A letter from Jacob and Aliamma George in South Sudan
1 Corinthians 15:57–58: Thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord
March is mostly dusty, windy and very hot in South Sudan, but life goes on miraculously by the grace of God.
We visit homes on Saturday mornings as part of our Community Health Evangelism work. Our students at the Giffen Institute of Theology of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan heard theory in the classrooms and six of our students were given the first chance to go with the dean of the school, Jacob and Aliamma. We met together in the school and had prayer and a short discussion of what we were going to do in the homes. The first thing is to knock and give greetings and introduce ourselves and get permission to enter their homes. During the casual conversation, observe the home situation, general sanitation and health issues, and find out whether they have a latrine—if not, where do they go for their excretory needs. Then slowly find out whether they are connected with a church, whether they have family prayers, whether they can read or they are attending the free adult education classes available on the campus, whether they have any special prayer requests, and find out if it is all right to sing a small song, read one verse from the Bible, and then pray. Two of our students could speak Arabic well, and others could speak Neuer, Dinka and Shiluk dialects.
At 9:15 in the morning we started visiting the homes near our school area, and knocked at the aluminum gates. There were three small thatched houses, and 3 ladies and about 15 children came out happily. It is not a good custom in the culture here to ask how many children they have or about other personal matters. We saw a pit latrine covered with thick flannel walls, and they said that they will make it stronger when sticks and grass are available. Then there was an open latrine for the children, and they said that they will try to cover it later when the materials are available. So it is like a small compound with aluminum walls. Out of the three, two ladies and their families go to a Catholic church and the third one said that she just moved from Khartoum after the Independence—she used to see people going to church but has never visited a church anywhere in her life. So we explained who Jesus Christ is and what a church means and how she can be a part of it. She was happy, smiled, and said she will visit the nearby Presbyterian church on the Giffen campus where they have worship in three different dialects each Sunday. Actually she can hear the loud choir practice from her home many times a week, but she denied hearing this.
We taught the group the verse "The Lord is my Shepherd" and explained the meaning, then sang the song "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so" until the children started singing it, and then we prayed. Before we left we talked about the importance of family prayers, health care in taking regular baths, oral hygiene, washing hands, etc. They were very happy and followed us to the next tinned gate.
The next door was opened by Ms. R, who had a wrapping on her right hand with a purple blouse used as a bandage. We were told that she had a scorpion bite, and her whole arm was swollen and tender. She was not able to carry her 1-year-old baby. When a clinic visit was suggested, she said that everybody has to pay whether they are rich or poor and she does not have any money. We gave her 20 pounds and told her to go after the prayer. All the children who came with us wanted to sing the same song, and by then many new children joined us. We sang and told them about Jesus who is the healer and who can help them when they are not able to go to a doctor. They all followed us to the next house.
When we were about to enter the next house, one lady opened her tin door on the opposite side, told us loudly to visit her also, and we agreed.
This compound also had three thatched houses and 3 ladies and about 25 children playing with empty cans, using them as toys, some sitting down banging on the metal tins, cutting them, with small particles flying. We discussed the dangers of the metal particles going into their eyes, nose, inside their nails, and other possible injuries. Then they stopped it and came to the group to sing. Then we gave them a small talk on the prevention of gastrointestinal diseases by washing their hands well before eating, having a bath after the end of the day, how to avoid insect bites, etc. There were three little boys without any covering below their waist, and one little girl. We emphasized safety issues for the private areas, and they all agreed. One little boy had a nice T-shirt and a suit jacket but nothing for the private area.
Then we visited the lady who called us to visit. Her house was very clean, and there were two more small houses. Her husband and two children are renting their uncle's house; no latrine, so they go to the neighbors' latrine. We were told that they got the land and they are planning to make their own small house, and we emphasized the importance of building latrines and how the flies can spread diseases. She agreed to tell her husband when he came home.
There was one mother with a malnourished child with poor skin tone, who needed a checkup. Thirty South Sudan pounds were given to take the child to the doctor. We prayed for the mother and the baby and all the children and mothers who gathered around us in that compound also.
There was one man present in one house, and he said he just returned to Malakal after the freedom of South Sudan and has not started going to any church. One interesting thing is that he said his family worked hard to build the chapel on the Giffen compound many years ago. We told him that it is very important for him to be a part of it and be blessed and for his three children, who were standing near him, to be able to pass on the torch and the legacy. When asked about a latrine, he said he does not have the money. We told him to start digging the pit on his own and when it is completed to let us know. When we inquired how they were meeting their elimination needs, he said, " fields." We gave our teaching on the dangers of flies on food, household items, eyes, etc. When asked for prayer requests, he said to pray for stability and peace in the nation. We prayed and left. Of course the children reminded us to sing "Jesus loves me, this I know."
