A letter from Leisa Wagstaff, serving in South Sudan
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We laughed, played, shed tears, journeyed through some painful remembrances and harsh present realities, and celebrated the promises that God has given to each of us. “God loves me! I am special!” was the theme of our mini trauma-healing, peace-play, and rights and responsibilities training. The two-day gathering was part of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) Education Department’s activities for a small group of children who are already veterans of war; deprivation; and senseless losses of property, identity, and personhood. Children whose few fading dreams are hanging by a rapidly fraying thread. … They, like thousands of other South Sudanese, live in one of the several overcrowded internally displaced persons (IDP) camps scattered throughout their country.
It was an overchallenging experience for me, and quite emotionally draining. We were in a large ceiling-less church with a dirt floor. The participants sat on shaky benches with nowhere to lay their pens, Healing Hearts Club books, or crayons. They did the activities using their laps as desks, trying desperately not to drop anything, for it would be covered in red dust. My teaching aids were perched precariously on a small, rickety table, but it was the best that they had to offer, and what our teachers experience every teaching day.Then there were the noises of camp-living: drumming, choirs singing, voices of sorrow and triumph, ululations of celebrations and joy, spectators’ cheers as games of soccer were played in the middle of hard-packed rocky roads, babies crying to be comforted, death wails of the bereaved, and groans of the sick. I felt disturbed by it all, but the young hearts who had gathered seemed not to mind, for this is the same room surrounded by the same noises (and sometimes heavy artillery fire) where they and their 400 schoolmates are taught.
During the training, each participant was asked to think of a very painful experience or memory. The instructions were clearly understood, but choosing was difficult. There had been so much terror, and the bad recollections far outweighed the more pleasant ones. All their vivid responses related to the war as they talked freely of killed relatives, running through the “tall grasses,” homes being torched “by those with guns,” anger, lack of good education, and “maybe no future.”
Their only hope and prayer is that the war will stop and there can be a “life outside (of camp) where the UN tanks don’t sit, the other tribes don’t hate us so much, hunger and killings are not there,” and they can dream in vivid colors instead of only black and white through veils of uncertainty. To be so young and tender, they know too intimately the emotions of anger, sadness, and disappointment. As their journey continues, they are prayerfully taking along with them the skills they have learned, moments of being free from worry, and affirmations of being loved by God and, thus, so very special.
Sometimes I look from my second-floor apartment building and see kids just roaming the street, having bonded together because of like circumstances, homelessness or parentless-ness, or not enough foodstuff at home to feed everyone. Or they can relate to each other because they are just one of the many “lost generations” that the conflicts have created during more than 50 years. While some are begging for food, too many are begging for money to buy sniffing glue. This is a trend that perhaps makes them feel a sense of belonging, or more likely, it deadens the wounds that have festered in their hearts. They occasionally fight one another, but mostly they just enjoy each other’s company, even sharing their bits of food and devising ways to make money.
One child often stands in the middle of the busy intersection where the “rules of the road” are never observed, trying to direct drivers as he has seen the traffic police do. Most times, the drivers disrespect him, but from my viewpoint, his action keeps the traffic jams at bay. He seems to enjoy it and is proud when a driver hands him a South Sudanese pound. Maybe one day his dream of being a traffic policeman or other productive member of society will become a reality. The odds, for sure, are against him and the others.
As you support missions, you are investing in young children and the structural support needed to better their lives. For this, I am extremely grateful.
Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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Tags: camp, camp-living, directing traffic, dust, Healing Hearts Club, hunger, internally displaced persons, lack of education, lost generation, no future, PCOSS, trauma healing, war
Tags: Leisa Wagstaff
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