To Be Honest

A few days ago, I (Stacey) sat chatting with my dear friend and neighbor. We were both contemplating our upcoming “goodbye” because she and her family were preparing to leave for a visit to South Africa and we will not be around when they return. We tried to make a few jokes to lighten the sadness weighing us down. She dryly quipped that we should take a “selfie” of the two of us and put it on facebook. Only she called it “fakebook”. I had to laugh. We debated about whether we should take a “before” shot (pre-tears) or “after” and both decided that an “after” shot was out! Nothing would ruin the mood of facebook like a messy picture of the two of us with mascara running down our tear-streaked faces, noses red and running. It was good to laugh before we cried.
Funny, how God always puts the most beautiful people in my life – for a season. But oh how it hurts when He moves me (or them) away. This time its me.
M– is gone now. She left on Saturday…no one to borrow a cup of sugar from or share a coveted piece of dark chocolate… As a matter of fact, pretty much every one on our little neighborhood compound is away. So I went over and sat in my neighbor’s house for a little solitude today (yes, she left me the key). I needed some alone time to pray and think about this last year and four months in Kenya. I thought of our SIM South Sudan teammates.
Within a couple of weeks of arriving last year, Mark and I found ourselves in neck-deep. It was like jumping off a high dive (or a cliff, some days). I wondered aloud if I would ever feel like I fit in, if they would ever be like the missionary “family” I remembered in Zambia. Slowly, the months passed. Our team braved robberies, medical emergencies, marital and family stress, interpersonal conflict, new babies born, and multiple evacuations – to name a few. We prayed, encouraged, counseled, mediated, skyped, and visited. We found ourselves in awe of them –their resilience, their love, their fortitude. They embraced us, wholeheartedly. They embraced our children. And when we struggled with our own really tough circumstances, they reached out and loved us –like family. We fit in.
That’s why it is all the harder to leave later this month. The only thing that keeps my mascara from running when I think about it is that Mark and I will travel back in January for their annual Spiritual Life Conference.
Still, don’t expect too many happy pictures from me on facebook this month. Yes, I am excited about the new roles awaiting us with SIM USA back in Charlotte. I also couldn’t be happier that we will be living right down the road from my twin sister and her family. And it makes me REALLY REALLY happy to hear that Katie is more like her old self again already…
But for now, we are still saying goodbye here and, just to be honest, it hurts.
“Though the Lord brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love.” Lam.3:32

Receiving some encouraging words from our team

Receiving some encouraging words from our team

Goodbye prayer for Conards2

The team prays for us at the end of our “farewell” party.


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“I Thought I Would Kill Them All!”

“When I came to this class, my heart was full of hate for the S**A. They have killed my brother! After I served with them and gave 20 years of my life with them in the bush, but now they have killed my own brother!…I thought I would kill them all!…but then I came here and have heard a different way. I have learned about forgiveness…I never knew that unforgiveness would keep me chained to them. But now I know, and with God’s help I will begin to forgive them so that I can be free.”…Hakim’s story  (with permission)

Hakim at the Healing Wounds of Trauma Equipping Session

Hakim at the Healing Wounds of Trauma Equipping Session

Clay figures symbolizing recent traumatic events in South Sudan. These were created by participants.

Clay figures symbolizing recent traumatic events in South Sudan. These were created by participants.

Last week, we were able to gather with 25 South Sudanese community and church leaders for a Trauma Healing Equipping Session. In this five day, intensive Equipping Session participants were learning how to be healing group facilitators. We took them through all 11 topics of the Healing Wounds of Trauma material, sharing how Christ is not only our SIN BEARER but also our PAIN BEARER. In a moving ceremony towards the end, participants are invited to pray and write down their painful memories, then burn them in front of a wooden cross to symbolize the freedom and healing available in Christ. Many painful stories were shared and even tears shed during the week. But by the time of the ceremony, there were also beautiful testimonies of forgiveness and healing (like Hakim’s, above).

