A Letter from Sharon Kandel, regional liaison for the Horn of Africa, based in South Sudan
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Time flies and I wonder how it is the beginning of August already. At times it feels like my life is filled with nothing more than seeing people in those little squares on Zoom and then I am blessed with the opportunity to go to three in-person meetings and have wonderful conversations, laughter (and maybe some tears) and times of worship with other people.
I don’t often get the opportunity to hear others from the Horn of Africa present on the work that they do and so the last two meetings I was at were really special.
In May, I was a part of the Ethiopia Mission Network meeting in Evanston, Illinois. The guest from Ethiopia was Rev. Chali Yosef from the Western Wollega Bethel Synod. While I have been to Ethiopia many times and have visited Rev. Chali in Dembi Dollo, I have never had the opportunity to hear him give a speech to a group from the USA or to hear him talk, with passion, about his hopes for the future.
We also had members of the Ethiopian diaspora at this meeting which always adds another layer to any conversation about mission. There is a real need among the diaspora for trauma healing, even after they have been in the USA for 20 or more years. And while I am on this subject let me add some of what came out at the Sudan/South Sudan Mission Network meeting around this topic. Kristi Rice, mission co-worker in South Sudan, gave us a taste of the Healing Hearts, Transforming Nations program that is used by the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church and that Kristi ministers with. Kristi led us through a process of looking at what different people groups have lost when they have moved to different countries. We broke into groups like South Sudanese diaspora, African American, white European and Sudanese. We listed things we have lost and then wrong beliefs coming from the things we have lost. For instance, the members of the Sudanese diaspora have lost a sense of identity and because of that they have the belief that they do not fit anywhere. It was a time of vulnerability but also a time to realize that each group often had the same losses or fears or wrong beliefs. I know I was challenged to think differently and for that I am so thankful.
The South Sudan/Sudan meeting was filled with many speakers, and I was so blessed to be able to sit and listen to Kristi Rice, Shelvis Smith-Mather and Alphonse Yokwe of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. I had met Alphonse before, but this was my first time hearing him speak, hearing his passion for teaching at Nile Theological College in Juba and the future of South Sudan. It is so important to have partners come to the USA to talk with networks and congregations! It is also really important for co-workers to have the opportunity to hear our partners speaking to others – we can learn so much from this and also get a better idea of the kinds of questions we should be asking.
It is not hard to hear the passion Shelvis carries for reconciliation work in South Sudan and for the partner that he works with, RECONCILE. There is so much work to be done in South Sudan to bring peace to this diverse country but RECONCILE is working at the grassroots level to do just that. On top of that work, they are now also working with the Sudanese refugees and South Sudan returnees in trauma healing. The need is so large that at times it feels overwhelming but Rev. Peter Tibi, the executive director of RECONCILE, has told me that it is important to see the big picture and focus on what we as individuals can do.
I was also at the New Wilmington Mission Conference along with Alphonse, Kristi and Shelvis. What a wonderful opportunity to get to know people from across the USA, to share with them about the places we live and work and to, possibly, form more partnerships across the globe. It is also an opportunity to talk with high school and college-age people about their interest in global work, what they can be doing now, what kind of work is needed, both locally and internationally. To hear what some churches are doing in their communities and how, maybe, they can be connected with a church in another country doing the same kind of thing.
Can you tell I love connecting people around the world with each other? I really do like that part of my work. I may not be the expert in most things, but I can connect you to someone who is. Would you like to be more connected to someone in the Horn of Africa (or other places)? Let me know and I will see what I can do.
Thank you for supporting me in prayer – I really could not do this work without that support! Thank you, also for the financial support that you give to not just me, but the partners around the world.
Please keep Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia in your prayers. Sudan is experiencing war at this time with so many fleeing the country, South Sudan still does not have true peace and Ethiopia has had conflict in different regions, with Gambella being the most recent.
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