Rebuilding Hope in South Sudan - March 2015 Update
Commissioned Ruling Elder David Paduil, of the Sudanese Presbyterian Church in Gallatin, and I recently made a two-week trip to Ethiopia to learn the needs of refugees from the civil war in South Sudan who are in refugee camps in the Gambella Regional State of Ethiopia. After arrival in Addis Ababa we boxed 520 Nuer-language hymnals to take to Gambella in Western Ethiopia near the South Sudan border. We also petitioned the government office in Addis Ababa that administers refugee affairs for permission to enter the camps.
The next week was spent in Gambella. First, we met for three days with church leaders from four of the refugee camps where we listened to the needs of the refugees, traumatized by the 15 month-old civil war. A phrase heard over and over again was, “We left our country, but we have not left our God.” Their great cry was for Bibles and hymnals to be able to maintain their connection to God, their hope.
During the meeting with the leaders from the refugee camp, we introduced a children's literacy tool, "Big Books," to the participants. For the next hour the participants learned the story of "Handa's Surprise," a beautifully illustrated tale of two African girls. The group also took turns reading the story to each other. Translation into Nuer was provided for non-English speakers.
The group discussed how they could use these “Big Books” back in the camps. They could use them to teach children and adults directly. They could select some of the older children who have studied in English and make them teachers of the younger children. This would give these older youth a purpose, a sense of accomplishment, and train them as teachers in the process.
After the conference they took packets of hymnals, and we promised them we would find a way to get the 600 Bibles we had purchased in South Sudan through a South Sudanese church leader into Ethiopia and down to the camps as soon as possible.
The last two days of our mission in Gambella we visited the refugee camps in person. This was thanks to the tireless efforts of PC(USA) mission co-worker Michael Weller, who had hand-carried our letter of petition to the partner church in Ethiopia and then had carried the official request from the church to the office of Administration of Refugees that we be allowed into the camps.
We did hear about great needs in the camps, but we also saw great faith as we arrived in one camp the day that a youth/young adult Christian conference was to begin. We were welcomed with the song: “Welcome in peace in the name of Jesus.” The young people sang loudly and fervently in praise of God.
At another camp the young people sang about their sufferings and longings to return to South Sudan: “We are walking in a hard place, shedding our blood. Vultures surround us. Let it stop. We want to go back to the land flowing with milk and honey.”
We thank all the churches and partners who have supported this mission. The desperate cry is for peace so they can return.
Jeff Ritchie, Associate Director for Mission
The Outreach Foundation
Amount needed in 2015
The Outreach Foundation seeks to raise a minimum of $6,200 per month for training in peace-building, evangelism and education ministries in South Sudan and purchasing Bibles for new Christians. To make a donation, click the Donate Now link in the sidebar.
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