Monday, May 14, 2012

Cars need water...just like me

Have you ever heard of a car that consumes more water than gas? After 2 accidents and 3 different cars, please say hello to the "Silver Bullet":

You may be thinking, "John, what happened to your old car?" Well..

...No longer will I have random strangers walking up to me to ask if I love dogs (the RUF actually stood for Reformed University Fellowship)
a campus ministry at PSU.

Back to the silver bullet- A few weeks ago I got rear-ended while sitting at a traffic light, my life became a bit more complicated. Questions arose in my mind like: Why now, when I am only gonna be in Philly for another two m onths? How am I ever gonna be able to manage an already crazy schedule without a means of transportation? Am I gonna have to ask people for rides all the time? I ask people for too much already! I was blessed last week by a family friend who had an extra car sitting around that I could use. The only thing is that the car tends to overheat, so when I drive more than 15 miles or so I need to make sure that I've filled up the engine coolant or I risk a meltdown. Fitting, that yet another experience in my life would draw a metaphor for how the gospel of Jesus speaks to me. Allow me to explain:

Why write about my car journey? Well. like the car, I can go for a time on my own strength, but will inevitably end up overheating. I repeatedly choose the temporary fix for my problems (like filling the coolant tank, just to last another 15 miles) so that I don't have to deal with what really needs to be fixed about me, more than I even know! So I try to chug through the problems, hoping that they'll go away... but I can't, and it very quickly drains my energy, passion, and joy. But that's the beautiful thing about Jesus. He's like the best mechanic in the world: he knows whats wrong, knows how to fix me (think along the lines of an installation of Mr.Fusion from Back to the Future Part:2), and when the bill comes up as more than I could ever pay he tells me its on the house. I think I would probably need to draw at least a couple more ridiculous examples before this metaphor would be complete, I'll just leave it at that because you get hopefully get the gist :)

Friday, April 13, 2012


I like to think that I'm a pretty courageous person, moving from Philly to live in a relatively physically scary East African environment. What's funny to me is when I'm given little moments of clarity when what I like to think about myself meets how myself really thinks in situations that require courage. When it comes time to actually show some courage, my knees usually turn into something of pistons chaotically firing up and down in a V2 engine with irregular fuel injection (or just uncontrollably for those of you who can't picture that). Hands get clammy, stomach starts to get sick- a natural batman in the face of injustice.

In all seriousness, though it isn't my strong suit, I do believe I've grown a lot in understanding and practicing real courage in the past year (along with having my healthy share of cowardly flights from scary situations). What I have been slowly learning throughout this time is that the power behind courage is where a person puts his or her faith. I have had to come to terms with my failure to be courageous (the shaking of the legs is probably the Holy Spirit shaking me in frustration) owing to the fact that I quite simply put way too much faith in myself.

I'll never have the courage to tackle injustice when the strength of my courage comes from faith in the weak, broken, hypocritical person that is John Sender. I will fail every time but the reason I try again and again is because I radically underestimate two things: The depth of brokenness and injustice in the world, and the weakness of my spirit and body. The corruption of any courageous action I make with faith in my own ability takes no longer than does the realization that I am a hypocrite, just as broken as the thing I am trying to fix. Furthermore, nine times out of ten I fail to even try to be courageous for fear of eventually realizing just how weak I am.

But a courage born out of faith in Jesus, the perfect savior, is a most fearsome of characteristics, because it is belief born not out of hope in my abilities, but hope in someone infinitely more powerful and incorruptible who is bent on redeeming all things. Not only does it allow you to stand up against what's right, but it cultivates unprecedented actions of love through deepest empathy. Jesus may not have had a cape or spandex, but his faith in the father was so perfect that he was able to face the full brunt of the injustices and sin of the world on the cross, and turn and say "not my will, but yours be done".

So I know, if ever I am to have courage to face the world as it really is (knees unshaking :)), the same words will be on my lips, and his name will be written on my heart.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In The Dark

The following is a true story:

Nighttime... heavy footsteps crunch the sun-baked ground outside...
It's been about an hour now since I first laid down to sleep. Yet, I'm certainly not one wink closer to seeing the back of my eyelids, it's too dark for that anyhow. What's more pressing than the darkness though is the fact that there is something outside, possibly very close now, closer than I'd like in any case. I begin to dwell on the defenses of my dwelling: closed off from the outside world (check), walls thick enough to repel the large gorillaish animal that sounds like it's stalking outside of the safari tent I'm inhabiting tonight with two fellow interns (not so check).

I tell myself "Don't be so paranoid, there are no gorillas in South Sudan, or Mundri town anyway". That's when I felt the breath; the hot, sticky, stinky breath close to my face... whatever it was, all we were seemingly separated by was the fabric screen in the tent, and a thin mosquito net.

