Although we remain country coordinators for the Perpetual Education Fund program in Uganda, I have also been called to serve as president of the Juba Branch in South Sudan. So now we board a plane for a one-hour flight to attend church in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. On our first trip, we learned lesson # one - it is against the law to take pictures of anything in the country unless in a private setting. As you can see in the following picture, the three men behind me are reacting to Sister Thayn taking a picture. Immediately we were approached by the police and informed of the no picture rule. She was ordered to delete the picture from her camera, which she obviously did . . . . We were grateful they didn't escort us off to jail. We have seen their prison, and it is not an inviting place.
Our experiences in South Sudan have certainly introduced a different flavor to our mission. For reasons we do not fully understand, the Church agreed to build a small chapel on land which was leased for five years to serve a group of approximately twenty members, and no missionaries are assigned to the country.
Our assignment is to provide ecclesiastical leadership, not proselytizing. Since we come to only on weekends, it limits our ability to share the gospel with many people. However, over the past four weeks, we have prepared six men and one woman for baptism and several others are waiting to be taught. With the limited time available we have on the weekends we are here, it is impossible to teach them individually. Therefore, we teach them as a group whenever, and wherever we can.
The building is nice and quite comfortable, with the AC's running, but was never completed. We see a lot of that here in Africa - things get started then get left unattended and never get completed. Therefore, the Thayns were asked to not only lead the branch but get the building completed.
Many of the Sudanese people in South Sudan have ties and resources in North Sudan, but are unable to access them. North Sudan will not allow anything of significant value to cross the border into South Sudan, that includes money or possessions.
An example of that is the second counselor in the branch presidency. He has a home and a generator in Khartoum North Sudan. He also receives a small pension from serving in the military, where he lost his left leg from a landmine explosion. His pension, however, is held in a NS bank because no money can be taken out of the country. He would like to sell his home and transport his power generator to SS. He can sell his home, but he cannot take the money or the generator to SS.
Therefore, he raises his two nephews in very humble circumstances.
Since South Sudan broke off from the North and became an independent country in July 2011, there has been enmity between the two countries. Although areas along the border separating the two countries has been declared to be unsafe, we feel quite safe when we are in Juba.
Unfortunately Juba is ranked as the most expensive African city to live in. This is probably one of the reasons the church is holding off putting missionaries here. When you look at the city and the impoverished conditions of the people, you would think it might be a place where the US dollar would go a long way. Not so.
Since it is against the law to take pictures in public places in SS, most of our pictures are limited to what we can take from the window of the car. With that in mind, we have included some pictures taken during our drives through the city. The pictures would be a higher quality if we could approach the people and situations at a closer distance. The following pictures give a feel for life in Juba, South Sudan.
A burial is taking place. Seldom have we passed this cemetery but what someone is being buried. You can recognize a fresh grave, not by a moist dirt mound, but by the number of plastic water bottles littering the grave site.
This is a view inside the home of Simon and Sunday. They are not members of the church, but would like to be. Their home is built of sticks and mud surfaced with cow dung. The floor is also made of mud coated with cow dung to give it a slick and more durable surface, making it easier to sweep and keep clean. It actually serves the purpose well.
These piles of small rocks are the result of women sitting on the ground all day hitting larger stones with a hammer breaking them into smaller stones as you see. When someone needs rocks to use in making concrete, or for any other purpose, they stop and purchase what they need. The women who break the rocks into small stones are usually surrounded by their small children who spend their days watching their mothers work, day in and day out.
Sister Thayn in the home of my second counselor sitting next to his mother and sister.
Demonstrating how my counselor can grow food during the dry season using plastic water bottles filled with water and placed in the ground upside down in the ground next to the plant.
Not everyone can afford to buy enough grass to finish the roof of their house. This one had obviously been a long time without a finished roof. We were curious as to what they do to stay dry inside during the rainy season.
Here the rocks the women have broken with their hammers have been placed in bags and stacked at the side of the road hoping someone will stap and purchase them.
The grass roof of their mud huts is water proof and provides effective insulation from the heat of the sun.
This is a true fixer upper loaded with bundles of grass used to roof a grass hut.
The truck exemplifies much of what we find in Sudan . . . . a people who have suffered much from the political, territorial and religious wars of the past . . . . and which continue at the present.