A letter from Jacob and Aliamma George in South Sudan
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" Proverbs 1:7
As we were walking through a quiet street, an elderly man with a walking stick joined us, and we began a conversation. He spoke good English and this made it easier to discuss many things, especially the goodness of the Lord. To make the story short, he quoted the whole Psalm 95, and we joined him for a few verses. He mentioned that he learned it as a child when there were missionaries in the area, who left as war was frequent. He got a government job when the British people left the offices, though he was a veterinary assistant. Now he is retired and is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, a Neur (tribe) congregation. In the end, he said, he translated the New Testament into the Nuer dialect from English. We were happy that we started the conversation and congratulated him for the great job he had done. We left after exchanging blessings to each other.
After the Independence of South Sudan we have seen that people are happier; schoolchildren are talking and laughing louder when they are walking through the streets. When we mentioned something about having some plants, trees and vegetable gardens, some friends told us they had not wanted to leave them and run to refugee camps because of the lack of stability. Now some are in the process of planting trees. For example, the Giffen Bible School compound is going to have 15 trees, including some mango trees. Our friends here say that all the old trees were put there by the missionaries. After they left, no more new trees or plants were planted due to frequent wars. When we mention germinating some seeds to make the plants and trees, the idea seems to be unheard of. Some older folks say, "Oh, I now remember some plants and trees behind our grandparents' house, but after the wartime started, we could not think of those things. Moreover, the loose cows, goats, sheeps, donkeys and horses will destroy them."
We met a young man, Mr. S, at a small travel office this week. After we completed the travel information, since there was nobody waiting, he started talking to us because he had seen us in his congregation. He could speak English and said he learned it while he was a refugee in Ethiopia—and then he had to go to Kenya because there were too many in the camp. His brother went to the United States, but he decided to stay back with his mother in Sudan as his father was in the army.
This young man is getting ready for marriage but waiting to collect a dowry. His brother gave 70 cows as a dowry to get a wife and the brother from California came to Sudan and married after giving more than 70 cows to the girl's parents, and then took her to California. His four sisters also received cows from their husbands, so he said, "I do not mind giving 70 cows at least." One cow costs about 200 U.S dollars. He also mentioned that he has to give that much even if the girl is not educated. If she has a college education, he has to give pigs too. We encouraged him to apply to study at the Giffen Institute of Theology, and he said he will do that after he has matured some more—he is now only 25 years old. He is from a village where there were two missionaries when he was a child, and they left when war broke out. The majority of the people are Presbyterians in his village. His family was safe, though they had to go to refugee camps; nobody was killed. One or two people stayed around the house so that their animals would not be stolen and the house would not be destroyed. He was blessed by the refugee camp life as they had an intermediate class in one house as a school and high school in another house.
We want to inform you that many of our pastors and teachers here came through the refugee camps and they are very knowledgeable. If any of you helped the refugee children, they all came out successfully. Most of the girls from the camp got married early and settled down, but boys completed their education and got jobs. Many of them returned to their villages while some stayed back in Ethiopia or Kenya, Some went to Western and European countries. Almost all of them tell success stories about their siblings and cousins who are in different countries.
We were invited to attend a wedding in our Giffen area PCOS (Presbyterian Church of Sudan) church. The boy returned from the United States after a couple of years and the girl is a member of the church here. We were told to come by 2 pm, but we went early because Jacob had been asked to give the message. The wedding party had still not arrived at 4 pm; the pastor and the choir were in their special attire, waiting anxiously. The temporary colorful tent was up, the children were playing and running around, all the nearby church members also were there. The tent was full, at least 600 people were present, the music was on, heat was up from the blazing sun. Many times the pastor called the family and got vague excuses. At 4:30 pm the pastor asked for the groom and asked him the reason for the delay and he got the answer, "It is too hot for the balloons on the car, they may break." The pastor was really angry and said loudly, "The balloons are not getting married, but you are getting married today." They came by 5 pm and honked loudly, and the leaders and the congregation went out of the big tent and brought them inside. The bridegroom was in a black suit, with groomsmen, the bride in a white gown with bridesmaids and flower girls. The service was meaningful and ended at 10 pm. After that, the couple and marriage party had dinner and a dance somewhere. They went to that place with the continuous loud honking of the cars. Others were given soft drinks, popcorn, candy and cookies.
We visited the PCOS school, went to eight classrooms, and gave some motivating talks for their future. Aliamma included health issues, and the teachers and students were very receptive. The Director of Education of the PCOS, the Rev. John Chaney, also was with us. It is a blessing that we have the freedom to go and give Bible verses, sing and pray. Whenever we gave the promises of Christ, they were eager to write them down and teachers wrote the verse and reference on the board. Most of the teachers are PCOS pastors who supplement teaching as a second job as the pay scale is low in both areas. Here 75 percent of the population are children and youth. The classrooms are very simple in nature, with open doors and windows; the floor is not cemented, there are only plastic chairs for students, no desk, no fan (no electricity during the day) and no chair or desk or table for the teacher. In some classes students were sitting on the floor as they did not have enough chairs. All the teachers were on their feet teaching, the blackboards were full with the lessons and all the students were listening and learning in every classroom. When the students see us in the church, market or on the street, they remind us about the visit, and we are planning to go on a regular basis as time permits.
Thank you for your prayers and support, which is not in vain.
Daniel 2:21: "He changes times and seasons, removes kings and sets up kings, gives knowledge and understanding."
Jacob and Aliamma George