Many thousands of South Sudanese are returning to their homeland now that peace has been restored. As we have shared before, they are delivered to their villages in the back of a UN truck, carrying their few possessions in a plastic bag or beat-up suitcase.
The UN drops them off with a tarp and enough corn to last the family for about three months. They must find their own place to erect and build some kind of shelter. However, they have no tools to clear space for a garden and no seeds to plant.
With your help, we are providing simple tools and seeds to as many of these families as we can so they can start providing for themselves. Distribution has been through the local congregations. Many of you have generously contributed to this effort that is opening many doors for the Gospel.
One distribution was attempted during the last rainy season but, because of impassable roads, had to be discontinued. Now that the roads are dry, minister Isaya Jackson reports that the distribution is continuing with about 300 families benefiting.
According to Isaya, "Many expressed deep appreciation for the assistance and also for the timely manner of the delivery. The need for the seeds and farm tools is immense...thank you so much for doing all you could to help Southern Sudan returnees from exile fight food insecurity, which is rampant all over Africa."
Prison Inmate Sends Contribution
We realize that some of you make donations to help evangelize Sudan that you can barely afford. Often we don't know who you are, but one recent instance became known that really touched our hearts.
A Christian inmate serving a long-term sentence in a Tennessee prison receives our monthly newsletter and recently wrote that he wanted to make a contribution to our work. He said, "I can't spend all the money I make here." Soon afterwards, his wife told us that he has a job in the prison and makes 34 cents an hour! But out of his savings, he sent $100 to help the work in Sudan. This has to rank right up there with the widow's mite for generosity.
Update on Sudan Election
Since the last newsletter was dedicated to background on the national election being held among the southern Sudanese, we thought you might enjoy a quick update on the results. Sudan will officially split into two countries later this year, election officials in Juba announced on January 30.
After a five year peace process ending 50 years of often-bloody conflict in which more than 2 million people died, Southern Sudan voted 99.57 percent for separation. Adding in all other Southern Sudanese voters from around the world, the final vote was 98.83 percent in favor of separation from Sudan in the north, of which Khartoum is the capital.
The week-long vote passed peacefully. Although tension remains high in parts of the oil-rich area that straddles the boundary between north and south, our school in Parajok is safely located nearly 1,500 miles from there.
The new country's secretary general said negotiations were underway with the north concerning how to go forward with the partition. He warned of the challenges ahead, saying, "We are a baby nation that has just been born--and like a human baby, we are fragile but have the potential to become great."
South Sudan has been chosen as the name for what will be the world's newest country when it comes into existence on July 9, 2011. Ending months of speculation, this name will officially distinguish it from troublesome Sudan in the north. That name has constantly been used to refer to the area, but now it becomes official. So our new preacher training center will officially be called the South Sudan Bible School!
God Grew Tired of Us
This is the title of a fascinating movie about the "lost boys" of Sudan. Available on Netflix or at any video store, it is the true story of Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther.
After raising themselves in the desert as orphaned children, along with thousands of other lost boys, they have found their way to America. Here they experience such marvels as supermarkets, electricity, and running water for the first time! You will see up close how challenging such new "inventions" are for these young men.
Not only does this film show the disparity between the life of the ordinary Sudanese and us but it will help you grow more appreciative of the many things Americans simply take for granted. An award winner in the Sundance Film Festival, anyone interested in Sudan will thoroughly enjoy "God Grew Tired of Us."
See the Building Progress!
Since communication between South Sudan and the U.S. is slow, we didn't receive photos of the beginning construction on the preacher training school until a few days after the last newsletter went to press. We have included them in this newsletter to keep you up to date. Be looking forward to more updated pictures after our upcoming March 6-19 trip to Sudan!