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Phil and Linda Byler, missionaries in Sudan

August 2010


August 23, 2010

The founder of the world’s greatest religion once said, “Abide in me … for without me you can do nothing.” The current head of this religion also says, “Remain in me if you want to produce any fruit.”

Sometimes you just don’t have time to think about it; you’d better hope you are abiding.

I, Phil, was beginning my 2 months of acting REO for Central Region (CR) of AIM. This leadership role covers 6 countries of Central Africa and about 80 adult missionaries. My boss was taking a 2 month leave and asked me to wear his hat. I anticipated it to be a “relaxed fit” casual hat. Two days into the job one of our missionaries in Chad sustained life-threatening injuries when their Land Cruiser collided with a renegade adult bull camel and the camel took out their windshield and roof. I was involved in the scramble of phone calls and email communications to ensure proper medical care and appropriate communication happened. A few days later as this situation was cooling down, Al Shabab bombed the World Cup viewers in Kampala, Uganda, the city of our CR headquarters. Many or our missionaries were intimately affected although none of AIM family were physically injured. I traded hard hats, public communicator hats, and contingency planner hats  for those days.

Two weeks later I was negotiating my way through congested Kampala traffic and vigilant security checks when the REO phone rang again.  Danielle, our missionary in Sudan, was experiencing severe abdominal pain, suspected appendicitis. Unable to find a doctor in Yei town, they were looking for an emergency flight to Kampala. Several phone calls later confirmed that the thrice weekly commercial flight would wait on the ground in Yei to bring her to Kampala. Being her Unit Leader from Sudan even though wearing the acting REO hat in Kampala, I elected to meet her at the Entebbe airport. She arrived still able to walk despite the severe abdominal pain. I donned my M.D. hat to ask doctor probing questions as she lay in the back seat enroute to the hospital, I repeatedly had to  pop on the chauffeur hat to give way to the convoys recklessly commandeering the road for the African Union Presidents meetings in Kampala. (more reflections on Africa Big Man at our blog site http://pbyler.aimsites.org/ Aug 1 entry)

While checking Danielle into the hospital , my REO phone rang with an emergency call from our AIM Unit Leader in Chad. His wife, Pam, the camel crash victim from 2 weeks ago, had taken a turn for the worse and her doctor was recommending emergency medical evacuation to a major city hospital, first choice France.   The next hour was a volley of international phone calls in one ear while participating in the medical evaluation of Danielle with the other.  Meanwhile my private phone rang for some medical advice from a Sudanese pastor.

At the end of the day Danielle’s appendix was in the surgical specimen container. Her parents in USA properly reassured. The airplane warming up for medical evacuation in Chad was put on overnight hold when it was ascertained that the panic levels of laboratory tests were erroneous. I had prayed with Danielle wearing my pastoral  hat, wound down with a phone call to Linda wearing my soft hat, and covered my bald head with the invisible “abiding in Jesus” hat and rested. Whew, no need to watch a real-life-drama movie tonight.

Now with just 15 days left to wear this REO hat, I’m pleased to report that Danielle has recovered, finished her mission term in Sudan on schedule, and returned to the U.S. Pam. still in Chad, continues to recover slowly from the head trauma and we lift her in prayer. Tomorrow Linda and I fly back to Kampala from Sudan where Linda will lead a language acquisition course for new missionaries while I sit expectantly  by the hat rack. AND in 2 and a half weeks, on Sept 10 we put on our “holiday hats” and fly to California to begin our 6 week visit to our children and grandchildren. We will have three new grandbabies to meet and a year of catching up with the six precious others.  We will again ascend over the Atlantic Ocean from Boston on Oct 25. God is GOOD!

In our June newsletter I mentioned the Land Rover breakdown in Kapoeta, Sudan. Just yesterday I retrieved it and it is back in the carport in Torit. The story of the intervening months of phone calls and emails coordinating the broken transmission’s journey from Kapoeta to Nairobi to the junk yard and the replacement transmission from Kampala to Sudan and back to our carport is too long for this newsletter. One caveat of the story that bordered on absurdity was retrieving some small parts from the broken gear box in Kenya to meet the new gearbox from Uganda in Sudan. I burst into ridiculous laughter as I described it to Linda over the phone. Suffice it to say, be thankful for your LOCAL auto repair.

For five of the last eight weeks Linda has been managing our Torit guesthouse, office, home, and consultation center in my absence. Among many other roles, she was unofficial grandmother-of-the bride, cake maker, personal chauffer,  chair transporter, and comforter/encourager of 11 flower girls in the wedding of our dear Sudanese friend Grace.  Imagine a wedding planned by a committee and five local churches…think CHAOS. Imagine gracious Linda in the middle.

Meanwhile we had a weekend retreat last weekend for our Sudan AIM team.   A delightful time of fellowship and fun with 30 adults and children . We continue to plan and pray for opportunities to impact the Boya and other unreached tribes of Sudan and North Uganda.” Is it all fruitful?” I keep asking. Am I abiding in Jesus, the vine? Fruit happens as a result of abiding, not of striving, I keep reminding myself. The Father gives life and fruit, not me.

Thank you each for “remaining’ with us in this Kingdom ministry. We treasure your support, prayers, and encouragement.

Philip and Linda Byler Leading the AIM South Sudan and North Uganda Unit pbyler@aimint.net