Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trip to Melut

Over the past week I (Eli) have been in Melut, South Sudan to investigate a possible ministry location for our family after language study.  Gideon Theological College was started here by the Sudan Interior Church and the Sudan Church of Christ over 30 years ago.  The war caused it to shift locations but now it is back in Melut and it has a wide and deep needs.  Here are a few pictures:

Chris Crowder, director of SIM Sudan in the library.  3 full shelves of English volumes and 1 shelf of Arabic.  There are many books waiting to be shelved too.


The Tukul (hut) where we stayed for the week.  It was very windy and freezing cold in the morning but warmed up in the afternoon.  The water was wonderful for swimming although I did keep close to the shore.  The beauty of the sunsets was astonishing.


There is only one classroom right now.  GTC has 18 students.  They are all in their 3rd year of pursuing their Bachelor of Arts, a four year program.


The sunrise on the morning we left.  You can see a fisherman already out in his wooden canoe.


Chris Crowder, Hellene Samia (head teacher of our SIC Secondary School), Hiakie Hegui (SIC Secondary School), and Dr. Donker (present Academic Dean of GTC) at the entrance to the college.


Any verse come to mind when you see a weapon turned into a tool?  There is a vise welded to the top of this exploded bomb.  Check out Isaiah 2:4.  This is our prayer for this place.


The needs of GTC are immense.  There is great need to build more teacher housing, student housing and classrooms.  There is great need for teachers.  There is great need for partners to give scholarships and financially back the school.  Do you see a way for you to meet any of these needs?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More news from Sudan

November 27, 2011:Refugee Numbers Increasing in Doro; Inadequate Food/Water/Medical Care

 Based upon an assessment from Samaritan's Purse, here's what we now know about the current situation in Doro:

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has registered 8,700 refugees in the Doro area, but the numbers are expected to increase, as entire villages of people are migrating down across the border, heading for Maaban County. Very shortly, it is expected the numbers will surpass 10,000.

· Inadequate food supply: the UNHCR has already distributed and ran out of their food stocks; the World Food Programme has yet to appear on the scene. Food available in the markets is insufficient to feed the swarms of refugees now camped out in the area. Refugees who have been walking for weeks/months are severly malnourished.

· Water & Sanitation: the average wait at one of the 3 boreholes within walking distance of the camp is 4-5 hours. Lack of proper latrines, basic hygiene supplies, and clean water is likely to lead to a disease outbreak.

· Health: Hospital patient numbers continue to rise as refugee population swells. There is limited nursing/hospital staffing. Dr. Atar, with support from Samaritan's Purse, is setting up a clinic with surgical capacity in Bunj. Medecins Sans Frontiers ("Doctors Without Borders") is moving in to set up a temporary medical facility which will most likely focus on critical care.

· Security: There have been very large troop buildups to secure the border of Upper Nile. There is minimal troop presence in Doro, mainly those in transport to the border regions. Aside from hearing Antenovs circling occasionally, there are no security indicators to point towards a northern attack on Upper Nile. There have recently been nightly bombings in Yabus (Blue Nile State), however there have not been any additional across-border bombings in Upper Nile as of late.

 SIM Sudan is sending in an assessment team next week, flying into Doro on Tuesday, November 29th, which will hopefully lead to a strategic plan for how we can play a role in the relief work among refugees in the area, while partnering with the local church. A few of their objectives will be: (1) Explore how our facilities can be used as a blessing in the crisis (2) Evaluate nutritional needs and leprosy care (3) Encourage our staff (4) Evaluate the current medical ministry (5) Assess security that would directly affect SIM missionaries (6) Make further instruction to employees

 Critical questions: "How is God moving in this situation? How do we fit into His plan? How can we partner with the Sudanese church to provide relief to these refugees? Where will the funding come from?"

