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Called to Learn and Grow

A Letter from Lynn and Sharon Kandel, Regional Liaisons for the Horn of Africa, based in South Sudan

August 2019

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Write to Sharon Kandel

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I wonder what you would like to hear about. There are times when it is really hard to think of things to write about — uplifting stories, heartbreaking stories, stories of war or peace, new believers, outreach to the unreached, orphaned children, the homeless — the list goes on and on.

I think this time I will write about … us.

Lynn and I live in Juba, South Sudan. This is where we met in 1980. As a very small child, I lived in Sudan with my missionary family. Lynn grew up in Amish country, Ohio. God brought us together in Juba of all places. I was searching for my next move in life, and Lynn had already answered the call to mission. From opposite sides of the world, God called us to Juba to meet so that we could be partners in life.

This partnership took us to Tanzania for six years. This was a real growing time in our partnership as we figured out how to be a couple, a family and partners with those who invited us to their country. It was a good six years that brought us many lifelong friends.

God then called us to live in the U.S. for the next 20 years. I had a hard time with this, since I felt more called to Africa. The call to the U.S. was a time for me to learn and grow so that we would be ready for the call to Africa when it finally came. This was the time to raise our children and to see them marry and have children of their own. It was a time to be with Sharon’s parents in their final years and to have the privilege of being by their sides when they went to be with the Lord. It was a time to be with Lynn’s mom when her husband joined Sharon’s parents.

The time came when most people start thinking about retirement, but what do we do? We answer the call to form a new partnership with the people of South Sudan. This partnership has been about renewing old acquaintances from long ago and serving as a bridge from Sharon’s parents’ time to this new time in South Sudan. It’s been about hearing the mistakes of the old missionaries and forgiving them because they brought the Good News of Salvation. We are learning the value of history. We must not forget the bad, for we can learn from it, but we must also focus on the good so that we can work for a better tomorrow.

At this time in our lives, we are learning about partnership on a broader scale. We are learning how being in partnership means not always agreeing — it means learning how to work together on the things we do agree on and not letting the other things ruin relationships. We are looking at the bigger picture and letting people grow at their own pace. Here I am talking about any culture — American, South Sudanese, British, German or any other one. We all grow at our own pace.

One of our challenges is knowing how to work in partnership with partners who do not have certain technology but are being asked to work as though they do. Partnership is about meeting people where they are and then asking them what they need most. Many times, the answer is not the technology, but a safer, healthier life that provides options, including options for education that might naturally bring about technology.

We are so lucky that we get to experience partnership in different countries and on many different levels. We learn so much. We learn about ourselves, how we approach others and the baggage that we bring with us. We learn about listening before speaking and that different cultures have many wonderful things to share.

We also get to be in partnership with so many churches and people in the U.S. Let me tell you, there are cultural differences in the U.S.! Getting to see so many different parts of the U.S. helps us realize how diverse it is.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you to our partners in Africa, and then also to be able to represent them to you when we visit with you in your churches, presbyteries and homes. Thank you for the financial support that you continue to give so generously and for the prayer support that keeps us going each day.

Trusting in Him,

Lynn and Sharon Kandel

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