Rachel shared this:  “In December the fighting started in Malakal. On Christmas Day we were hiding under the beds. It seemed like the worst Christmas. Always before on Christmas Day we were celebrating, putting on new clothes, eating together. But this year…our hearts were under the bed. Fighting was all around us….but maybe…maybe it was the best Christmas really…because we were together praying…” Rachel and other women from the church in Malakal hid her husband Pastor Peter and other men in a secret place. When soldiers came to kill the men, the women risked their own lives to distract the soldiers and send them in another direction.  Although she witnessed many horrible things, Rachel is a beautiful example of God’s grace and healing. She is already reaching out to many other women in the name of Christ.

TH Equipping

Pastor J shared  that the current conflict in South Sudan has hurt his people in many ways. But the Trauma Healing ministry has made a great impact on his life:   “Before, my people would come to me with their stories of pain and they were angry. I did not know how to help them because I was hurting and angry too. But now I have experienced healing and I have learned how to forgive. I am better able to help my people by taking them to God’s Word.”

At the end of the Equipping Session, participants met together to map out a plan for leading healing groups among the South Sudanese refugee communities here in Nairobi.  By God’s grace, they are looking to reach over 110 people with the hope and healing of Scripture in the next three months. Please be in prayer for this ministry as they take hold of it and carry it forward – to the glory of God.

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed…The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  2Tim.4:17,18.

Team of Teaching Facilitators for the Equipping Session

SIM Team of Training Facilitators for the Equipping Session




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Serving the Saints

Mark's recent visit to folks in Cairo who are learning Arabic.

Mark’s recent visit to our folks in Cairo who are learning Arabic.


Mk care in Cairo!

TCK care in Cairo!

Planning a trip to Doro May 28-June 5

Planning a trip to Doro
May 28-June 5

This last month has been busy and challenging as we have been faced with a major family decision. For those who did not get the newsletter, please click here for an explanation.

Mark traveled to Cairo earlier this month, to visit those in Arabic language study. He and teammate Tohru, one of the RDs for the SSudan Team, made the trip together. This was really beneficial for Mark as Tohru is fluent in Arabic! The trip was meant as an encouragement to the team as they are in a very difficult situation. Many of them are aching to return to the work in South Sudan, but for now that is still not possible.

Mark and Andrew (Director) will make a trip up to Juba and then our SIM base in Doro, South Sudan (Upper Nile Region) May 28-June5th. We currently have 8 SIMers on the ground there. Please pray for safety as Mark and Andrew travel and that they will be a great help and encouragement to the others who are very weary at this time. Please also pray for South Sudanese refugees in Mabaan county.  Food is scarce. Sporadic fighting also continues to break out in different parts of the country. Pray that it will not touch Mabaan and that the ministries there can continue. The church is growing and people are receiving the Gospel. Pray that they will grow in their new-found faith.

Ladies fellowship

Ladies fellowship

God is moving in the hearts of people in South Sudan. Pray for them! Pray for the missionaries who work there!

God is moving in the hearts of people in South Sudan. Pray for them! Pray for the missionaries who work there!

Back in Nairobi, Stacey and three other facilitators will be leading a week-long Equipping session June 2-6. It is designed to train South Sudanese church leaders in the Trauma Healing program. After they learn how to lead the healing groups, these christian leaders will be able to carry on the Trauma Healing ministry within their community here in Nairobi and also back in South Sudan.  Pray that those who attend will be focused and teachable. Pray for healing of the deep hurts in their lives. Pray for the Gospel to be shared and lived out through this ministry.

Other important PRAYER REQUESTS:

Pray for God’s provision of housing and a vehicle for us in the US as we take on our Member Care ministry role at the SIM US office in Charlotte, NC.

Pray for safety and that we will finish well here in Nairobi before our departure July31st. Grace and Katie will go ahead to the US with their grandmother this week on May 28 -so please pray for their safe travels and adjustment back to the states. Pray especially for Katie as she has had a difficult month here in Nairobi with the increased terrorist alerts and bombings. We will follow with the boys at the end of July.

