Hope Amidst Challenges

A Letter from Jim and Jodi McGill, serving in Niger and South Sudan

October 2018

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Hello dear friends and family,

We are well into the school year, so our lives have assumed their more regular pattern. Although starting school seemed hard going for the kids after their completely unscheduled summer, they were looking forward to returning, not because of the lure of Knowledge, but due to their air-conditioned classrooms! As we approach the beginning of the end of the rainy season, we are all looking forward to the dryer and cooler months of November and December.

Jim was able to visit Juba again in July and August and hopes to be able to return in October/November. Travelling from Niamey to Juba requires passing through Nairobi in order obtain a visa for entry into South Sudan. Jim was able to take an opportunity to meet our son Jason for a day in Nairobi, as Jason was transiting to visit home and friends in Malawi. The Nairobi stay also allowed Jim to meet with his co-workers in the Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA) office, which assists with the development and health work for our partner, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS).

In Juba, Jim continues working with Mr. Othow Okoti, a PCOSS member who is a peacemaker for the church. Since that work is mostly unpaid, he is selling water filters and drilling water wells manually to supplement his income. PRDA is supporting Othow in increasing his business portfolio to include selling water filters and the manual drilling of wells. Also, Kristi Rice, a PC(USA) mission co-worker with a background in business and experience in establishing micro-finance institutions, is working with him to set up the accounts for Othow’s company, called Pokwow Services.

Mr. Francis Duku, a welder who was trained to build low-cost WaSH options, was also engaged in the manual drilling, producing new tools to address the drilling challenges that Jim finds within Juba. He is a skilled technician who can produce the tools needed on demand.

UNICEF facilitates the coordination of non-governmental organizations involved in WaSH by organizing cluster meetings. Jim attended the cluster meeting that was held during his visit. He learned that since December 2017, when Jim and Henk Holtslag held a small workshop on manual drilling, the WaSH Cluster has formed a Technical Working Group for Manual Drilling. Expertise in manual drilling is emerging as a need, especially for meeting the WaSH needs of internally displaced persons, who most often are living in areas where large drilling rigs are unable to reach. This should provide a tremendous opportunity for PRDA to provide the expertise needed by these groups who are beginning manual drilling with virtually no experience. Jim is in contact with the NGOs within the Technical Working Group and expects that a second trip to Juba this year will be able to formalize a training with these NGOs in manual drilling and in fabrication of drilling and pumping equipment for early 2019.

Unfortunately, little progress was made on the construction of the WaSH training center in Juba due to a discrepancy between the boundaries as written on the deed by the city and the plot of land donated by a PCOSS church member to the PCOSS. Rev. John Yor, the general secretary for the PCOSS, is revisiting the officials regarding the deed to ensure the land is owned by the PCOSS, at which time Jim will return to help construct the training workshop.

Since PC(USA) mission co-workers Leisa Wagstaff and Lynn and Sharon Kandel were stateside for their interpretation assignment, Jim was invited to house-sit for them. The invitation was most welcome, since there was air conditioning and a good internet connection available. Also, as all the PC(USA) co-workers live in the same apartment complex, it meant that Jim was able to catch up with Bob and Kristi Rice and the work they are doing with the Nile Theological College and the development office of our partner, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC).
One evening after sharing dinner, Jim and the Rices watched the movie “The Good Lie,” a major Hollywood film about a family of Lost Boys from the Second Civil War who were chosen to relocate to the US. The story presented in the film is still dominant in many of the lives of South Sudanese colleagues today. For example, due to the continuing issues of insecurity, Othow’s wife and children remain in the camp mentioned in the movie, the Kakuma refugee camp, which he tries to visit once a year. The morning after we watched the film, Jim met with Salva Dut, the founder of Water for South Sudan, and “AJ” Ajong Agok, the country director. Both of them were Lost Boys who were relocated to the US. They are now using opportunities to assist in getting safe water to the South Sudanese people that they have been able to create as a result of being part of the South Sudanese diaspora. As country director, AJ lives in Juba, and Salva travels between the USA and South Sudan. Salva’s story is told in the book “A Long Walk to Water.”

Jim was fortunate to be in Juba when a new peace agreement between the South Sudanese Government and the South Sudanese Government in Opposition was signed. He heard many young people shouting and dancing in the streets. However much this signing brought joy, it was also met with only a cautious hope by the South Sudanese with whom Jim spoke. They are cautious because they have been disappointed many times before. But they remain hopeful because members of the Christian community in South Sudan and around the world — including our congregation in Niamey, Niger — are faithfully petitioning for God to provide peace for the people of South Sudan.

Rev. Tut Mai Nguoth, lecturer at the Nile Theological College and deputy executive director of PRDA, is one of many who are reaching out to resolve the conflict. The churches within the PCOSS are separated ethnically because each group speaks a different language. Rev. Tut, who is not Dinka, preached and was welcomed warmly by the Dinka congregation, despite belonging to a traditionally warring ethnic group.

We ask that you join us all in giving thanks for the peace progress so far, and in asking for lasting peace. We also thank you for your financial support as we continue our work in Niger and South Sudan.

Jim and Jodi McGill

Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission

Dear partners in God’s mission,

We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.

Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.

Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.

Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.

I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!

In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!

At God’s service and at your service!

José Luis Casal
Director

P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!


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