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Introduction

My first blog.
My first post.

I have been encouraged to start a blog to share what our family is doing in East Africa. I have been reluctent for several reasons; afraid of oversharing about our life, coming across as a "show-off" or displaying any deviation from reality, and a lack of confidence in my writing. But here I am writing my first post because ultimately I agree it's important to document this journey and invite those we love along on the journey with us. Let me start with some introductions and catch up those who don't know how we got here. For the sake of a lengthy post, here it is in bullet point form:
  • Summer 2014 - Gabriel and I decide the time is right for us to explore the possibility of moving our family to South Sudan. He moves ahead of us and we begin a season of long-distant marriage and parenting.
  • November 2015 - The kids and I visit Juba, South Sudan where Gabriel lives and works. We dream more about our family all being there. I think about maybe starting a school or how I'll be able to provide more hands-on support to Ariang School through our non-profit HOPE for Ariang. The excitement begins to build as we plan!
Our first trip as a family to Juba 2015

  • Spring 2016 - We decide the time is right! Gabriel prepares for us to join him in Juba while I sell our house and belongings back in the USA. We set a date and buy our tickets: July 17th!
  • July 10, 2016 - Intense fighting erupts in Juba. Many lives are lost in a short period of time. Gabriel is in air to the USA and doesn't even know what is happening back home until he lands. After arriving safely to Syracuse, we helplessly watch the country crumble and with it our dream. 
  • July 16, 2016 - After a hard week weighing all possible decisions, we decide that the kids and I will "wait things out" in Syracuse while Gabriel returns to South Sudan as soon as flights resume. We start looking at short-term apartments for rent. We reroute his return ticket to Nairobi for the next day where he will wait to get the earliest scheduled flight back to Juba. I try to swallow the idea of an unknown number of months apart again. While having brunch with a dear friend she asks us, "Why don't you just all go to Nairobi where you could safely settle until things are stable in Juba?" Instantly, Gabriel and I know this is the right decision! It's not the same country, but at least we would be on the same continent, time zone, and just an hour flight away from each other. We were ready for this very quick change of plans since my bags had already been packed for Juba a week in advance! 
  • July 17, 2016 - Less than 24 hours from making our decision, all five of us are Nairobi bound!  
Good-byes are the hardest
Nairobi bound!
We made it all in one piece and so did our luggage!

Best traveller award goes to Awut!

  • July 25, 2016 - Gabriel returns to Juba while the kids and I begin to settle in Nairobi. We meet friends who were evacuated from Juba (I think about how that could have been us who had to be evacuated!), we join a home school co-op group, and we explore our new neighborhood and city.  
Making chapati with Ellyana's Swahili tutor


Swimming even though the water is always cold!

Friday science class with friends

Discovering the kid hang-out spots around Nairobi

No car for the first 6 months meant lots of walking

Karura Forest

Learning to cook South Sudanese food with a new friend

A true treasure, Mama Fauster, who helps us at home and feels like family here

Kiir's first day of school at Montessori school

Weekend visits from Baba throughout the fall were the BEST!

Even after writing out the timeline, it's hard to believe that it's been six months since our three kids and I moved to Nairobi, Kenya. Nairobi was only supposed to be our short-term arrangement. My heart has always been in South Sudan and I was just waiting for the "green light" to join Gabriel there. But if the fighting in July has taught me anything it's that putting roots down in a fragile country is challenging and heartbreaking. I look at my friend who is managing to do this (with 2 kids!) and I am so impressed with her ability to pour her whole heart into their work and community while at the same time always knowing that they may have to leave again at a moment's notice. It is this same friend that has encouraged me to see my life through seasons. This current season looks very different then I had pictured and planned for, but I am sure that we will still have our season together in South Sudan when the time is right.

