Sunday at Kondiaal Parish, Kule 2 Refugee Camp
by Jeff Ritchie
Jacob, David, and I were picked up by our Ethiopian and Sudanese hosts and driven to one of the two parishes in Kule 2 refugee camps for worship Sunday morning. We arrived at Kondiaal Parish to the joyous musical greeting of youth and women and the warm handshakes of the leaders of the five congregation parish.
“Kondiaal” means “we are all together,” as this parish is composed of Nuer refugees from four-five parts of South Sudan. The congregation built their own sanctuary by themselves about a year ago, but the congregation that gathered for worship that morning was over 1,400, and the sanctuary was not sufficient. So we worshiped outside. Fortunately, the rain that had been falling all the way out to the camp stopped in time for worship.
Each time a visitor was introduced the congregation sang a welcome song. The youth, dressed in colorful shirts and blouses, sang many songs. Then it was the women’s turn to offer their praises. Our own David Paduil preached, and I presented a communion chalice as a symbol of our connection in Christ and a reminder that he shares the suffering of the refugees as they long for peace.
As we finished worship, the Rev. John Chuol Duel, Moderator of the Eastern Upper Nile Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (and our chief host) remarked, “See how important the worship of God is to our people in this time of suffering.” He went on to add that the two-hour service was short by comparison with what normally happens. “The youth normally want to sing well into the afternoon.” We were happy for the “short” service.
Afterwards, we were treated to lunch by the Women of the Church. With their resources they provided an amazing lunch that we ate, as the Bible says, “with glad and generous hearts.” Women indeed are the backbone of the church in every place.
We ate inside the Kondiaal sanctuary and I could not help but notice the chalk drawings on the walls. They had been drawn by children and youth. We will meet some of the children tomorrow who are in a preschool program supported by The Outreach Foundation. One drawing caught my eye: “Preaching according to the Word of God.” These youth are being taught the faith very early!
Tomorrow we go back to the camps. Stay tuned.
Associate Director for Mission