A letter from Nancy McGaughey in Sudan
Women of South Sudan
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28
Greetings from South Sudan,
We have just recently finished a five-day refresher training for traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and school mothers. One of my favorite training courses, and a much needed one here in South Sudan as this is the country with the highest maternal mortality in the world. We had a total of 35 women joining us and enjoyed teaching and fellowshipping with them.
As they were with us a whole week, we decided to focus the week’s devotions on "Women of the Bible." Everyone thought it a good idea as long as I was willing to prepare them. We looked at the lives of Sarah, Hannah, Ruth, Deborah and Jael and the godly characteristics they exemplified. As we were reviewing them on the final day I mentioned several others that we could have also studied: Rachel, Rebecca, Rahab, Tabitha, Mary and Martha, Anna, Lydia, and one of the women remarked, “I never knew there were so many women mentioned in the Bible!” We ended by looking at Proverbs 31 and talked about how God would want the women of today to be.
At the end of the training we have a closing ceremony during which we give the women some things appropriate to what they are doing (in this case, gloves, soap, gauze, etc.) and a certificate. At least one of the participants is invited to make a short speech. This time a woman named Deborah spoke. She said that she had had two pregnancies that ended in miscarriages and stillbirth and had considered herself lucky. Many of her friends and neighbors had experienced more than she had. Since being trained by Across as a TBA she has been able to help many women of her village during their pregnancies. "Now," she said, "it makes me sad to think that this [women dying in childbirth] might have been prevented. But I am happy to know that because of the knowledge we have gained not only can I be of a service to my community, but my grandchildren will have a brighter future."
The plight of women in South Sudan has been on my heart for some time. I want to share the stories of two women I came to know about.
One woman was brought to our clinic after taking over 120 tablets of various kinds several hours earlier. She was given some activated charcoal to induce vomiting, but refused any other treatment. “I will fight you,” she said, “if you try to give me an IV or any medicine. Just leave me alone.” Refusing to talk to the male staff, they sent the female health worker Cecelia in to see her. She told the following story to Cecelia.
Her family was poor. They needed to arrange a good marriage for her to obtain many cows. She was in love with a poor man, and they eloped. Her brothers found her and brought her back. A marriage was arranged with a man many years her senior who was willing to pay many cows. When she did not become pregnant, he beat her. Once she ran away, but her brothers refused to help her and sent her back. After this happened a couple of times, she started collecting pills—antibiotics, painkillers, a variety of medicines. When the number reached over 120, she took them all. “I would rather be dead than continue in this kind of life. I have no future,” she said.
Amer lives near Adol. She has four children and her husband is employed in the state capitol. Although many say his job pays very well, he gives her no money to help with the children—not for food, clothes or school fees. This year when three of them were of school age, he said if she could not come up with the fees, they could just stay at home. She takes odd jobs to keep her family intact. A couple of years ago her husband took a second wife and she was given the task of preparing food for the wedding! According to her, the second wife is treated no better.
But there is hope. In contrast to the above:
Majak is a well-educated man who has a professional job. He and his wife have four children. Because she never had the opportunity to go to school, he has arranged for her to attend classes in a school near their home. She is now studying in Primary 8.
Andrew’s wife is presently living in Nairobi with their four daughters and two sons as well as two nieces. He sold their cows so they could attend school there, where they can get a better education than here in this village.
Two men (and I am sure there are more) who love and respect their wives and daughters and try to give them a good education. There is a future for them in South Sudan!
Please continue to pray for the people of South Sudan. Pray for:
- Women, their daughters and a brighter future
- Those suffering from malaria, and the overworked staff in clinics
- God’s peace to reign in this country.
- Give thanks for the good rains this year and pray for a bountiful harvest.
“Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in endless hope” (Gilbert Brenken).
The 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 94