Sheer terror.

Uncertain amount of time (infinity I'm sure) later I muster up the courage to turn on the light on my watch, which in this darkest of environments emits enough light to make a fair area glow pale blue. Laying right in front of me... is my fellow intern Jordan, who I had forgotten had moved his cot up against mine earlier that day, and must have rolled over in the uncomfortable sweatiness that is part of many nights in South Sudan. I can now fall asleep, comforted, if not feeling altogether ridiculous.

This memory shocks me (no... not because it involved a gorilla, I still don't know what was crunching the ground outside, but who really cares, haha) In the matter of one night I had completely lost my bearing on my surroundings, and feared for the worst when I could not see. This is so true of many things in my life, when I can't see what is before me, I start to panic, perhaps more subtly than that night in the tent. I don't trust God to protect me, to provide.

One thing is true though, He has never let me down, never broken a promise, and guides my steps, even when I am holding a hand over my eyes. I want to write more, but I have a headache.

Trust God, he loves you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Christmas time is here (one of my favorite songs, not only during the Christmas season)

I'm not sure why I've become fascinated with holidays recently. As I get older (spoken like a true 23 year old man with just soooo much wisdom), I get more and more confused about our holidays. Maybe not confused as much as curious of how they began, what they have evolved into, how they have evolved over the years since their conception, how I've grown in celebration of how I celebrate holidays, many other thoughts. There's the whole thing about celebrating with other people and the fact that many of them are similarly processing as well... what are they thinking I wonder? Are you curious now too?

What's neat about this for me is that I'm asking questions like I never have before, processing through things I do, almost like the years teenaging but without all the angst, haha. The reason being that I am able to now process everything in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit of God lives in me. Radical statement I know, but nonetheless very much the case. I love it, to know that something is working so deeply inside me in ways I would never imagine, helping me to understand how loved I am in the midst of not just some things in my life, but EVERYTHING. In the words of one of the earliest Christians (Paul)

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. -Romans 1:16

That's why Christmas has been even more wonderful than before this year, I'm finding deep joy in my salvation that speaks to everything about my life, who I am, what and why I celebrate, and what a real relationship with family and friends looks like. Christmas means that God loves us actively not just once 2,000 some years ago. He knows that we are helplessly in need of him, and helplessly unworthy of him at the same time, through grace alone He sent his son to die for us, and ever since has been working in the hearts of those who believe to redeem everything that is broken. That's why as I grow in my relationship with God, and realize just how messed up I am, relationships are, and the world is, I find joy in identifying my faults and brokenness because I know God loves me that much more (and even more than I imagine)!

p.s. When I lived in South Sudan last year there seemed to be no shortage of holidays, like literally twice a week there would be a national holiday of some sort. I'm sure they will be the topic of future posts!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Walking for water

I have always been amazed at how beautiful the form of water can be. Whether a rushing river, a placid lake, or even dew forming on grass, it’s always pretty incredible to see. I managed to get a picture of it in an even more beautiful form than these last year as I was working with World Harvest Mission in South Sudan, the newest nation in the world.

Let me give you a little background for the picture...

Not only is South Sudan one of the hottest places in the world, it is one of the hardest places in the world to get clean drinking water as a result of the destruction and neglect of infrastructure during the civil wars that have been waged in South Sudan for over forty of the last sixty years. Children and women travel miles every day to collect water for the family's needs, and if you've ever carried a gallon of milk to the house after the car from grocery shopping you'll know this is no joke (especially if you consider that the water containers common to that part of the world, known as "jerry cans" are larger than 5 gallons in size)

As one of my teammates noted, Jerry Cans come in all shapes and sizes proportioned for the carrier...(picture courtesy of teammate Christine Olmeda)

It was amazing to work with communities in hearing their stories, sharing the gospel, and installing solar powered water pumping systems that greatly increase access to safe drinking water. Simply sharing the good news of the great love Jesus has for them, and helping aid their physical needs.

Increasing access to safe drinking water is essential to development, and greatly increases quality of life. This has recently and currently been done through drilling well-like holes in the ground called boreholes. They might be though of as wells that need to be manually pumped. While the borehole systems currently in place in the Mundri region (see the post "water" below for a most "excellently" drawn diagram) are effective in that they are safe to drink from without treating the water first, they tend to fail mechanically, are expensive to construct, and it can be tiring for women and children to use. That is why World Harvest Mission is partnering with the water authorities of the region to install solar panel powered pumping systems in the boreholes (in place of the manual pumps) that allow for multiple watering stations that can spread out over a wide perimeter. This allows water to be pumped faster, and to a broader area, good stuff!

I can't wait to take part in this work!!!

