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Church members find damaged school — and great need — in South Sudan

Christians hear gunfire as they inspect a looted vocational boarding school designed to bring warring peoples together and share Jesus.

Refugees in South Sudan. (PHOTO BY CHUCK DENNIS)

During a recent visit to South Sudan, two church members saw firsthand the devastation that resulted from weeks of violence in the East African nation.

Chuck Dennis and Dennis Cady, members of the Faith Village Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas, helped construct a Christian vocational boarding school in the town of Bor, a focal point of the ethnically charged conflict. Cady’s nonprofit,  the Starfish Foundation, built the school in Bor, the capital of South Sudan’s Jonglei state, at the request of the state’s governor.

The governor requested the school to help his people, who represent six ethnics groups, to learn moneymaking skills — and to learn to coexist peacefully, Cady said. 

Living on campus and learning about Jesus together can help accomplish that goal, Cady added. 

The town — and the school — were seized at least twice by rebels fighting South Sudanese government troops, Cady said. (See our recent coverage for an explanation of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.)

Dennis and Cady visited a refugee camp in Uganda, the South Sudanese capital of Juba and Bor to survey damage and assess needs. 

Here’s an excerpt from the church members’ report:

Because of insecurity in the region we were able to spend only three hours in Bor. To make that possible we chartered a small plane which took us from Juba, waited on the ground three hours then took us back to Juba. 

We are thrilled that our campus has received relatively light damage. Numerous windows were broken, three steel doors must be replaced and other things need to be repaired, but things could have been so much worse.  

The marketplace in Bor. (PHOTO BY CHUCK DENNIS)

In the city, most houses are intact. Commercial properties did not fare as well. Most of the central marketplace has been burned, reduced to piles of mangled sheet iron.  

Virtually every building, residential and commercial, has been looted. While people have houses to come back to, they are empty shells. Most houses which were burned had mud walls and grass or thatched roofs. Incendiary bullets ignited the roofs. We were told looting was committed by both rebel forces and civilians who merely took advantage of the lawless conditions. People are starting to return to the city, but not yet in great numbers. As larger numbers return we want to have in place assistance to help them rebuild their lives.

We cannot turn back the clock and undo what has happened in South Sudan since mid December. We can respond in such a way that opportunities to teach the gospel can be created.  Scores, maybe hundreds, can be saved because they (will) listen after observing God’s people responding quickly and sufficiently.  

Contact the Starfish Foundation for more information.

At the height of the conflict, at least 8,000 refugees per day were crossing the border from South Sudan into the Turkana region of northern Kenya, according to the United Nations. The Turkana region already was suffering from years of drought. (See our 2011 coverage of relief efforts by Healing Hands International there.)
Christian Relief Fund is providing food aid and drilling water wells throughout the Turkana region, said marketing/development director Andrew Brown. See a blog post about the work.

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary International

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