be very happy to be back in South Sudan, but I must say, God’s goodness was all around me during this two-week trip in Uganda. I was able to complete 35 hours of continuing medical education the first few days I was here, and then we had a blessed trip to western Uganda.

This will be my final flight back into Mundri, and though I am sad knowing that I am soon leaving, I am also filled with joy. God’s hand and blessings have been so clear lately. Even in the midst of sadness, sorrow, and suffering, he has made his presence known.
I am grateful.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Preparing to go.

I’ve been dreading writing this.

Putting words to my current situation somehow makes it all seem so final. I am well and blessed beyond measure, but my time in South Sudan is rapidly coming to an end, and I am just so very sad to think about leaving a place and people that have become such an integral part of me.

My five-year term with World Harvest Mission/SERGE ended in September, but I asked for and was granted extension to stay in South Sudan until the end of 2014. I’ve been planning this departure for well over a year now, and in many ways I think I have been mourning the thought, let alone the reality, of what leaving South Sudan will look like and feel like for me.

It’s probably most missionary’s goal or dream that he will love his host culture and the people he is serving, but for many that is not always the way things turn out. I’ve been blessed to acculturate to some degree of success within my host culture, and I’ve come to love and be loved by so many of the people in my community.

A missionary once told me that she did not think it was possible to have as deep of relationships with people from another culture as compared to someone from your own cultural background. At the time, I found that to be an odd statement, especially from someone living cross-culturally. The more I have thought about the statement over the past few years, the more strongly I have come to disagree. I think the bonds of Jesus and Christian brotherhood and sisterhood are much stronger than those of national origin, or even familial origin in some cases. However, I do think that our mind set significantly impacts the level to which we are eager and willing to engage when in a cross-cultural setting.

When I moved to South Sudan I tried to set my assumptions aside and not always compare everything to American culture. I was willing to engage in cultural activities as long as they were not against Biblical values. Hence I bathed in the rivers, fished in the streams, learned how to hunt with a bow, ate everything placed in front of me, walked everywhere I went, practiced the language as much as I could, dug my own garden, and tried new experiences of all kinds. I made numerous mistakes along the way, and I didn’t love everything I experienced, but it was all part of me learning to appreciate the culture and customs of the people, and in the process developing deep friendships of mutual encouragement, challenge, and respect. Those relationships opened up doors for me to share God with people; to tell others of Jesus and the great story of grace and redemption that we were written into.

When I left America in 2009, I knew I would be back periodically to see my friends and family in the USA. I also knew communication via telephone and internet would be available, though to a lesser degree, but still allowing me to keep in touch to some extent. So it was with excitement and eagerness that I left the USA and embarked on my foreign missionary career. I had no idea what lay in front of me at that time, but I trusted in the One that I was following.

Fast forward to October 2014, as I think about my final two months in South Sudan. I know that when I leave I will not be back anytime soon (though I hope to come visit in a few years, Lord willing), and I know most people here do not have internet and many are without phones. So it is with deep sadness that I anticipate leaving. I still trust in the One I am following, but somehow I have let fear creep into my soul. Fear that my friends and family in Mundri, South Sudan will not be taken care of, fear that all-out war may be coming, fear that some will turn away from new-found faith, fear that some will die and I will not be there to mourn with their families, fear that no one will be around to encourage and challenge the people I love, fear that many here will die before ever really trusting in God and his precious son Jesus Christ.

I need and desire to turn my fears over to God, trusting that he will shoulder the burden, and trusting that He loves me and the people of South Sudan more than I could possibly imagine.

I’m going to be a hot mess when I leave South Sudan.

I will leave with a longing to return, a longing to see my South Sudanese friends and family again here on this earth, a longing for their hearts be changed and lives surrendered to God, a longing to sit with local people one more time, a longing to hug them once more and tell them how much I love and appreciate them.

I’m going to be a human soul filled to the brim with recounted blessings when I leave South Sudan.

I will leave knowing that I have changed – my thoughts, my feelings, my very personhood, knowing that my life is so much richer, deeper, and fuller because of the past five years, knowing that suffering is not something to shy away from but seek God in the midst of, knowing that I have friends and family in a place so very far away, knowing that my heart has somehow grown, and knowing that I am blessed beyond compare by a Lord that has given me the amazing, precious gift of five years spent in South Sudan.

I have received far more than I have lost. I have gained far more than I have given.

I am blessed.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

There is within me a strong desire...

There is within me a strong desire to see the Gospel spread, for people to know, to feel, to experience the radical transforming love and power of God, a life-changing and life-giving mercy and grace that surely passes all understanding.

It is only with and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit that our eyes are open to what the Lord has called us to do and gives us faith to press on.

