Jewi Refugee Camp
by Jeff Ritchie
By now we have come to expect a joyous, singing welcome when we visit churches, and the visit to the churches in the Jewi Refugee Camp was no exception. The Women of the Church welcomed us in song at the entrance to our first stop in Jewi accompanied by clapping, drumming, and waving what few Bibles they had in the air. As we settled in at the meeting place, it was the turn of the youth. Their happy welcome must have lasted ten minutes with hardly a pause to take a breath!
When things finally settled down, we were welcomed by the Rev. Steven, pastor-in-charge of the twenty-one churches in the camps. He introduced the other pastors who were present, and he also included pastors-in-training.
When it was the visitors’ turn to speak, the Rev. John Chuol Duel, Moderator of the Eastern Upper Nile Presbytery, spoke first. Then he turned to Elder Mary, head of Women’s Work (mentioned in yesterday’s blog), who encouraged the women of the camp: “You can do something. I hope we can provide you with a sewing machine to improve your lives.”
After the worship and meeting time, the Rev. Steven took us to the church he serves in the parish. He was particularly keen to show us six partially completed structures which will house the preschool classes his church has started. This effort to educate children is not a formal part of the education project which we saw Monday, but it is going on anyway. These elongated huts, called “tukuls,” just need a roof to keep off the rain to be immediately usable. Never mind that the children will have to sit on the ground or that the Presbytery’s Education Project did not have the budget to include them in the provision of classroom materials. They are going with what they have got.
This is the spirit of “asset-based community development.” We were impressed. The church also mentioned that they were interested in getting some fishing nets to be able to catch fish in the nearby river and thus supplement the food provided by the World Food Program of the United Nations.
As we left the Jewi Camp, we were impressed by what we saw in terms of church-based initiative, but sobered by the conditions under which these disciples are working. It was not lost on our group that we could leave the camp after a two-hour visit, but these folks had to remain behind. Circumstances beyond their personal control are keeping them in this camp, far from their homes. The trauma of the war has seared the soul of the people of South Sudan. While we heard many needs in each of our visits that related to life and well-being in the camps, the paramount need shared by all is for the peace to be implemented in South Sudan. Millions of refugees and internally displaced persons want to begin life again.
Pray for peace and for the rebuilding of hope in South Sudan.
by Associate Director for Mission