The next Saturday we visited five houses, starting at 9 am, and did the follow-up on Ms. R, who had the scorpion bite. She went to the doctor after we told her and got medicines, and her hand was back to normal. She was carrying the baby and smiling and thanked us for the help, and we praised the Lord.
The difference this day was that the men were at home and the ladies went for Saturday market to buy things or to sell the little produce they got from the bush area.
Mr. S, who was alone with the children, said he was a Catholic and some Seventh-Day Adventists came to their house and talked to him and the family joined them, but this Saturday they decided to stay back. As he could speak English, we told him to read the Bible himself and try to understand, and then the Holy Spirit would lead him to the truth. He agreed to do that as he has not read it, though he has a Bible. We showed him where the Presbyterian church is located in his area and invited him to visit. We also mentioned his responsibility as a father to his children, who were standing there, to direct them to the right path for their stable future. His house was very clean and had a working latrine.
Mr. J, who took a few minutes to open his metal door, explained that he was hesitant as Jehovah's Witness and Seventh-Day Adventist people used to come and he does not allow them to enter his area. He was happy about us, and his wife is an elder in the Presbyterian church nearby. He did not go for a few months due to a swelling in his right leg. He was sitting with his swollen leg down. We advised him to keep it up on a chair and to give it warm soaks. He agreed to do this and we will follow-up with him. We taught a small Bible verse to the children, sang, and prayed.
The next house belonged to Ms. T, who appeared sorrowful as her husband died last year. Her two older daughters were there with their children. After we talked for a few minutes we understood that they are not making any effort to improve their conditions. There are adult education classes free in the nearby areas, but they are not going there to improve themselves and to get a job. We encouraged all the three ladies to join the adult education classes and then to apply for jobs. They agreed, and by then many more ladies and children came. We sang a song and told them that Jesus is the light of the world and prayed.
The third Saturday was disappointing. As usual, we got ready, walked to the bus stop and got on the old Toyota van, which runs as a bus, got out at the stop, and walked to the usual room where we meet and pray and start. The place was empty. We went to the dorm area and met two students who told us that the dean had to go to the market and there was no adult to come with us. He could not inform us as there was no phone connection. We returned to the bus stop and waited and told ourselves that we need to accomplish more today to save the lost time! We got on the Toyota 9-seat van (bus) with 11 people already in it and improvised two seats for us. The conductor was an 8-year-old boy who snapped his fingers for the bus fare and collected the money in the correct order as he stood on the platform. We congratulated him and told him to be careful and be safe. Probably the driver is his father. We could not talk much as it was very hot and dusty and the bus was packed with passengers.
So when our Heavenly Father is in the "bus journey" of our lives, we do not need to be afraid. We can have the confidence that He will carry us through the difficult roads of life. In the evening of the third Saturday we went to the Dinka Presbyterian Church and taught the children the English song "In the name of Jesus, we have the victory."
Our second visit to the county jail on Sunday, for the Presbyterian worship service there, was a very touching experience. One of our students is assigned by the school to conduct the worship services there and to counsel the inmates. He took us there last Sunday, and Jacob preached on the prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4.10 for 30 minutes. The message was well received. Out of the 71 inmates there, many accepted the Lord as their Lord and Savior and most of the inmates decided to have a clear and clean plan for their lives once they get out of prison. It was a very touching service for more than two hours. The worship leader had chains on his feet because of the murder he had committed that brought him to the prison. He had found the Lord in the prison and he was joyful and singing and praising the Lord. It was very emotional for us to see him dancing and praising the Lord with other inmates with his huge chains on his legs. He said that the Lord forgave him for what he did and he is waiting for whatever the judge decides on his case. The choir consisted of six inmates, two of them having chains on their legs.
We thank you for your prayers for us and for the financial support for our ministry in South Sudan through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). May God bless you in abundance.
We have started getting food items in the market, though it is very expensive. The border is open. Thank you for praying. The bat problem in our apartment was solved because Rev. Gideon Tai, the general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, took it seriously and took appropriate action on it. Thank you for praying.
Please continue to pray for peace in the Jonglei State, from which many of our students come. Thank you.
Aliamma and Jacob George
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 94