 All of these questions can be overwhelming. SIM Sudan may not be poised as a relief organization, but Jesus responded with compassion when He saw the crowds. (Matt. 9:36, Matt. 14:14, Matt. 15:32) How might we follow His example?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recent News from our area of Sudan

November 22, 2011

 Situation in Doro, eastern Upper Nile State, South Sudan - Plans for a Permanent UN Camp

 Through various sources, we’ve been able to gather some information on the situation in Doro. What we do know: Tens of thousands of refugees are streaming in from Blue Nile region, and have camped out at Doro, as they are not allowed in the neighboring trading center of Bunj. The sea of people stretches for many kilometers.

 We have heard that conditions are very bad. Young and old are suffering, as they have walked many kilometers without adequate food or water. (Some have been walking for up to a month, coming from Blue Nile Region.) Last night, temperatures dropped to 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 Celsius), leaving blankets and clothing wet from heavy dew, presenting a risk of hypothermia. The UN has now assumed responsibility for refugees in this area (they are “wards” of the UN), and our understanding is that the UN plans to set up a permanent camp in Doro.

 In regards to security, there have been no bombings within Upper Nile region since the last incident in New Guffa. Many bombings have been reported inside Blue Nile State (ie. Chali, Yabus airstrip, Bellatuma), and theoretically, bombing in Doro is still a possibility. However, two SPLA (army of South Sudan) divisions have formed a defensive curtain along the border between South Sudan and Sudan. Many have cited the possibility of cross-border militia attacks.

 As of now, the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) has a presence in Doro, along with a handful of other volunteers from various NGOs. The Doro Primary Health Care Unit is currently being operated by our Community Health Workers, trained by Barb Hartwig and Vicki Beattie in the CHW program. Dr. Atar, a Sudanese doctor from Kurmuk, has set up his operations in Bunj clinic, with support from Samaritan’s Purse (SP). SP is sending an assessment team of 3-4 people into Doro this week to determine the current situation, and to do a basic security, health and WASH (Water and Sanitation) assessment. SIM is open to sending in a similar team for assessment purposes, to determine what the current patient load is at the clinic, and to collect accurate data on the situation in Doro.

 Now that Doro village is host to tens of thousands of refugees, we believe that the human landscape of Doro area has been completely altered. Our brothers and sisters from the SIC church of Blue Nile have scattered to Ethiopia and to Bunj. God’s people, who became a church through SIM’s efforts, are now in trouble again.

 We covet your prayers as we wrestle with these questions, desiring to be sensitive to God’s leading.

· Pray that SIM’s Safe Drinking Water program, based in Doro can respond through our borehole drilling partners

· Pray for protection for the young and the old

· Pray for permanent camp facilities to develop quickly

· Entreat the Lord for workers to help reopen the SIM Doro PHCC

· Pray that the bombing and militia attacks in Blue Nile would cease

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reports from our SIM bases in Sudan

Thursday, Nov. 10: Our 6 team members from Doro have arrived safely to Nairobi, and are now settling into their respective homes and guesthouses.  The nightly sounds of bombardment from 30 to 40km away have been taking an emotional toll on them. Pray that this would now be an opportunity for rest and refreshment.

 The Blue Nile conflict at this point is threatening the security of the Doro base. However, all other bases (Melut, Malakal, and Thiangrial) are secure and unaffected. Although we are looking for other flights of opportunity, the remaining 5 team members will exit Doro on Monday 14 November by MAF charter. They are tired but doing well.


Update on Doro team (11 Nov 12:21pm South Sudan time)
MAF has redirected a flight to pick up our last 5 team members in Doro at 1:30pm this afternoon. They will be flown to Juba, sleep there overnight at the MAF compound, before heading to Nairobi on an MAF flight Saturday.
 The situation is still deteriorating in the area, and there have been a total of three bombings across the border into Southern Sudan. The Doro team will remain in Nairobi until there is a semblance of security and stability in the the region. Streams of refugees have been pouring into the Doro area from Blue Nile State. Refugees are camping out around the clinic, for access to the borehole and medical attention. Please pray for our Sudanese staff who are continuing to keep the clinic running at a PHCU level (Primary Health Care Unit).
Pray for Bob Ihrig, Karissa Cail, Christiane Fox, Sheila West, and Neil ingall, as they are in transition. We thank God for giving them a measure of courage to persevere through difficult circumstances and close down the base in a thorough and efficient manner. Pray that a hedge of protection would guard the Doro base throughout this turbulent period.

