by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – Although there is a tentative cease-fire in Juba, South Sudan, Presbyterian mission co-worker Leisa Wagstaff remains in the city, with colleagues around the country and in the U.S. working on an evacuation plan to get her out of the country.
“I probably got more ‘restful sleep’ last night than I have in a while,” she wrote Tuesday morning. “Even having slept on the floor fully clothed, with sneakers on and my passport and Bible within reach, I woke up feeling more optimistic than I have in days. Maybe it was the voices that reached me of the neighborhood children at play; voices that I have not heard during recent days—voices that were certainly silenced or drowned out by the sounds of war. They signaled happiness and hope for which I am grateful.”
The Juba airport is now allowing some charter flights in and out of the city, but demand is great and space is limited. Rev. Debbie Braaksma, of Presbyterian World Mission’s Africa Area Office, said the office has four evacuation possibilities and is working to have Wagstaff safely out of the country as soon as possible.
Many have feared that South Sudan is heading toward another civil war. The most recent violence has been between South Sudan’s government and forces loyal to Vice President Riek Machar. Nearly 300 have died, with an estimated 36,000 people displaced. The American embassy is also evacuating its personnel.
Wagstaff remains concerned for the people of South Sudan. A mission co-worker for 32 years, she has been in South Sudan for two years and has developed deep relationships with locals. During the crisis, she has received exceptional support, from taxi drivers to colleagues to neighbors, that has sustained her. Her South Sudanese colleagues believe she has sustained them as well. On a phone call Tuesday, Morrow said, “I spoke with Leisa today and she so encouraged me! She is so very strong in her faith!”
In an email Wagstaff wrote, “PCUSA, I have felt your prayers. The members of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan I have spoken with this morning are grateful for all you are doing. So much has already been heaped upon the innocent people of South Sudan. Coupled with the past traumatic experiences of conflict, it is hard to envision this country will even be able to move beyond this point. The church worldwide, not the government, will need to take the forefront in leading people towards true repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation so that the war-wounded heart, mind and soul can be healed.” So much has already been heaped upon South Sudan’s innocent as well as those who have come from other countries to help or conduct business. Coupled with the past traumatic experiences of conflict, it is hard to envision this nation ever being able to move beyond this point. The Church worldwide, not the government will need to take the forefront in leading people towards true repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation so that the war-wounded heart, mind and soul may be healed.
To help RECONCILE and PCOSS rebuild the country, visit www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/south-sudan-education-and-peacebuilding-project-information/
Continuing updates will be available on the Presbyterian World Mission Facebook page.
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