I wrote this last week when Joel was in Nairobi and I was processing the possibility of our early departure from South Sudan. It has been a difficult decision but one made slightly easier if I see it as an “evacuation order”: something that needs to happen for our own wellbeing. I wasn’t sure if I needed to post this “processing blog” but do think we should tell our avid readers (all 2 of you), who have chosen to journey with us on this adventure, where we are at and our plans for the future.


In the past two years, at the back of our minds, we have been prepared for the possibility of evacuation. We knew that coming to a place that is only recently out of war would mean there would still be times when the situation could become unstable. In 2010 during the election and referendum we knew that when we left for Nairobi we might not be able to return. I don’t think this is a pessimistic view because we always left with the hope of returning and we rejoiced in celebration during those historic moments of South Sudan’s journey. But the reality is that we keep our ears tuned to insecurities in the area, we have a quick run bag packed for a hasty departure, and in case we can’t leave, we have food and water stocks in our house. This has become our reality.

Our evacuation orders have come but they are much different than I imagined they would be.

We need to leave, not (directly) because of bombs or rebel soldiers, but because our bodies and minds have told us (in more ways than one) that it is time. And professionals in Nairobi have told us that if we choose not to listen and if we try to stay we will not be able to work well and we will not be able to live well. We, ourselves, have grieved with people who could not leave (for whatever reasons) and who suffered, traumatized by their experiences. And now we grieve as we think about leaving this place that has taught us many things, given us many questions, and shaped us in ways that we do not even know yet.


After discussions, prayers, and discernment we have decided to say goodbye to Rumbek at the end of March.


8 comments on “Evacuation

  1. it's like this, cat says:

    wishing you two well…praying for your total health and looking forward to seeing you back home. may you have some good ‘lasts’ this month – and travel safely!

  2. We love you, Joel and Heather! You have been present with others in their suffering and now you are choosing to give that same mindful presence to yourselves. You are God’s beloved children and I believe God is pleased by your actions. Hugs from Katie and Bryson.

  3. ZenLizzie says:

    I can’t imagine what a difficult decision this was for you, but I firmly believe in the “put your oxygen mask on first” idea. I think society sometimes tells us that valuable service means working until we break and have nothing left to give, but that’s not true. That’s not God’s plan for us. While I know this is heartbreaking in many ways, I’m glad that you are able to see the value in taking care of yourself too. I’ll be praying for you both and for your wellness and healing!

  4. pneudorf says:

    I’ve been following your blog and can see that this decision must have taken a lot of courage and strength. I know we haven’t seen each other or talked to each other in years, but I’m thinking of you! Take care – Paul

  5. Sounds like a hard decision, but Canada will welcome you with open arms. Will you be making Saskatchewan or Manitoba home? I’m thinking of moving back myself but waiting for some sign or something before making the move.

  6. Hey Joel & Heather!
    I know we may have only met briefly, but i simply wanted to say you both inspired me so much with your courage. And this decision is only deepening my respect for you – knowing to leave takes such courage. My prayers and hopes for all the best for you both!!

  7. […] March 1 in Rumbek is our last still frame/still life in South Sudan. By April 1 we should be all packed up and in Nairobi. I started still frame/still life posts […]

  8. […] – The hot, dry, dusty season in Rumbek was how we said goodbye to South Sudan. We went on one last parish visit to Agangrial and had many going away parties. We left two days […]

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