World Relief

courage is found in unlikley places

Photo credit: World Relief, South Sudan

Photo credit: World Relief, South Sudan

The next few months are especially critical in South Sudan. The UN is saying nearly 5 million people are “severely food insecure” and, with harvest still three months away, the situation is likely to deteriorate further. In his latest column about South Sudan, "Starvation as a product of war," Nick Kristoff describes what happens when kids begin to starve:

They show no emotions: They do not cry or smile or frown, but simply gaze blankly, their bodies unwilling to waste a calorie on emotion when every iota of energy must go to keep major organs functioning.

My colleagues in South Sudan say World Relief is only NGO still operating in Koch county, which is near the epicenters of the conflict. We plan to continue to serve the needs of the population in accordance with our mission providing we can continue to do so within our defined boundaries of security for our staff. My colleagues in South Sudan are profoundly dedicated to serving those most affected by the war.

They inspire me.

Last week, my colleagues in South Sudan were able to reach Koch County by helicopter with survival kits, high-energy biscuits, and medical supplies. Tragically, last week, the team was ambushed during one of these humanitarian drops. Three men were killed, and another 12 were seriously injured. Among the injured was one of our colleagues from the Koch County Health Department, Mr. Stephen Gatkoi. Stephen is a nurse and was assisting World Relief by providing medical care to people in hiding. He suffered a bullet to his left shoulder and lost a significant amount of blood. Thankfully, he and the other injured were able to be lifted to a Red Cross hospital and are receiving treatment. Stephen is expected to fully recover.

War brings out the worst of humanity, but it also brings out the best. The courage of my colleagues in South Sudan is stunning. So is their love for God and their fellow people. Their perseverance and fortitude in the face of overwhelming evil gives me courage too—courage to pray, give and tell the story of South Sudan. JRR Tolkien says, "Courage is found in unlikely places." True for South Sudan, and true for you and me too. 

Click here to learn more about the tragedy in South Sudan, as well as Word Relief's response.

where is the outrage?

Man wounded in Jonglei State, South Sudan. Photo, Camille Lepage.

Man wounded in Jonglei State, South Sudan. Photo, Camille Lepage.

I couldn't sleep last night because I was thinking about what it would be like to be a father in South Sudan. I was thinking about a father in South Sudan who watched his three young sons bleed to death when government soldiers castrated them. I thought about another father who watched soldiers tie his children together, torch them, and burn them alive in their home. If I had daughters, I would be thinking about the soldiers who gang raped girls, some as young as 8, before tying them together and burning them alive in their homes.

Some are saying South Sudan will be a failed state soon unless something changes. I think the state has already failed its people. The everyday guttural wails of grief by fathers, mothers and siblings tell the truth.

The world celebrated when South Sudan became a nation. We took joy in their new birth. Real, tangible hope was within reach for our brothers and sisters. But, now, four years later, in their hour of suffering, we are on vacation. 

I am meant to be on vacation next week but how can I stop thinking about the fathers in South Sudan? If our sons and daughters were in grave danger, our friends in South Sudan wouldn't stop thinking about us.

All this began when South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir got into a power struggle with Reik Machar, the Vice President. Their fight over power quickly turned tribal: Kiir is Dinka and Machar is Nuer. Now the country is split along ethnic lines and somehow violence is meant to solve the problem. Diplomacy has failed, perhaps because some of the conveners from East Africa are not neutral to the conflict. I am told some are financing one side of the civil war. The UN and our State Department have decried the failed peace talks. But the international community, including the United States, must do more than advise. We need to roll up our sleeves and join the diplomatic efforts.

I have been working in humanitarian aid for more than two decades. I wish I could say that compassion is impartial. But it's usually not the case. Where we put our resources is a good indicator of our compassion. Or, to put it crassly, compassion follows money. And money, in the form of humanitarian aid, tends to follow CNN.

But we don't have to wait for CNN. If tens of thousands of churches all across our country begin praying for South Sudan each week, people will rise. If people like you and I begin writing, talking, Face-booking and tweeting the simple question, "Where's the outrage?," we will see a groundswell of interest that will influence the press and governments.  

We celebrated with the South Sudanese during their first birthday four years ago. Now its time to suffer with them in their great hour of distress.

saving south sudan

Today's is South Sudan's birthday. It's been four years since the world's newest nation was born. But it's on the brink of collapse. More than two thirds of the countries 12 million people are in need of humanitarian aid and upwards of 4.5 million people are at risk of starving. Nicholas Kristof gives a horrific account from his recent visit there: “Survivors report that boys have been castrated and left to bleed to death. … Girls as young as 8 have been gang raped and murdered. … Children have been tied together before their attackers slit their throats.” Last week a headline from BBC read, "Army raped and torched girls."

My World Relief colleagues living and working near the epicenter of the conflict confirm the atrocities. One of our own team members died from injuries sustained when a shell exploded where he was seeking refuge. A staff member from our health partner in Unity State "ran from the fighting until he could run no further and, there, unable to catch his breath he collapsed and died."

After tweeting about South Sudan, someone said to me, "Where is the outrage?" A valid question for sure. South Sudan is fighting for its very survival. Joining our South Sudanese brothers and sisters now by lamenting, praying, advocating, shouting or giving, can make the difference between whether a nation becomes a failed state or lives to celebrate happier birthdays. We owe it to the South Sudanese. Now is the time to save South Sudan.