A letter from Jacob and Aliamma George in South Sudan
1 Corinthians 3:7-8: So, then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now, he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his labor.
April is our hottest month and food items started coming from the North (Sudan) even though it is very expensive because the traders have to pay extra money at different checkpoints.
After independence, South Sudan was trying to set up things in order, but insecurity is creeping into the people's lives again. The border fight is increasing as per the present news. We heard about a bomb being dropped in a market in our nearby state and some people were killed and some were wounded. So our market was closed for a day and there was a political march for the awareness and cooperation of the public. Thousands of people participated in an orderly fashion in our hometown, Malakal, South Sudan.
The population of Malakal has increased tremendously as Southerners had to leave North Sudan by April 2012. The need for housing, water, food, power, sanitation and medical facilities increased accordingly. We experienced a shortage of water recently and got it after one week. Without adequate water all living things are at risk. It is an irony that we have the huge Nile River passing through the country, and water is not available for the general population. When we go to Giffen Institute of Theology a little early for our 8:30 am classes, we see people taking sponge baths from a liter water container, then getting out well dressed for the action of the day. Some ladies in groups of three or four walking to far places with one or two plastic containers to bring water and firewood when they should be doing other family chores. We hope and pray for better infrastructure, bigger pipes, some dam sites, water reservoirs letting water come into homes. We do not see wells or hand-drilled burholes in Malakal as it may be hard to dig in this hard soil. Some men bring water on donkey carts and sell it, but this is a limited amount for a big family and is expensive. Some expensive homes have small pipes but need a power pump to fill the water tanks so that it will come through the narrow pipes. We take about four hours to fill our containers every two or three days as it comes through a very narrow pipe to prevent over-spending of water. We hope and pray that the situation will get better.
We had a visit from Presbyterian World Mission staff from the United States with other delegates from Presbyterian Women, the Reformed Church of America, The Outreach Foundation, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Church of Scotland, and a Sudanese-American Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) member. We had a blessed time for two days and it was like a family reunion.
We were able to attend a wedding in the Arabic-English congregation of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan here in Malakal. The groom was the son of a former Presbyterian Church of Sudan (PCOS) moderator who was deceased and the bride was the daughter of a PCOS women's leader who was deceased. Both of them were born during the war but received good education and training. The groom is a postgraduate medical doctor who is employed and the bride is also a medical doctor. They are from different tribes, and that is a good example at this time. On the Sunday previous to the wedding there was an announcement about the wedding, inviting the congregation to come at 2:30 pm on the wedding day. People started coming at 2:30 pm, and there were 2,000 people by 4 pm and a tent attached to the church building for the overflow. The praise and worship started, and both the parties arrived by 5 pm. The service was very meaningful. An offertory was taken during a song and probably the money is given to the couple. There were gifts brought by different departments like the women's group, youth group, Sunday school, etc. The groups came to the front with gifts on their heads, singing and dancing. The gifts included household items, pots and pans, kettle, brooms, etc. One lady came forward and put a necklace on the bride. Everyone was happy. No food, but bottled water was offered to the closest family, in the front. Jacob was asked to pray for the couple at the end of the service and the program ended by 8:30 pm. The closest family went to the hotel for dinner.
Another event in April was the annual Women's Leadership Conference in Malakal for four days. The representatives from the 10 presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan came, and Aliamma had a chance to teach about Community Health Evangelism. The ladies were very receptive and agreed to start the training in their congregations. First they will select six people and will visit homes in two groups and will present the methods to prevent diseases through good sanitation, and they will share the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ and pray with the ladies. Having a latrine for each family was the important request, and they agreed to dig holes and cover the excreta to prevent flies until big latrines are made.
They were happy to see the Bible verse in Deuteronomy 23:12-13: "Thou shall dig with a paddle and shall turn back and cover that which come out from thee."
There were about 35 ladies of different tribes, and we had a session when all of us dedicated our lives to Jesus Christ together by lifting our hands, standing in a circle, praising God, and asking for unity among the different tribes.
During the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan new officers were elected from the different tribes, and we had a combined service on the open stadium ground the next Sunday morning when 10,000 Presbyterian members gathered. A Sudanese pastor gave the sermon, which was very spiritual and motivational. He challenged the men to join the army instead of sitting in the markets, drinking tea, coffee or alcoholic drinks that were not available for 21 years, but now the number of beer shops are increasing after independence. The youth representative came forward and challenged the youth to come forward and defend the border, and he said that uniforms are ready. We observe some awakening and more cooperation among the people.
When we reached the church office one afternoon we were told to join the celebration of welcoming the new administration and giving a "thank you" to the old administration. The additional news was that a church member who is a trader also provided two bulls and necessary items for the evening dinner. The official meeting was inside the church building, and there were many songs and speeches in Arabic. The final points were given by the new moderator in English since we were present, and the meeting was over after three hours, and then we had a big dinner in the courtyard in an orderly way. So there are church members who share their wealth with others. There were about 800 people present, including the governor and other government officials.
Thank you, friends and families, for your prayers and support for our work here in South Sudan. That means a lot to us. It keeps us going in the hot weather here. However, please pray for the availability of electricity at night so that we can have the fan working when we sleep at night. Thanks. May God bless you and keep you in His love.
He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please take care.
Jacob and Aliamma George