As I prepare to return to South Sudan in 36 hours, I am reflecting on the above words that I wrote a few months ago. As the combination of jet-lag lingers with the slight fatigue and dehydration of recently donating blood, I am feeling a bit at odds with myself. It is only 8 pm and my body wants to sleep, but based on the three previous nights I know I’ll likely wake up at three am. (This is not aided by the recent March Madness games that have corresponded with the three am time frame in Uganda and drew my attention to frequently update the scores in anticipation of the outcome, and which produced victories in my favor that subsequently propelled me into first place in my extended family pool of fifty people.)

I just received a call from Kaya, the young South Sudanese man I have been sharing my house with since 2012. He is excited about my coming, and his voice makes me even more excited to return. He lamented that he has not had tea with powdered milk since I left, a luxury that was a daily occurrence at my house when I was present. He also wanted to inform me to expect to see a skinny man when I arrive, as the lack of my cooking and purchasing of foods over the past four months has reluctantly thinned him down. I in return made him well aware to expect the opposite with me, as the American diet has resulted in a 17-pound weight gain on my part. He laughed, and countered with the observation that rainy season is coming soon, so I will be digging and lose it all again.

Kaya also told me that the fence behind my house fell down, so we’ll need to repair that when I return; no doubt one of many small things that have changed over the past four months. And honestly, I don’t know what to expect when I return. Yes, I expect hugs, and laughter, and shouts of joy, but I’m sure some things have changed. Some people have been more affected than others by the current fighting in South Sudan, some friends have produced more children, and some have lost more children. Life carries on in my absence, as it does in all of our lives. So as I think about returning, I am pressed to consider the things are that eternal.

Life as a missionary is not always a grand exuberant adventure, but rather a series of small daily decisions to open my life to others and to consciously wrestle with what it means to be a disciple of God. To fight evil by doing good, to act as hands and feet of our Father, to intentionally love on people, and not just pretend to love them, but to really love them as I try to figure out what that really means - these are the things that carry me through. These are the things that I cling to as I seek the face of God. These are the things that give me hope and fill me with passion.

So let me say it again:

There is within me a strong desire to see the Gospel spread, for people to know, to feel, to experience the radical transforming love and power of God, a life-changing and life-giving mercy and grace that surely passes all understanding.

It is only with and through the inner working of the Holy Spirit that our eyes are open to what the Lord has called us to do and gives us faith to press on.

I pray in all circumstances that my faith is greater than me fear, and that this same faith continually propels me forward in pursuit with reckless abandonment of a mighty Savior.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A little taste of African text...

Here I am, back in Uganda. After several flights, delays, little sleep, and several movies watched on the planes, I am back in Africa. Despite feeling extremely tired and worn from jet-lag, I am happy to be back.

I applied for my visa yesterday morning at the South Sudan embassy in Kampala, and because of recent changes I was told I would not receive my visa before my flight to Mundri, South Sudan on Tuesday, April 1. After much pleading on my part, the workers at the embassy eventually agreed to try to have my visa ready by 3 pm Monday. Let us hope and pray!

In honor of being back in Africa, I wanted to post some text messages I've received over the past four months. I've received many (100s!), so I will post starting with some of the ones I received since being back in Africa over the past 36 hours, and then a sample of some of the ones I first received after leaving Africa in November, 2013. I'll post some of the other months of messages in a future posting.

Enjoy the deciphering process! They are typed exactly as they were written.

From: NM

Thank God my bro u r welcome, i am happy that u r safe from ur long journey though u stil have some distance to travel but not much now fill at home bro this Africa again. Majira n e

From: LU

Nice nice we've been long waiting! God willingly  we shall see one another.wormlywelcome. Lm k& fmly u.byee sebo


this is john commando i love you and a i appreciate you


dear scott miss u for long time hw u and yr family its not enough for us com by sms plse could we schedule time to com by skype. u ll get on


Greatly missed here just to remind u that marriage is part of human life though it needs personal decisions,choice n preparedness ve agreat day here abt 8,00pm! Gb kabwohe


Hello! Brother I greeting to you in our Lord Jesus charist! I hope you are well. Missing you 2 and all my Friends in USA. Iam now in malakal, the place


Thank you brother scott j I got your message GOD bless them for prayer for me and my family now MUNDRI is very hot say my hello to your family and your Fridays see you coming year soon RD LAOVE ALL OF YOU


Hi scott will is john commando from mundri I greatings all of your families there in uas hi scott i miss you for long time also you dont whant to call tahnks for reading i love and i appreciate you dont for get my name is called 5o cent and john cena


thank you scot i got your message for two times now.i had already established net ball with a lot of players but our problem we had only one ball that you gave what can be done thanks stephen g martin


Thank very much for the love that God cares for those who believe in him may this day will be the day of blessing for every on iam thankful for that day and my great thanks for all the family thanks a lot…..# w M


hello ! mush greeting to you and all your family. We need you to comebalck angrl to south sudan. GOD bless USA and ss all over the WOULD. Thankful by CAMK %


Thank you very much for remembering me during this thanksgiving moment in  U.S.A. as your dear friend.May the Almighty God Bless and potect you in all


HI brother thank you you meet with stward send my greetings to your Fridays when you come back to MUNDRI coming year you bring me good watch from U S A I prayer for you RD LOVE YOU


Hi scott will this is john kaya.i seen our pawpaws tree was eaten by goats. also i have eat the pawpaw but two days  ago when i was at school some one taken the pawpaw. If i found person who was taken the pawpaw i will kick but has you told me if the some one makes bad thing to you. you havd forgive to him has jesus forgive us. thanks for reading.

