Stories of Hope from South Sudan

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Nothing to Give

Edited Bishop HilaryMy family is safe, but I am unsure about my co-workers. Our town (in South Sudan) is generally stable, but the growing insecurity in the country leaves few guarantees for safety. The current conflict started on December 15th, 2013 in the capital city of Juba. What began as a political disagreement in the ruling party, however, bled into ethnic fighting which spread to several states.

My thumbs offer a crescendo of clicks as I hurriedly press into the shell of my Nokia phone. My search for the phone numbers of South Sudanese contacts leads me to the information for Bishop Hilary Adeba. He is a trusted friend and Chairman of the board of RECONCILE International. If anyone knows the status of Yei, our town, he does. I dial the number, and a weary yet appreciative voice greets me. His smile reaches across the phone line to welcome me.

“Shelvis I am so happy you’ve called me all the way from the United States of America.”

“Of course, Bishop, of course. How are you doing? How is Yei? [Pronounced, “Yay.���]

“Well Shelvis, we are not doing well…”

He goes on to explain that hundreds of families are entering Yei in search of refuge. The families are gathering on the grounds of an abandoned UN compound. In a matter of days, the numbers swelled from 250 internally displaced people (IDPs) to more than 5,000 . In the upcoming weeks, the number of people in the country who fled their homes in search of safety would pass a million.

While many South Sudanese desire to help the displaced, food and shelter are not readily accessible. For example, most people in Yei, live on less than a dollar a day. The masses of people seeking refuge in the country are causing an immeasurable strain on towns with limited infrastructure and access to clean drinking water.

In our phone conversation, Bishop Hilary talks about his initial response when families began to arrive in Yei. He states quite humbly, “God has sent us these people, but we have nothing to give them.”

I could hear the weariness in his voice…the longing to make a difference and its sobering collision with the reality facing him. Tears brim in my eyes as we sit together, yet at a distance, in silence.

“Shelvis,” the Bishop goes on to tell what happened next, “I recently met with the church leaders in this town. We prayed and decided we will lead our congregations in a fast once-a-week. The money which we would use for our breakfast, tea, or lunch will be set aside for the people who have come to our town. And let me tell you Shelvis, we collected more than two truckloads of supplies during our first week of fasting: two truckloads of food, firewood and water. We will continue to fast for the people in need.”

I hear strength gathering in his voice as the conversation continues, yet I remain silent. I am amazed with his passion, faith and resolve to make a difference. I am amazed with the ways God shines hope in places looming in the shadows of fear and uncertainty.

The care offered in our town reflects the commitment of many South Sudanese to the transformation of issues plaguing their young nation. Sadly, the impact of the recent violence grew exponentially due to a lack of infrastructure necessary for outside relief. Like Bishop Hilary Adeba, many South Sudanese are doing their very best in spite of these difficulties, yet more help is needed. Will you join them? Prayerfully consider making a donation to assist relief and reconciliation efforts during this time of crisis.