Rebuilding hope in South Sudan
Since 2012 The Outreach Foundation has been visiting the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan to accompany it on its mission to build a strong country through healthy churches and church-based schools. Civil war in late 2013 put many of the projects on hold. As people fled to camps for Internally Displaced Persons or to refugee camps in neighboring countries, congregations and parishes have sprung up. Faithful pastors are preaching hope to those who long for peace. Former teachers volunteer to teach children and adults in makeshift schools. The Outreach Foundation is providing Bibles and hymnals to believers in the camps and teaching materials for the temporary schools. There are now 500,000 refugees from South Sudan in Ethiopia where Outreach is working with local partner EECMY (Mekane Yesus) to meet priority needs. Churches are growing rapidly within the camps. There are more than 35 Presbyterian parishes and 132 congregations among the six camps. Outreach is helping partners to rebuild hope in South Sudan and to prepare for the time when they will reconstruct their country.
FPCSD is supporting these efforts to “Rebuild Hope in South Sudan” (RHSS). Frank Dimmock of TOF is our liaison with the South Sudan ministries.
Our ministry is directed toward:
Evangelism – A priority of the RHSS effort includes the training of church leadership and the provision of Bibles in the local (Nuer) language.
Mercy – The top priority identified by PCoSS leaders was trauma healing. TOF has been active in training South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya to conduct healing groups to address complex trauma and psychosocial stress.
Justice – TOF continues to inform and advocate for peace and reconciliation between conflicted groups in the region.
Specific goals for this coming year:
We have been training healing group facilitators to work with refugees using a Christian curriculum. We want to continue and expand this work in preparation for resettlement of thousands of refugees back in South Sudan. So, specifically:
a) Advanced training of seminary students in Kakuma, Kenya, and Kule Camp, Ethiopia
b) Initial training of nurse-midwives in Kakuma, Kenya
c) Advanced training of representatives from each of the 6 camps in Ethiopia
d) Vocational training and support to foster widows, Kakuma, Kenya.
e) Distribution of Nuer Bibles to South Sudanese refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia.
Barriers or obstacles:
We have been concentrating our efforts with the PCoSS in neighboring countries that are hosting refugees (Ethiopia and Kenya) due to the insecurity and instability within South Sudan. We will continue to monitor the transition to peace and resettlement which will challenge the RHSS program to shift focus into South Sudan. The PCoSS is also planning to hold a General Assembly meeting and elect new leadership during 2020. The printing, shipping and distribution of Nuer Bibles will require raising significant funding. We are appealing to many donors for support and are hopeful that the target will be met.
Goals met in past year:
We successfully translated the 144-page trauma healing training book into the Nuer language and printed and distributed 200 copies to trainers in three countries. We also conducted a training in audio trauma healing and provided a device to trainers to lead ‘listening groups’ for low literacy refugees. We provided 4 sewing machines and training for the widows foster care program to help encourage sustainability of their program.
How FPCSD can better serve as a partner to “Rebuild Hope in South Sudan”:
There are several ways in which FPCSD members can participate. First and foremost, we covet your prayer support and periodic communication on prayer needs with the ministry. Perhaps we could arrange quarterly zoom messages/updates on activities and the situation with South Sudan refugees. As peace returns to South Sudan in the future, it is my hope that I can travel with a few FPCSD participants to meet our Presbyterian partners and see the work they are doing. In the meantime, it might be possible for 1 or 2 members to accompany me to Ethiopia or Kenya to observe the trauma healing training and pre-schools for refugee children.
Although there are many unknowns surrounding peace, security and resettlement in South Sudan, we pray that within 5 years many of the 2.3 million refugees will have returned to their homeland and will be rebuilding their lives. I expect that priorities of our PCoSS partners might change (e.g. low-cost church construction, education and health care will be critical in re-establishing their lives in the village).