Monday, March 24, 2014


I often feel a bit angsty right before I travel back to Africa. The whirlwind of goodbyes and the joyfully anticipated onslaught of hellos and ‘what did you bring me from America?’. It always starts a day or two before I leave. I turn on the task-focused mentality as I pack up all my stuff, weigh it over and over again, adding a few ounces here and subtracting a few ounces of stuff over there, checking all my lists, and constantly worrying that I am forgetting something of importance. I know the routine well. I don’t particularly like it, but I know how it goes.

My natural tendency as I near departure is to become too task focused that I forget to spend time with God. I forget to stop and say thank you. I forget to say ‘help’ when I am in the midst of the angst. I forget to acknowledge that the reason I am going back to Africa is because God has created a place for me there, and he has equipped me for the job.

The constant transitions of this life I have chosen are wearing me down. Or maybe they are helping me to re-center each time? When faced with much uncertainty and few constants to cling to, God has a sneaky way of reminding me that he is constant. I can always rely on him, and I do find solace in that. Even if South Sudan has always been unstable in my eyes and is even more so now as fighting carries on in parts of the country, even if I don’t know how long I am returning for, even if I don’t know what is next, even if I am returning without teammates, even if.… anything, God remains constant.

So let the angst try to ambush me yet again and let the uncertainty rain down. My God is certain, and even in my emotional ups and downs, goodbyes and hellos, comings and going, he remains constant.

Monday, March 17, 2014

5 Minute Talk...

Minster, OH – St. Augustine Parish
March 15, 2014
5 minute talk during mass

Hi. My name is Scott Will and I bring you MANY greetings from my friends and family in South Sudan. I’m a 1997 graduate of Fort Recovery HS, and I went to Wright State University in Dayton. I worked for a few years and then went to graduate school at Arcadia University near Philadelphia and received a masters degree in medicine and a masters degree in public health, and then became licensed as a physician assistant. It was during my last year of graduate school that I first had the chance to visit Uganda, and Africa has been a significant part of my life ever since.

In 2008 I felt God calling me to long term mission work, and I’ve been with World Harvest Mission since 2009 first serving in Uganda and then moving to Sudan in 2010, which then became South Sudan, in 2011.

South Sudan is the newest and one of the poorest countries in the world, a place with no electricity, few paved roads, a dismal education system, and a struggling health care system where one out of every ten women die during child birth, and 25% of children die before the age of five. But it is also a place of hope, as people desire to improve their lives after 22 years of civil war. There have definitely been struggles, but it has been a joy and honor to serve there, and live life with the people there. I work at the local government run health center, where I primarily see children, all in a dialect of Arabic, I facilitate a sports program for the community, I have an agricultural demonstration garden, I lead a weekly Bible study, I preach every few weeks, and I do a lot of hospitality. My home is in the very center of town, and I live with a young South Sudanese man, John Kaya, so people are constantly in and out of my house, which is great by me. I am passionate about mentorship and discipleship, and love building relationships with people. My favorite thing to do is visit local people within their own mud and grass thatch roofed homes, and just sit with them on a mat on the ground and listen as they share their struggles, hopes, and dreams, and as I share my journey with them, I am able to tell them of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.

I am returning to South Sudan on March 25, and I ask you for your prayers. In December fighting broke out country wide in South Sudan and has lasted ever since. Thousands of people have died and nearly 1 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Many missionaries and foreigners have been evacuated, but I am choosing to return, to encourage the people there that have become my friends and family.  Please pray for the people of South Sudan and for me, that my faith would be greater than my fear. I have given up a lot of things in my life, including many of the American comforts, but I have gained so much more in return. My life is much more than me just trying to be a good person, it is about trying to glorify God and have enough faith to follow God to wherever and whatever he calls me to do.

Thank you for choosing World Harvest Mission and the work God is doing in South Sudan as your 2014 Lenten Mission project. Your donations will help to provide live saving medicines to children at Mundri Health Center, continue to build character, hope, and commitment through sports programming, and provide Bibles for individuals that have never owned a book in their lives.

Thank you and God bless. Shukran Ketiir, Araboya mbaa Miri.

2 Timothy 1:8-9: So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from the beginning of time - to show us his grace through Jesus Christ.