as some of you might have known, I had the opportunity to go to South Sudan for 7 days with an evangelical missions emphasis at the end of April and at the request of others, I would like to share a little bit of what we did there...
A brief background, South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011, and was considered by the UN as the most least developed nation in the world circa 2007. Much of the country's history has been marked by civil wars caused by economic, political, racial, and religious motives. It is not hard to find anyone in South Sudan who has been directly affected by the war-- death, suppression, kidnapping, and rape were considered norms and only recently has this country been given the brief opportunity to recoup, heal, and build up. I say brief, because it is inevitable that Northern Sudan will initiate war in the very near future. The country's education and health systems are in extremely poor shape as well.
Our purpose in South Sudan was two-fold--the first was to encourage and support local churches already established in the area. The second is to make the local churches a driving force in their community in terms of food, health, and education. All these 3 areas are severely underfunded currently due to government corruption and funds are prioritized for the upcoming war. Because the government has their hands completely tied, the church is the only institution in the region that is organized enough to help meet these needs. It would be easy to set up a clinic or build bridges and irrigation ditches then leave, but we are far more interested in long term results. We would like to see nationals support themselves, and empower them by giving them the skills to accomplish what they desire to see in their communities. Future plans include health clinics that will educate communities about HIV/AIDS, as well as setting up schools for children.
The area I was sent to cover was a town called Hai City, located in Yei County, one of the 10 counties of South Sudan, located close to the Republic of Congo.
In comparison with other villages, Hai City appeared to be very densely populated, but most business appeared to occur on the center road. Many are refuges from Dafur. It could be considered an equivalent of suburban sprawl, but plots of land were about on average 100 x 100 ft for each family. Houses were made from mud, with wood used as skeletal frame and a metal roof to protect the walls from rain during the rainy season. The people here are subsistence farmers with their crops primarily being maize, rice, beans, peanuts. Those that are better off grow papaya, mango, onion, and tomato. Reality is very harsh as these farmers only have the rain to rely on for watering their crops.
Hai City also has a very large number of kids---in fact I predominantly worked with kids. Without getting preachy, it was definitely humbling to see how these kids interacted with each other. Looking in their eyes, you know that many of them have lived lives far more harsh than anything like in the States. Some of them suffer from malnutrition, others from worms, hepatitis, etc etc, but yet, they are able to experience joy and satisfaction in ways I wish I could. The groups of kids seem to be overseen by older girls, who give any misbehaving kids a good twack on the head (regardless of relation). Almost similar to "Lord of the Flies," the kids have no real adult supervision, and by default, all older kids look after younger kids---ie 8-9 year olds looking after 2 year olds, as you will see in a few of the photos here.
So, I think I've talked enough---i'll let the pictures do the talking, with a caption sprinkled here and there....
plane used to fly into Yei, Sudan--from Entebbe, Uganda
downtown Hai City
downtown market place
Joseph, the local pastor in Hai City--worked alongside this guy for the entire week.
more pics of Hai:
almost all the roads in Sudan are dirt roads....very rare to encounter paved roads. makes for an exciting trip on a 4x4 because of erosion
and kids...kids, kids, kids.... very excited about the camera... many have never really seen their own faces before.
they look so happy and you get the sick feeling in your gut that kids their same age 10-15 years ago fought as soldiers...
asians arent the only ones. no, i didnt teach them....
getting ready for a story and coloring....many of them did not know how to use crayons. we actually had to teach them.