A letter from Jim and Jodi McGill in the U.S., serving in Niger (formerly in Malawi)
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After one week in Rwanda with World Mission staff from Louisville and mission co-workers based in Africa, Jim traveled to Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, for about five weeks. South Sudan is a socio-politically complex country, and, in spite of continued danger and devastation, there are examples of perseverance and hope. Jim saw this in the several steps forward that the local church had made toward sustainable development within the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) sector.
The Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA) is the development and disaster response arm of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), and through an agreement with them both, Jim will be able to work together with the PRDA on any of the Emergency WaSH-related Relief work, while at the same time working on sustainable development in the WaSH Sector.
PRDA is currently renting an office in Juba for the first time. They previously had an office at the PCOSS headquarters in Malakal, but both the PCOSS headquarters and PRDA moved away after Malakal was destroyed in fighting in December 2013. A new deputy director, Rev Ustaz Tut, has been chosen to replace the late deputy director, Rev. Stephen. The deputy director’s full-time presence at the PRDA offices is a foundation for the PRDA work in Juba.
Rev. Tut is also teaching at Nile Theological College, which shifted to Juba after the destruction of Malakal. Through this connection, PRDA has been granted space to open a workshop and training Center, where hopefully we can join with the SMART (Simple, Market-based, Affordable, Repairable Technologies) network, which currently has training centers with the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia in Mzuzu as well as with local not-for-profits in Njombe, Tanzania; Chipata, Zambia; and a small town north of Pemba, Mozambique. We were able to install a demonstration rope pump on the property shared with Nile Theological College and expect there will be further training demonstrations in the coming months. We are currently working towards hiring a manager who will be a full-time employee of PRDA whose primary responsibility will be to manage the training center.
At one of the schools supported by the PCOSS Education Department with which PC(USA) mission co-worker Lisa Wagstaff assists, we were able to demonstrate different manual drilling techniques. Mr. Laban Kaduma, a master manual driller who has drilled more than 2000 wells around his home near the Tanzanian SMART Centre, was able to join us in S. Sudan to train a small group in manual drilling. Local fabricator Mr. Francis Duku was taught how to produce many of the WaSH SMARTechs so that he can now produce manual drilling equipment and rope pumps.
Lastly, Mr. Peter Mahal, the Director for Rural Water Supply in South Sudan, explained that the government has taken in 30 students to work towards a Rural WaSH Certificate. He asked if we could teach the students some of the technical aspects of Rural Water Supply at our training center, which is a tremendous opportunity to build the partnership between local government and the work of the Church.
As a family, we are in the throes of packing for our move to Niamey and cleaning up our temporary home at Mission Haven. We are physically and emotionally sorting and resorting treasures from these two years in the USA, from our lives in Malawi, and from both Jim’s and Jodi’s families. We have had conversations with the children about the recognizable and unrecognizable losses and benefits that come with moving between continents every few years. As the children have gotten older and more aware of each move, there are more conversations about what is considered essential to pack. Putting your life in two pieces of luggage means things have to be left behind, given away, or thrown away, and, not uncommonly, possessions may even be lost in luggage that never arrives.
With each three-to-four-year move, we reexamine the importance of “things,” what is necessary and unnecessary, both for basic living needs and for being able to reestablish that sense of home and connectedness with family and friends. Moving is a time for reflection of biblical examples and principals: “. . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). A time of recognition of how much we may have in comparison to others, a time to say goodbye and plan for the future, and a time of intense prayer.
We pray for patience with each other and say prayers for discernment and understanding as John and Joseph want to take an entire piece of luggage for Legos (which we did carry with us from Malawi); Salome and Selina have 30 pounds each of journals and drawings and important memorabilia; Jodi wants to take kitchen and household supplies and clothes for everyone; and Jim has pounds of WaSH materials. There are also prayers for future friends. As it says in Ephesians 2:19-20, “so then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” We offer prayers of thanksgiving that we are part of the family of Christ and therefore have a new family waiting for us. And Jim and Jodi pray without ceasing for Michael and Jason as they begin a new phase in their lives and stay in the USA while we head off to our new lives in Niamey as a family of six instead of eight.
Our next newsletter will be from Niamey, Niger. We will keep the same email address, so please keep us in your prayers and contact us as you can. “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25)
Jodi, Jim, Michael, Jason, Salome, Selina, John, Joseph
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