A letter from Lynn and Sharon Kandel serving in South Sudan
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Life can get so busy or intense at times that you need to step back and be reminded of the important things. Getting away is a good thing. We went to Kenya for a week, and it was a good time of relaxing, enjoying cooler temperatures, and talking. Oh, yes, and having chocolate milkshakes! Back in Juba, things have been tense with an increase in crime all over the city. While this is not unusual leading up to Christmas, it has started earlier this year and has seemed more violent, according to our South Sudanese friends. I realize that this must seem odd since Christmas is supposed to be a happy family time celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. For the people of South Sudan this time of year is hard because money is scarce. The consequence is theft as people try to get money to buy things for their children. It is easy to focus on the bad and negative, so we find that our trips to Kenya help us to step back and get a better perspective.
Christmas is an interesting time here in Juba. Many of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) office people leave for a month. The men in the office are all here without their families, so they take a month off for Christmas to have quality time with them. This means attendance at church is down, but it is a chance to get to know those who stay behind much better. There is always some work to be done, but it is a much more relaxed time.
Even with all the tension and unrest there are plans being made for the future, a future that everyone hopes and believes will hold peace. So, with that encouragement all around us, the South Sudan Education and Peace Building Project (SSEPP) is moving forward with plans for another building project to start this fall in Pochalla. Pochalla is near the Ethiopian border and is a community that is committed to bringing education to their children. This community has been working with the Education Department of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan for a year now, mobilizing the community to help with the building of a school and getting teachers educated. A trip to this area is being planned for sometime before Christmas with the hopes of getting started with work either in January or February. The roads into Pochalla are often impassable for eight months of the year due to the rainy season turning them to rivers of mud, so the window for getting building supplies into the area is small.
During our time in Kenya we were able to meet with Rev. James Makuei, the director of Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA), the development arm of the PCOSS, and we were encouraged to hear that they are hoping to reopen their Juba office. When the fighting started in December of 2013, the PRDA office decided to move to Kenya until things quieted down, and so they are now looking at moving back to Juba. This is an agency that SSEPP can work with in the construction of school buildings. It was encouraging to hear of the relief work that they are doing in South Sudan with delivery of food and medicine to hard-hit areas.
Please be in prayer for the people of South Sudan, especially during this holiday time when things are extra tense. It seems that while people don’t really feel peace is here to stay, there is always the hope—but also the fear that fighting will break out again. With food costing more, fuel shortages, and military changes, people are unsure of what to expect. Pray for the leaders of this country to put the people first and pray for the ability of people to forgive one another. We also ask you to pray for us. Sometimes it is all so overwhelming that we do not know what to say or do for the people around us.
Letters of encouragement mean so much to us, so a BIG thank-you for your emails! We try to respond to each one of you, but if we have missed you, please know that we do read every letter we receive and are so thankful for all of them.
Because of your generous giving, we can be here and share all of this with you—Thank you! Thank you for your commitment to this country and the financial support you have given and continue to give. What an opportunity for all of us to reach out in Christ’s name.
Lynn and Sharon Kandel
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 139
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