The Church is Always ThereRich Stigall
“The beauty of church-based orphan care through The Father’s House,” said Rose, GO Africa’s Facilitator for Church Partnerships, to the Bishop and Management Committee in Torit, South Sudan, “is that when war comes, the church remains and continues to care for children. Thank you for continuing to care for the children God has given you, in spite of the war.”
In mid-December last year, civil war broke out in South Sudan and it has now deteriorated into an ethnic conflict between the President’s Dinka tribe and his former Vice-President’s Nuer tribe. They are historic enemies, but had united in fighting for the independence of South Sudan in 2011.
Torit is the capital of Eastern Equatoria State, which borders Uganda and Kenya on its south, and Ethiopia on its east. About ten years ago, the Bishop, Bernard Oringa, gave up a solid job as the Director of Finance and Administration for Wycliffe Bible Translators in Sudan in order to become the second Bishop of Torit Diocese.
When this latest war broke out, he traveled throughout the whole Diocese/State preaching peace and urging the people to not get caught up in the tribal politics. For the most part, it has paid off.
One of the results of peace in their state, however, is that there are now many displaced people from other parts of the country affected by the war who have migrated to the Diocese. Likewise, many people living in the Diocese have relocated their family members and relatives to refugee camps in Uganda. Crops have not been planted because of instability and insecurity, so the entire country is facing a major humanitarian food crisis. Ugandan traders are reluctant to travel in South Sudan because of the insecurity. So, imported food and goods have decreased, driving prices very high for the few things that make it across the Ugandan border into Torit or Juba, the country’s capital city.
When war breaks out, most international development organizations withdraw their field staff for their own protection, including many internationally-recognized children’s and orphan organizations. But the church stays put. The church IS the people; it IS the local community.
So, when traders flee back to Uganda, when international organizations evacuate their staff, the Bishop and The Father’s House Management Committee continued to fiercely protect the children of the Torit Father’s House. In fact, God even sent an angel to add to their team. The angel’s name? Rev. Julia.
Julia is a South Sudanese who works for the World Food Programme. She was transferred from Juba to Torit and found the local church that was caring for children through The Father’s House. She fell in love with the vision and the ministry and the children. The Bishop has now ordained her a Deacon in the church, and she has provided a lot of hope and encouragement in the ministry.
We’ve now received word from the Bishop and The Father’s House Coordinator that cholera has broken out in Torit town, and the isolation ward at the hospital is a mere 400 meters from The Father’s House. We have sent emergency funds to dig two new pit latrines and invite everyone to join us in praying for protection for the 24 children in The Father’s House that they are spared from cholera.
Caring for abandoned and abused children is not easy in the best of times. But, the church in Torit is an inspiration because of their perseverance and commitment to their children even in the midst of war. Pray for South Sudan!