Sorrow in South Sudan

By Michael A.

  Michael Alemu with child   mother and child

Editor’s note: In December the world’s newest nation became the world’s latest war zone, as South Sudan plunged into a merciless civil war between rival tribes and militias. 10,000 or more have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have fled for their lives—most ending up in squalid and hopelessly overcrowded refugee camps. Readers who have seen “Father, Give Me Bread”  (Dispatches from the Front: Episode 5) will recall Michael and how he pours his life into mercy ministries for orphans and the disabled as well as wide-ranging efforts in church planting and pastoral training in Ethiopia and South Sudan. He and his team of pastors are now in South Sudan and northern Uganda to minister to the pressing needs of the refugees—both physical and spiritual. The following is a first-hand report from him from the frontlines of South Sudan.

Thank you for your continued prayers for the current situation in S. Sudan. As you know, the conflict in just three weeks has resulted in the death and injury of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese.  We are partnering with the local leadership to reach out to the displaced people both internally and outside the borders of the country.

Our team was overwhelmed when we met nearly 2,500 children and women who were dumped in a small compound and languishing under the intense sun.  The refugee desk officer told us that they are praying that there will be no rain. He is terrified of the devastation and sickness if it rains.  He is working with local schools and churches to try to move the current refugees fast enough so that he can make room at the processing center for those arriving daily.  The biggest challenge he has right now is for water and sanitation.

We watched dozens of children sleeping under the sun. Older siblings, mothers, and grandmothers are holding babies, waiting for a miracle.  Some suffer from cuts, infections, and illnesses. Some children are resilient, smiling and goofing off. Others look lost and confused. Teenagers put on brave faces. Young girls who are supposed to be in school have to learn to spend nights sleeping under the open sky, vulnerable and afraid. They may be outside the country, but they are not safe.  These are somebody’s daughters, granddaughters, nieces. What will be their future?

We seek to focus our response to groups that are most vulnerable and are in geographic regions where we believe we can make a difference and have a legitimate responsibility and capacity to respond. Specifically, we want to focus on five geographic locations that support approximately 17,500 people: Revival Conference Centre, Kajo-Keji County, South Sudan—3,000 people; Rajaf—2,500 people; Bari Parish in Central Juba—3,500 people; Kuda Refugee Settlement Centre, Juba County—2,500 people; and Zaipi Refugee Centre, Adjoumani, Uganda—6,000 people.

refugees

The above centers are chosen with the understanding that we already have established presence and we have the human resources and coordination capacity to implement relief and development care.  The needs are urgent, specifically in Kajo-Keji and Juba where there are no United Nations emergency assistance programs in those centers.  Our plan is to provide support by 1) Assistance in providing Food, Shelter, Medicine and Essential Supplies, and 2) Evangelism and Scripture Placement. Predictable, scheduled, equitable, and transparent approach to distribution of emergency aids will be ensured, and evangelism and Scripture Placement programs for children and adults will be established in existing shelters and newly erected tents to provide spiritual care and counseling.

One of the most critical needs we have at four of the five centers chosen is installing water systems. We are estimating $65,000 to install clean drinking water in four locations with priority given to Zaipi Refugee Centre, Revival Conference Centre in Kajo-Keji, and Kuda Refugee Settlement Centre in Juba.  For example, the Zaipi Refugee Center in Adjoumani, Uganda has an extreme shortage of drinking and cooking water. The current water supply was meant for 500 people. However, there are currently 6,000 people who have camped there. Most of the people are young children and women.  There is sufficient water to bring across from Adjoumani town’s water system, but we need pipes, generator, water tanks, and water distribution points. We have checked for prices in Kampala and for just under $10,000 we can purchase, transport and build large water storage tanks and install distribution pipes and taps throughout the compound of the refugee center.  The supplies and installers will be transported from Kampala to Adjoumani.  When this crisis is over, the water system will be used for Christian conferences and training events that will be hosted at the center and will be used for many years to come.

refugee camp         refugee children

It is my firm belief that God has a perfect plan for South Sudan.  This setback is not the end of the work of God or this nation. It will take us time to get things back on track and planning will need to be adjusted. Such is God’s work, and He is not caught by surprise. He will continue to reveal to us the next chapter for this nation.

Please consider helping Michael and these pastors in this urgent mission of mercy by designating a gift to provide clean water in these refugee camps. This is a plea to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” with the love of Christ. I’m grateful for Michael and a strong team of pastors and evangelists who are the “boots on the ground” in this crisis. Thank you for helping in this time of pressing need.