On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its first birthday as an independent country. As the world’s newest nation, South Sudan faces many challenges as it forms a new government, develops laws and redevelops infrastructure that was destroyed by decades of civil war. There are deep wounds within Sudan that will require Gospel power in order to heal.
The people of South Sudan - primarily subsistence farmers - also face many obstacles. Though agricultural land is plentiful in this region, from the 1980s into the 2000s, many farmers fled for their lives to refugee camps in Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and to displacement camps within Sudan. As a result, agricultural land became overgrown and children who would have traditionally grown up on farms and absorbed farming skills from their elders, are now adults who know nothing about farming.
Equally tragic was the fact that many youth who were left behind by their fleeing families joined the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) to fight for independence. Though some may have joined voluntarily, others as young as 12-years-old and younger were forcibly conscripted.
One Christian relief agency - CRWRC - has been working in Yei River County in the southern tip of South Sudan for the past three years. Through four projects in this region, the agency hopes to help the rural population increase in their farming skills and work together to improve agricultural production so that families can meet their needs and food can be sold both within South Sudan and exported to neighboring countries.
The projects are designed to train over 800 farm families each year in best practices for growing food staples such as maize, ground nuts, beans and sorghum; educate street children in Yei Town in vegetable production; and promote good agricultural practices through broadcasts over two Christian radio stations in Yei River County.
Integral to this vision is the embodiment of Christ's good news. “I believe in the Gospel’s power to change lives and effect reconciliation between warring individuals, including tribes with a long history of conflict. Without the Gospel woven into our projects, our impact could be hollow if not palliative,” said CRWRC South Sudan Country Representative and Program Director, Albert Dizon.
Taipule Lugala Mudure, a participant in the project, spoke to its effectiveness. He says, “(The) farm radio program, which I conscientiously follow, guided me in proper pricing and right timing for selling my produce,” said Mudure. “If this is sustained, the future is looking up. We will have a better food supply, including the means to cope with other basic needs for the household.”
In South Sudan, war’s wounds aren’t having the last word. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is speaking a healing word, binding the wounds of the brokenhearted and generating new strength and hope.