A word from Curt
It’s one of my favorite fancy words: juxtaposition.
It’s really a simple word with a short definition: It’s “comparing and contrasting two or more items.”
In this week’s Creekbank Storyletter, I’d like to share about three juxtaposed places.
- Africa. A week from today, my wife DeDe, sister Colleen, team leaders David and Renee Crane, and others leave Houston for Kenya. (I’m thinking of sending an adult chaperone for Colleen, DeDe, and Renee. I’ve seen them together in Africa and they are a hoot. They’re also gifted teachers to African women.)
They’ll be in the country from Sept.1-13 at northern Kenya’s sprawling (185,000 and counting) Kakuma Refugee Camp. Kakuma must be seen be to be believed. (Much of the Reese Weatherspoon movie “A Good Lie” takes place in Kakuma and I highly recommend this movie for those wanting to understand the South Sudanese refugee situation in Africa.)
Here’s how to pray for the Kakuma team:
- Safety. Northern Kenya is a dangerous place and Kakuma, with its large population of Somalians, Eritreans, and Ethiopian, plus all of the South Sudanese tribes, and can be volatile. I’m not sharing this to scare anyone, but simply to urge you to pray for safety and protection over the team.
- Health. It’s so easy for visitors to become ill in Africa. Pray for the team’s wellness, rest, and wisdom in eating and drinking.
- Connection. The ladies will be working with many tribes speaking dozens of dialects. Pray for connection of the ear and heart as they teach Bible stories. Pray for the women who will translate to each group. Pray that the women will carry the stories back to their camp block and teach them. I think of the powerful verse in Romans: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
I (Curt) leave a week later for Uganda. My trip will be split into two sections between Sept. 8-Oct. 1:
- Uganda Baptist Seminary. I really feel called to go teach (and learn) among the students from multiple countries attending our seminary. Most of you know that I’m not an ordained minister, but I do love studying and teaching God’s word. I’ll be teaching the book of Acts and found out earlier this week another course on Paul’s Letters. (When I arrive, I’m going to give Seminary President Dr. Anthony Shelton a good dutch rub for springing another course on me!)
Seriously, I’ve excited about this opportunity to deepen the influence and impact of my trip. Pray for focus and priority as I prepare. Pray that I’ll connect with the students and maintain a balance between being with them and spending private study time and rest. I ask that you pray that I’ll be depression-free (I’m doing great right now) and not contract any illnesses that would affect my teaching time.
- On September 24, I’ll travel Up Country to northern Uganda. I’ll be with our Borderlands Team visiting the refugee camps and churches that have multiplied since we left. I feel that this part of my trip has a two-fold purpose: to encourage believers in this war-torn area and to bear witness to the situation and return to report to you.
Pray fervently. Pray hard.
I’m not sure how much communication we’ll have, but check our Facebook feeds (@curtiles, @dedeiles, @colleenglaser, @reneecrane, @borderlands) for updates.
This is your last opportunity to get in on purchasing items for the trip. Our expenses are covered, but we could use funds for the following:
- One Seminary student needs $200 for this year’s tuition.
- We’ll make our final order of Bible Story Cloths and Audio players this week. The cloths are $7 each and Audio players are $60.
- Once I’m in Uganda, I’ll try to find Bibles in the main tribal languages Borderlands works with. Usually, these are about $15 each.
You can give through our Go Fund Me page or write a check to “Open Hands Missions” and mail to PO Box 6060/Alexandria, LA 71307. All gifts are tax deductible.
Westport and Sugartown.
As more readers are being captivated by the story of Missouri Cotton in As the Crow Flies, they’re also learning about two crossroad spots in western Louisiana. See map of western Louisiana.
One is a spot called Westport. It sits along La. Hwy 113 at its intersection with Hwy 462. It’s not found on many modern maps and is distinguished today by a historical marker listing the names of the participants in the Westport Fight of Christmas Eve 1881.
The Westport Store, the only business along this part of the frontier, was named by the proprietor, my great-great-great grandfather Joseph Moore, who named it after his hometown of Westport, County Mayo, Ireland.
The result of this violent gun battle known as The Westport Fight during which four men were killed. Due to this feud/fight, the area retains a unique character and personality to this day.
After the fight and the subsequent arson of Joe Moore’s Westport store, he and his family moved to Sugartown, the only true village on the Confederate Military Road (also called the Sugartown Road). There, Moore opened another store and that’s where my Iles branch was joined with the Moores.
In its late 19th heyday, Sugartown was called the “Jewel of the Frontier.” It featured churches, public schools, hotels, a hospital, and doctors, plus a Masonic Lodge. Most famously, it was the location of the Baldwin Male and Female Academy, a large (150 student) boarding school that attracted students from all across the Louisiana No Man’s Land and even east Texas.
This thriving Sugartown is where the second half of As the Crow Flies takes place.
There are three reasons I wrote this novel: First, I didn’t want The Westport Fight forgotten. It’s probably the only event where a part-Indian group held their ground and drove out the outsiders. I think that’s kind of neat and needs to be told and remembered.
Secondly, I wanted to restore Sugartown to its former glory, if only in the mind of readers.
I now call it Sad Sugartown. No businesses. Not even a post office. The railroads bypassed Sugartown and when its school closed in 1962, it’s downward spiral sped up.
However, it’s my ancestral home. Over forty Iles kin lie buried in the Baptist Cemetery. My grandson Jack and I cleaned the graves of his great-great-great-great-great grandparents last month. That’s history. As the Crow Flies restores Sugartown to its former glory, if only on the pages of a book.
Finally, I chose a fictional character, a drifting teen named Missouri Cotton, to tell the story. I wanted to be fair to both sides of the Westport Fight (Redbones and Whites) and answer Missouri’s requested question in the book, “Can a person ever really get past their past?”
I believe the answer is yes.
I also believe, like hundreds of other readers, you’ll enjoy As the Crow Flies.
Additionally, we are thrilled to release the Audible audio version of the book. Narrator Whitney Ann Jenkins “nails” Missouri’s voice and story in her extremely professional rendition.
I have a few free Audible downloads available for present Audible users. Contact me today by email.
You can also read sample chapters at Audible.
That’s our word:
Juxtaposition! That’s our word. Africa, Kenya, Westport, Uganda, Sugartown, Dry Creek, and Alexandria. Wow!
Blessings to all,