"…’Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev 22:17

Monday, November 28, 2011

Where am I?

Where am I?
...doesn't that question sound so philosophical?

To answer my own question; I am in many different places. answer my question's question; yes, yes it does.

Where am I going with this line of thought? one knows, haha!

In my attempt to start an informative blog I figured it might be helpful to let you know where I am mentally, physically, spiritually, etc.

I spend a lot of time thinking about where I am, but in summary: I'm in the process of raising support to go to South Sudan as a missionary, to do civil engineering and youth outreach and ministry.

Mentally: I've shown you probably too much about my mental state already!: I am one scatter-brained individual! In keeping true to my nature, I will continue in this though process later in the post, as I think it will be more helpful to explain the other wheres away first.

Geographically: I am living in Philadelphia, PA. This is my "home base" of operations, and where I have been living since I was in South Sudan on internship with World Harvest Mission (since last December).

Employmentally: Though I am employed by World Harvest Mission as a missionary, I am still in the support raising process and will need to supporting myself financially until I become a full-time worker (I leave to work in South Sudan). In the mean time, I've been working as a general remodeling contractor for a good friend of mine to make ends meet, and will continue to do so until just before I leave.

Spiritually: I am trusting that God loves me, and have been resting in the fact that the debt Jesus Christ paid on the cross on my behalf has allowed for me to enter into relationship with God, as His son! Though many times I feel discouraged about where I am spiritually, mentally, physically, geographically, the infinite grace of God comforts me, sets me free to love as He has loved me.

Mentally: Constantly getting overwhelmed by things I feel I have to do, though always being reminded of the fact that Jesus has accomplished everything I have needed and will ever need to do.

Going to be: I don't know, but God is showing me day by day that He has a plan, and that it will involve me getting loved by him. Hazah!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I'll be trying to add a new post at least bi-weekly so stay tuned in!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Borehole taps like the one you see above are the normal means of getting water here in Southern Sudan. A borehole functions just as the name suggests, an approximately six inch diameter hole is bored deep into the dirt and granite, water in the ground fills into the hole. By inserting a long segmented pipe with a pump attached to it the water can be sucked the fifty or so feet to the eagerly awaiting and thirsty people on the surface (like the children above). I’ve drew a little diagram of what the borehole would look like if the earth was cut away and you were looking at it from the side:

As you may know, Sudan is still a new mission field and so the team is still getting a feel for how they can best love people here. Mike and Christine have been working with the town's water office to get a feel for future projects and present drinking water needs. I think this is what led somehow (I’ve only started working here after the inception of these plans) to the projects we are working on at present. Anyway, I thought it might be nice to showcase the two projects that are being worked on, and will now be really moving forward thanks to the fact that we were able to buy and ship supplies for them in Kampala last week.

The picture of the borehole from the beginning of this post is from the site of the theological college, a once prestigious institution for pastors to train. The college is now only beginning to rebuild from the ruins that stand in the wake of the recent and devastating civil war. This borehole will serve as the site of a solar pump system, one that will provide water for the local community and for the future residents of the college. This simple blessing of a solar powered pump does much to improve quality of life for those who would use it. Not only does it ensure that there will be water flowing without the tiring manual pumping, it allows the borehole to be tapped to its full potential. In place of a slow pumping and tiring borehole where a person might wait in line for hours will soon be a system of multiple taps, each flowing at a nice rate and without any effort on the part of he or she who is waiting for the water (though it’s almost always a she who is waiting).

Hai Salama is another place where we’re helping to install a solar pump water network. It is a small village that has great potential for population growth. The borehole found in this community has a large yield, which makes it ideal for a solar pump system. Three taps, like the one you see in the second picture will be installed, with the plans of more being added into the system as the population increases in the area. This will likely be the first of the systems that the mission here has helped to complete. To the right is the water tower that was raised next to a tap that we helped to build. The next steps will be creating a solar panel array, dropping in the pump, and putting in the pipe system!

I get excited when I catch glimpses of how these projects will and are blessing the people here. For too long have they been ravaged by war and its after effects that rob them of things we take for granted. Among these things are easily accessible fresh water, roads, and even the audacity to hope that things built will not be washed away like sand castles by the waves of war. What gives me hope for Mundri is seeing how many of its people rely on the foundation of Jesus Christ’s love for them, and are satisfied in Him instead of their own works. Even the most beautiful cities made by man will eventually fade and return to dust, but the love that we stand to gain from our relationship to God thanks to Christ is hope for the future that cannot fade, will stand against the darkest times, and is longed for by every man. The spreading of this is what truly gives me hope for Mundri, I’m just enjoying my time as a representative of this love.

I’ll hopefully be able to write more soon about how this project will progress and finish soon.