Prayer Points:

· Please pray for the clinic as it reverts back to PHCU (Primary Health Care Unit) staffed by Sudanese community health workers.

· Pray for group debrief sessions in the coming weeks.

· Pray that the Lord would hold back conflict and restrain war-like political threats.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grieving




                                                                 Where to start?

We spent the years 2007-2010 in a beautiful, very rural area of South Sudan called Yabus. We joined an international team and settled into our new home with a 2 year old and a 1 year old. Our first year was full of learning the culture, learning Arabic, learning how to cook on charcoal, washing clothes by hand, learning how to kill snakes, scorpions and other freaky insects and bats, and building relationships with the beautiful Sudanese people we’d loved even before we arrived.

            Originally we were only supposed to spend 6 months in Yabus for culture and language study but we fell in love with the people and area and saw endless opportunities we could plug into ministry, so we stayed. We raised our family of boys there those 3 years. Bush life was all they knew. Our youngest son, Joshua came to Yabus at only 2 months of age.

            In April 2010 we packed up our Yabus home and stored it in a metal container to leave for a 9 month home assignment, expecting to come right back. Instead we decided to first spend a year in North Sudan to study Arabic further before returning. During the past few months as we’ve lived in Khartoum, the situation in Blue Nile State and Yabus has gone from bad to worse. After the separation of North and South Sudan in July 2011, Blue Nile State is now considered North Sudan. So really it was a matter of time before the North came to “claim” their land. But the way they have claimed it has killed, injured, and terrorized many many people. Thousands of people have fled to refugee camps in Ethiopia and other states further south in Sudan. There has been bombing in the towns north of Yabus and in Yabus as well. Our team had to evacuate in June and then again in August, this time for good. This week we heard from our compound manager that army troops came to the compound and took our truck and quad bike and have probably taken other things from our compound.

            This is a great loss. Everything we poured our lives into those 3 years is gone. I’m not worried about the stuff. But everyone we ever greeted and loved on has had to run for their lives. They’ve left homes, gardens, goats, everything they own to flee to a place where they probably won’t have those things. How do they feel? What are they thinking? I don’t know how to process all of this. I feel like a huge chunk of my heart has been cut out and something is dying inside of me. Is this how it’s going to continue to be? After language school when we move to a new place, might we have to hold lightly and recognize that we might have to leave again? This is way harder than saying goodbye. When and how will I ever see all those friends, those brothers and sisters again?

            When we first came to Sudan in 2007, a very experienced missionary who’d lived in multiple countries in East Africa, including Sudan during the war, told us, “Be careful not to pour too much effort into buildings and stuff that can fall apart or be destroyed. Pour into people. If a building is toppled, a person still survives and what you’ve poured into them still survives wherever they go.” Now I see what he means. Eli sweat and spent many months building the secondary school, buildings on our compound, a water system from the river, and the Unity Bridge. What will that all come to? I don’t know. But we also poured even more into those dear people from 5 different tribes. We lived with them. We ate with them. We did life on life. And I pray that as I grieve this loss that I will remember that God goes with His children, most especially in their suffering and sorrow, and I pray that whatever Hope He planted in their hearts, will burn now more than ever, and grow their faith to get them through this season. And I pray that God will teach us more about Himself and how He wants to use us in this torn up nation.


 Our Yabus Compound


The boys spent many hot afternoons down at the river with their friends


Joshua was right at home in Yabus -  happy and content


Unity Bridge - an effort made by 5 tribes and Eli that took a year and a half to complete but changed life for the whole community every rainy season thereafter.

my sweet lady friends - the wives of our BELC students (adults going through primary school)