By: Dr. Troy Sammons, CVM Fieldstaff, transitioning to service in South Sudan

Currently there are five gentlemen armed with axes and carpenter squares diligently preparing building stones for an addition we are working on in Kenya. The stone dressers are special craftsmen who will hand shape each of the seven hundred stones needed for the project.  For the first few days, I glanced at their craft realizing the hard work but not the intricacy of the task.

On day five, after about two thirds of the stones were cut, I asked for a lesson in stone dressing and they eagerly obliged. They taught me how to take a roughly quarried stone and cut it into the specific “bush” style we are using. The process starts by finding the nicest face of the stone and then meticulously squaring up the stone by using a square and an axe to repeatedly chisel a straight line on all sides. Once the stone is squared, the artistic process of cutting a one inch border takes place, so it results in a perfectly cut stone that can be used for building, while maintaining its wild rocky face.

My first attempt was a disaster, rendering the stone unusable. The process was going ok until one swing decapitated half the face of the stone. Stone number two went better, and I almost squared it correctly and kept the face intact. According to my instructors, I received seventy marks, or a C grade for that attempt. They had to finish that stone and carved my name in it as a memorial, it made the grade for the building. My third attempt was by far the hardest, because my instructors would instruct but would not touch the stone with their axes. The stone received passing marks, I received blisters, a backache and a great appreciation for the work I was overlooking that they were doing. My three hours of work would have earned me less than a dollar on the scale it was being paid out.

There was so many lessons to glean out of the stone dressing days. As I was working, I really wanted to stop and retire from the instruction that I had asked for. I wanted the head knowledge without the blisters. I wanted an easy way out by letting those skilled at the labor take over after I had made small mistakes. I wanted to be good at it without trying. I was amazed at how skilled and strong my instructors were and how they knew exactly how much force was required with each stroke in order to shape the stone.

If I use this lesson of the stones as an analogy to this season of life, I know the next phase of learning is a lot like dressing stones, hard, dirty work of continuing to chisel out language, culture and life. There will be a lot of times where we will be thinking there is someone better equipped for this work, or that we just really want to stop, or is a dollar really worth this back breaking work.

Pray we continue despite the challenges and frustrations.

In my own spiritual life, I am also realizing my state is much like how our stones arrived, semi straight, and rough cut with so much work to do. The process of God molding me is similar to the axe taking off bits and pieces with the exact force that He requires. If I am going to be a stone of any sort of good, His shaping is necessary not  only for my own life but for the team and community that I am being placed.

We are currently finishing our Africa adjustment phase in Kenya and soon will be heading into South Sudan in stages.

Stage One:   I (Troy) go into South Sudan the first week of May to get our bearings and get set up for us within the guest houses for the Torit team. It will fit our family comfortably and will allow us to adjust to life in South Sudan closely surrounded by our caring team who knows how to thrive there.

Stage Two:  We meet as a family in Northern Kenya for an African Inland Mission Conference for the South Sudan teams. We are excited to meet all the other missionaries working in South Sudan with African Inland Mission and learn from their vast experience.

Stage Three:  Spend two more weeks in Kenya before heading out for a home school week where our kids will get evaluated and recommendations will be made for us.

Stage Four:  Pack up and head up as a family into South Sudan. If all is clear in South Sudan, we will head out in the beginning of June and join our team.

Within each of these stages there is so much learning to be done. We are so blessed to have others in all the stages to continue to guide us. We are excited for the team that God has brought together and we pray for others to come and join our team.

Please continue to pray for us daily, or weekly, or as much as you can. Pray for South Sudan, the country is still in much turmoil with conflict and famine. Pray for peace, for good rains and the ability to plant. Pray for the hand of God to restore the land, spiritually and physically. Pray for our family that the desire of our heart would be to serve each other and the communities around us. Pray that God would prepare our hearts and minds and that we would dwell on the truth.

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