An update on Lui Diocese, South Sudan from companion diocese committee chair, Deacon Deb Goldfeder
What we know
The news from South Sudan is bleak. The village of Lanyi, about seven miles from Lui, was bombed and, by all reports, destroyed. A convoy coming to help from Lui was also destroyed. There are continued reports of women being attacked, raped, robbed, and then killed alongside the road we always called, “The Good Road.” Lanyi is also on the Good Road at the junction where we turned to go to Lozoh where the diocesan farm was Kudubisi, the tiny place where we celebrated a thanksgiving meal, is along the track to Lozoh, too. By all reports, the people who remained in South Sudan are hiding in the bush and far from the wells we build. We hear that Margaret+ is still in the Senior Secondary School and that the hospital is providing services as best they can. All need our prayers. Nobody is safe there.
You might be thinking that nobody was ever safe there and I understand that. However, the situation is dire: there is famine, there is poor access to clean water, and health care is only for those well enough to evade troops to walk to Lui by the light of the moon and guided by the North Star. Needless to say, many are dying. Nobody knows how many have died but I am certain that more will die as a consequence of all this horrible conflict.
Changes in the Diocese
The Diocese of Lui has been split into two dioceses and now each has its own bishop. The Bishop of Wandi diocese is +Yuhuna Wajo. Some villages which are in that diocese are Lakamadi, Dari, and Wandi, of course. Aside from that little bit of information, we have no update on which villages are now a part of Wandi Diocese. The hope is that the area of Greater Mundri will become its own province. That province would include the dioceses of Lui, Mundri, Yeri, Wandi with a fifth diocese yet to be formed in order to meet the requisite numbers to make a new province if approved. Now more than ever I believe we must pray for all of the churches there.
The Shoe Shipment
Have you ever played Whack-A-Mole? Every time you hit one mole another one pops up. This shipment is like playing Whack-A-Mole with the devil! The shipment has been in Kampala since June but we are still trying to fulfil all the requirements the various government agencies keep adding on. The latest difficulty involves the Vaseline and the marking on the jars. Uganda requires both the manufacture and expiration dates be indelibly printed on the jars. They may not be on a label or any other removable marking. Luckily I found an app for Unilever that deciphers the code to give both dates. Did you know Vaseline expires in three years?
Mable works in the support office for the Episcopal Church of Sudan in Kampala and she has been working nearly full time trying to meet all the requirements for this shipment. Last week she finally identified a company that can mark the jars to the satisfaction of the Bureau of Standards. Now we are awaiting a representative from the Bureau of Standards to come to video the entire marking process for the jars. By the way, just in case you were wondering, they would not release the rest of the shipment until the Vaseline problem was resolved! There have been hundreds of e-mails and WhatsApp messages going back and forth between St. Louis, Kampala and Juba trying to clear everything up. Who would have dreamed that it would be so complicated?
The money we approved for the purchase of seeds was sent to the office in Kampala. I have had one brief message that the seeds are now in Juba but it is too late to plant and it would have been too dangerous to garden anyway. I hoped for confirmation about the seeds but don’t have any further information at this time.
The people in Kiryandongo
Our friends in the refugee camp now make up a small part of the estimated 100,000 South Sudanese in this camp. I find it ironic that enemies who were fighting each other in South Sudan are now coming together in a refugee camp. They pray together and are reconciling. I have even heard good things said about enemy tribal groups.
Originally, the UNHCR was supplying each refugee with twelve kilograms of food a month but, when the numbers became overwhelming, they cut the ration to six kilos per person per month. The refugees were managing by planting crops of maize (corn) to supplement their diets. During the summer the UNHCR cut rations to three kilograms/person/month but it was restored to six kilos after an appeal.
At the same time, African Armyworms attacked all their maize crops and destroyed them. They are attacking maize throughout east Africa and spreading quickly. A female African Armyworm lays about 1,000 eggs in her ten-day lifespan. Global climate change has been implicated in the spread of armyworms. The new Sub-Saharan climate is characterized by periods of extreme drought followed by extremely wet weather. This weather is ideal for armyworms but a disaster for people. Our friends are hoping to get in another planting of maize this year. I pray they will bring maize to harvest.
Finally, I look forward to the day I can bring you some good news but not today.
Deacon Deborah Goldfeder
Chair, Companion Diocese Committee
Photo of one of the three preschool classrooms at the refugee camp in Kiryandongo, Uganda. Lui partners from the Diocese of Lund, Sweden, sent new wood desks and benches for the classrooms.