Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Small beginnings


Promoting health in all areas of life in South Sudan during the coronavirus

by Kristi Rice, mission co-worker in South Sudan | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Mission co-worker Kristi Rice asks women in South Sudan about their hopes and dreams for the group. (Photo by Elijah Luak)

LOLOGO, South Sudan — A few weeks ago, before coronavirus took over our thoughts in South Sudan, I joined a meeting of women to talk about community development. Women gathered in a circle after the church service, many of them holding young children on their laps. I started the discussion by reflecting on John 10:10, where Jesus expressed his intention to give us “life, and have it abundantly.”

What does that mean?

As a mission co-worker with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) working in the area of community health evangelism, I explained that means God cares about all aspects of our lives — our eternal souls, certainly, but also our bodies, relationships, work and minds. If one part of our life is unhealthy — such as a conflict with a family member, that will have an impact on other parts of our lives. So how can we all improve and promote health in all areas of life?

My colleague Elijah passed around a weaving that was in process. He asked the women to tell what they thought it was, or what they noticed. Several women suggested that it was a basket or would become a woven bag for carrying things. Some said they knew how to do this type of weaving.

When an object was passed around at its beginning stages, the women discussed what it might be. (Photo by Kristi Rice)

When something is at its beginning, there are many possibilities. Something that looks small and insignificant at its beginning can become something big, beautiful and of great use with slow, steady progress. With that perspective, we asked the women to share some of their dreams. What impact could they have as a group? Some of their top dreams included:

  • Adult education (many of them have not gone very far in school; they would like to learn to read and write)
  • Employment (perhaps through a store where the women can sell their handcrafts, or a farm)
  • Spiritual strengthening (including prayer, Bible study)
  • Trauma healing training
  • Health awareness (e.g., about diseases, including cancer)

We then looked at each of these top goals or hopes the women had for projects. We asked what would be required in terms of material or human resources for each? What resources did they have available? Finally, we asked them to vote for which of these should be tackled first. Voting was a challenge because all projects had value and felt like priorities to the women.

Elijah Luak makes notes as the women prioritize projects. Then they voted on where to begin, determining together the top need is to create employment for women, such as a shop or cooperative to sell Anyuak beadwork and other handicrafts. (Photo by Kristi Rice)

They decided that creating employment would be the highest priority task to tackle first, especially through trying to open a shop or having an incoming-producing cooperative that could help them sell some of the beautiful beadwork that the Anyuak tribe is known for.

The women thought about some ways they could save to get some capital for opening a shop. We talked about the planning and training that might be needed before they opened. The women, most of whom live in the neighborhood and do not have consistent work, are eager to collaborate. We talked about the need to continue to meet, to learn and plan together. Please pray for God’s wisdom and provision for these women in Lologo. And now that coronavirus has made meetings risky, pray for wisdom in how we proceed.

Kristi Rice and her husband, the Rev. Bob Rice, are Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers serving in South Sudan since 2017 and prior to that for seven years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kristi is an economic and development adviser for the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church. She supports projects that help meet the financial goals of the church and improve the health and well-being of communities, including the exploration of community health evangelism. Bob serves as an instructor at Nile Theological College, where he teaches theology and biblical studies courses. Subscribe to their lettersConsider supporting their work.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.