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In the Past Few Months

A Letter from Sharon Kandel, regional liaisons for the Horn of Africa, based in South Sudan

Winter 2021

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Dear friends

Where should I start to tell you about what has gone on in the past few months? First, though, I thank you all for your prayers for Lynn and me as we have traveled and for the changes that have impacted how we move forward.

I want to tell you about what is happening in the Horn of Africa, and I promise I will do that but allow me to fill you in on the Kandels first.

Last March, we returned to the States, as did many other mission co-workers, due to COVID-19. When we returned, we thought it would be for about four months, and then we would return to South Sudan. That, of course, did not happen, and we have remained in the States and made some significant changes for our future. Lynn has now retired from PC(USA). When he made that decision, I then had to decide what I felt God calling me to do, and with the permission of World Mission, I will continue as Regional Liaison for the Horn of Africa but will be living in the U.S. I will travel to Africa several times a year to visit our partners and communicate with them in between those trips. I will miss living in South Sudan, but I truly believe this is the right way forward. Lynn and I did return to South Sudan in January to pack up our things, close our apartment, and for Lynn to be able to say good-bye to the many friends in South Sudan.

Sharon packing

It was good to see our partners in South Sudan and have the opportunity to hear from them about how things are, both with COVID and politically. COVID has had an impact, but now it seems that people are back to normal routines except that we saw hand washing stations and hand sanitizer being used everywhere. It is next to impossible to practice social-distancing. How do you do that when 10-12 people live in a small house, and they all have to go out to work or try to find food? Primary schools remain closed, so children are playing everywhere. I heard about people who had lost loved ones to COVID, but I also heard that many do not know what people are dying from, as many believe it could be malaria or typhoid. Yet, what the partners wanted to talk about was strengthening the Church, the number of new students at Nile Theological College (9 women this year!!), and how to work on reconciliation at the grass roots level. I came away feeling the forward-looking emphasis of the Church and the refusal to let COVID, or anything else, stop them from doing their work. Politically things are the same, but there was a stronger feeling of hope that things may be changing.

Ethiopia is having political trouble (but what country is not these days?). It has been much stricter about COVID regulations. From what I have heard from Partners there, it really seems to make a difference where you live as to how strict things are – not unlike the USA. While schools are open in Ethiopia, they are operating differently. Many teachers have to teach longer hours to fit in multiple classes a day. This has worked well for Berhane Yesus Elementary School in Dembi Dollo where all the 8th- grade students passed the national exams and can proceed to 9th grade! What dedication on behalf of all involved!

Sudan has had some wonderful changes but is also facing some real economic challenges. With the new openness to Christianity in this country, there are many new opportunities and freedoms for the Church. The government would like to see more Christian organizations return to Sudan as they understand that these organizations can reach and help people in a way that they cannot. Economically things are very tough. Many food items are either not available or are very expensive. School registrations are down at the Church schools because people can simply not afford the fees anymore. Yet, when I talk to our partners there, they are looking to the future, trying to find a way to make things better for their children, expanding the kingdom of God, and offering prayer for the U.S.

I usually ask you to pray for the partners in the Horn of Africa, and I am doing that again now, but I want you to know that they are praying for you. Please pray for the political and economic situations in these three countries.

Thank you so much for your support, both prayer and financial, of me as I continue forward on my own in this work. Thank you for the letters of concern and interest in the people of South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Sudan that you send to me. I am always happy to give more information, be on a Zoom call, send a recorded message, or whatever would work best for your congregation, small group, mission committee, or individual.

Continuing to trust in Him,

Sharon Kandel

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