So here we are now in Nairobi, Kenya, a beautiful city with many conveniences and things we have come to love (great doctor, amazing food, play grounds, giraffes, elephants, great weather, and more!). As I reflected on all of these luxuries of Nairobi some time back in November, I also began to think about our relatives back in Ariang. It was one Sunday while visiting a farmer's market at a school down the street from us that I suddenly caught a "vision" in this Nairobi season. Here, just down the street from us, was a school. Just a ten minute drive away was a great pediatrician who had done her residency in the USA. A five minute walk in any direction would take me to a supermarket or open-air market where I could get local produce and fruit. Education, health care, and nutrition: these are the things that our relatives were lacking in South Sudan. Why couldn't at least 1 or 2 nieces or nephews come and stay with us in this season so that they could have a better shot a more promising future? I shared these thoughts with Gabriel and it was no surprise that he had been thinking of the same things.

In the coming weeks, Gabriel and I dreamed and planned out the details of this arrangement. Somehow the vision grew and we went from 1-2 kids to deciding to bring ALL the older nieces and nephews. Gabriel has two living brothers. From his older brother Ngor's house we decided his sons Akook (age 11), and Majok (age 8) would come. From his younger brother Akook's house we decided to bring his daughters Awut (age 10) and Aluel (age 6) and his son Deng (age 8). As we considered what kind of support they would need, we also decided to bring our two older nieces Aduol and Aluel (both 16 years) from their boarding school in Uganda to finish high school in Nairobi. They would serve as role models, translators, and support to the younger kids while at the same time allowing me to provide more "motherly" guidance to them as they consider what is next for them after school.

We are doing this for several reasons:
1. So that our nieces and nephews have a shot a a better future. So that as their fathers stated, they will not suffer as their parents have.
2. So that our kids, Ellyana, Kiir and Awut have the opportunity to grow along side of their cousins, learn from each other, and develop a life long relationships with one another.    

On December 7th, I received this picture from Gabriel with the message "Everyone is home waiting for you!!" 


Botton: Aluel and Majok
Top: Awut, Akook, and Deng
I instantly feel in love and started crying.  We would be joining them in Juba the following week to meet them all and spend Christmas together.  In the next post I hope to share about our time in Juba and our transition to Nairobi that has taken place over the past month.   

We hope you will join us on this new endeavor and share in the joy and challenges of it. I know that it will not be easy (and it hasn't) but it is exactly what our family was meant to do in this season.

Much love,
Liz

Comments

  1. Also, you're a great writer. Can't wait for more! (But no pressure :P)

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, now is the hard part. Keeping up with it ;)

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  2. What a wonderful story! How can we help?

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    1. Hi Barron! Thanks for reading. We would love to share with you how you might help. Gabriel and I had money set aside to pay for everyone's first term. We will be sharing what we are doing with friends and asking if individuals might like to sponsor a child's tuition in future terms. Gabriel and I will follow-up with you and Carol through email. Sending our love to the two of you!

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  3. Hi Liz - You can tell I don't blog - I think I deleted my comment:). Love the blog. I'm with Barron - tell us how we can help you nieces and nephews with their education/other expenses. will look forward to your email - and to reading future blogs. Hugs to everyone!!

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  4. Well done Liz. I appreciate being able to read about your story. You are blessed.

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  5. Liz you continue to amaze me with your positive attitude and your ability to see a need and act on it with kindness and compassion. I loved seeing all the pictures of you and your family as you settle in to your new home. I really like the idea of seeing our lives through seasons, it is very calming. I will look forward to reading your blog posts whenever you find the time to post! Take care, be well, and enjoy your expanding family!!!! xo

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    1. Michele, thanks for the kinds words. I hope this season of your life finds you well! Miss you friend! I'll be in Syracuse over the summer and hope that I can meet up with my favorite LeMoyne peps!

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. I am so happy to read this, Elizabeth. I often wonder how you and Gabriel are doing, how your family is, how Ariang is. I would like to share your blog - you and your husband are such an inspiration. Your dedication and commitment to the people of Sudan is awe inspiring. With great fondness...Marietta

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