Pray that our monthly financial partners in ministry will continue to stand with us. We have received overwhelming encouragement and support for our decision. Thank you so much for that!

As we mentioned in our newsletter: we remain dedicated to the task of Pastoral/ Member Care with SIM. Our service as missionaries will NOT end as we make this transition back to the US. Rather, our sphere of service will change and widen.  We will be returning briefly to Nairobi in January to serve the S.Sudan team during their annual Spiritual Life Retreat. Afterwards, Mark is hoping to travel to other areas of Africa to minister to SIM missionaries before attending a Member Care conference in Turkey. Without the continued support of our ministry partners, we cannot provide this type of vital pastoral care.

Many Blessings,

The Conards:  Mark, Stacey, Grace, Katie, Ben, Josiah, and Isaac

“…they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints…they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also…” I Corinthians 16:15-18.




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“I Think My Life Will Be Changed Forever…”

“Before, I felt that if the people who hurt me ever again came within my reach I would kill them! No one ever told me how to forgive. But now I know, and I think my life will be changed forever.”…Ana

“Today I feel it is a new day. I am free.”…Mary

“I had so much bitterness. I never knew that really only I am the one carrying the burden. The ones who hurt me have moved on. Now I know how to forgive and move on.” …Awar

“I have learned so much…things I never knew before. Now I understand that not forgiving only hurts me.”… Jon

These are the words of some of the South Sudanese refugees who have completed the Healing the Wounds of Trauma groups.

Discussing "How to Live as Christians in the Midst of Conflict".

Discussing “How to Live as Christians in the Midst of Conflict”.

Mark demonstrates a lesson on the burden of unforgiveness.

Mark demonstrates a lesson on the burden of unforgiveness.

Participants in the Trauma healing groups write down their pain (using words, pictures, or symbols) on pieces of paper then take them to the cross.

Participants in the Trauma healing groups write down their pain (using words, pictures, or symbols) on pieces of paper then take them to the cross.

The papers are burned to symbolize God's work of healing and restoration. Beauty from ashes...

The papers are burned to symbolize God’s work of healing and restoration. Beauty from ashes…

Now that we have graduated three healing groups (over 150 people), the next step is to identify community leaders from these groups who will be trained as facilitators to lead future healing groups in the South Sudanese refugee community. We plan to hold an “Equipping Session” for a week this Summer to train these new facilitators.

Please pray for all those who have attended healing groups, that they will experience continued restoration. Pray also that God will raise up the local Sudanese church to lead in this training for their hurting community.


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Healing The Wounds of Trauma

Seven South Sudanese women crowd together on two hard, wooden benches in the little church. Despite the differences in age and tribe, they share a common despair. To me they look world-weary, eyes overflowing with hurt. They speak of war and hopelessness…of living in the agony of uncertainty as their homeland implodes. There are loved ones missing, dead. And hope that sprang up alive and green in their hearts less than a year ago has been cruelly cut down once again.

What can I offer them? I feel the enormity of their suffering wash over me. Never have I experienced the types of trauma they are revealing…how can I speak to their need? I can’t.

But God’s Word can.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lam.3:21,22)

I cannot offer these women food and medicine today – there are other great organizations who are trying to help with that. But that is not their greatest need. Their greatest need is HOPE. As they go around the circle and share their single most difficult feeling, they share the words: “Hopeless – we feel hopeless”. It reminds me poignantly of Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Truly, they are heart-sick.

We continue together and I lead them through the first lesson of a book called Healing the Wounds of Trauma. We open up God’s Word together. These women listen hungrily, eagerly, grasping for…hope. They ask questions and share stories. “Why does God allow suffering?” “Are we cursed? Our neighbors say we are…” “Can God use suffering in my life?” “Do I have to earn His favor? What can I do?”…

O glorious Gospel! The Gospel of grace, of unmerited favor… I share in English and they repeat over and over to one another in Dinka and Arabic: “because of His great love for usfor by grace you have been saved thru faith...” (Ephesians 2:4,8,9). Eyes and hearts open. I see a glimmer…as despair begins to melt around the edges.

Six more meetings to go, every Sunday afternoon. I encourage them to keep coming. We will cover topics like: Healing heart wounds, Grief, Helping children through trauma, Forgiveness, Taking our pain to the cross, and Living as Christians in the midst of conflict. They seem eager to keep going. It is only with great difficulty that I convince them that our time today is finished, and we pray together. I am just as excited as they are to see what God will do!th 196






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Why Do We Love Homeschooling?

 Just Some Of The Reasons…

This year marks 12 years of homeschooling for our family. It has suited us well first in Zambia, then with all the military moves, and now here in Nairobi. Though Grace and Benjamin have enjoyed this past year at the local American mission school, Grace is eager to come back to homeschooling for her senior year this Fall. Katie, Josiah, and Isaac are excelling at their home education and each at their own pace.  The neat thing is that we as parents can encourage their strengths, strengthen their weak areas, and love them like no one else. No matter where kids attend school, learning and growing should ALWAYS be happening at home…



Breaks when we need them!

Breaks when we need them!

Individualized Learning

Individualized Learning

More creating... The Earth Core

The Earth Core

Culinary Skills Developed. This is Isaac's Grilled Peanut Butter and Nutella Sandwich

Culinary Skills Developed.
This is Isaac’s Grilled Peanut Butter and Nutella Sandwich

More Individualized Learning...(notice the clay person with the speech bubble to learn the word "said". Josiah's idea.

More Individualized Learning…(notice the clay person with the speech bubble to learn the word “said”. Josiah’s idea.

Some things will always stick! Isaac baked a model of sedimentary rock layers. Yum!

Some things will always stick!
Isaac baked a model of sedimentary rock layers. Yum!

Real Live Science! Ben finds a specimen for us to observe, study, and release.

Real Live Science!
Ben finds a specimen for us to observe, study, and release.

Where the magic happens! The dining room tables transforms itself to a family learning center every morning.

Where the magic happens!
The dining room tables transforms itself to a family learning center every morning.

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Grace abounding…

These last two months have been full of activity.

After the team evacuation from South Sudan in December and January, we gathered for a workshop to discuss personal and family risk thresholds. After facilitating a discussion with the parents, Stacey presented their ideas to the larger group. This gave us the opportunity as a team to discuss the biblical meaning of risk and suffering and how it applies to each of us as we follow God’s call both here in Nairobi and in South Sudan.

In early January, we sent a four person assessment group back into Doro. We have been unable to send anyone back into Melut or Malakal. In mid-February, several teammates made the decision to spend a few months in North Africa studying Arabic in anticipation of their future work back South Sudan. Others have taken early Home Assignment for now. At the end of February, we were able to send four more SIMers into Doro to help carry on the work of the clinic and nutrition village. Depending on the situation, more team members may be able to return to Doro in a few weeks. Unfortunately, Malakal has been destroyed by the fighting. We are uncertain of the situation in Melut.

Most recently, Mark and I both completed Advanced Trauma Healing training with several of our team members. Our hope is that this material, created by SIL, will help open doors of healing for many of the South Sudanese both here in Nairobi (where many have fled) and in South Sudan.

Healing wounds of trauma book

2014-02-21 14.04.06Trauma Healing class

A friend gifted Mark and me with a much needed rest day at a local tea farm which included a lovely tour and a delicious lunch. THANK YOU!

Tea farmAt the tea farm

We sent Benjamin off to his first Middle School Banquet…

Ben ms banquetBen

And we are celebrating Grace’s 17th birthday this month! Hard to believe.

2013-12-13 12.01.54We love you Gracie!!

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor.9:8
Please keep our family in your prayers as we continue to seek Christ daily and make Him known wherever we are. Pray for our children -their peace and safety here in Nairobi and that they will personally follow Christ. For us as their parents that we will lead them with love and godliness. Pray for our marriage – to be strengthened and to glorify God and to be a witness to our children. Pray for our work in missionary care that we will have hearts of tenderness, that we will be wise with our time and discerning in our call. Thank you!
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