13th December, ’14.
Greetings to each and all as we wind down 2014 with Advent celebrations, and with joyful expectancy for the Peace and Joy that Christmas and New Year bring.
As we review 2014, we sisters share the opinion as the locals; All say that 2014 is a year that we will not forget. Events that are etched on people’s minds are the war which began 15th December, 2013 and continued around the oil well areas practically the whole year through. Thousands died, thousands starved while food supplies via the UN saved countless other thousands in camps, where throughout the rainy season were quagmires of mud, slush, decay and grime. Many of these IDPs remain in camps are still too afraid to resume normal life back in their home towns or cities.
Here in Mapuordit, till now Internally Displaced Persons have not ventured to return. In fact our environment has been peaceful; (I speak here of we missionaries and foreign volunteer teachers and medical staff). For the Local Dinka, the situation is vastly different due to severe tribal clashes. Our trained driver, James eg, will not venture beyond Apak and Atuot tribes. He will not drive in Agar Territory. Almost every night there are heavy gun shots from very sophisticated artillery, in our market and nearby surrounding villages. Patients with gunshot wounds occupy a good many hospital beds.
No one seems to know how Cattle Keepers access such weapons. Most are heavily armed, very daring when in groups and are raiding cattle to such an extent that authorities say is beyond what they have previously experienced. However, through it all, in Lakes State, we sisters and missionaries have not been targeted. This however hasn’t been the case around the Oil Fields where our fellow missionary brothers and sisters have suffered and are still suffering from lack of food, clean water, isolation with hardly any phone and email connections.
Another event that made 2014 so different from other years is that October was our wettest month for the year. Normally by October roads are drying and there is freedom of movement to almost any place of choice. Not so now. In mid December, we are still walking almost three Kilometres to cross the Barnam on the way to Rumbek. Cars from here go to the water’s edge while cars from the Rumbek side go to their water’s edge where we are either picked up by a Diocesan vehicle or simple ride in a local bus. The river, a seasonal one, has completely cut the Highway. The local Agar tribes of the area have been very enterprising with small fish markets stretched the whole length of the 3 Km walk. One may select freshly fried fish, freshly caught fish of any size...or do your own fry according to personal taste!!!!!!!!!!!
Yirol, a major town with a large hospital, several primary schools and a Secondary school has been completely isolated for months. Motor bikes are the only moveable engines passing through...Once having crossed through the water, the rider upends the bike to release water from the exhaust. The other major town completely isolated was Mvolo. For almost two months the markets of Rumbek, Yirol, Mapuordit, Mvolo were completely empty. There were practically no stocks and the little available was selling at almost ten times the price. We, together with “The Poor” and “Blind” were able to survive as we had supplies in containers and our garden was still lush with vegetables.
At the present, Mvolo road is open, lorries are able to reach Rumbek, Mapuordit and the many smaller surrounding markets. The Yirol airstrip was reopened to assist movement of persons.
With the Dry season on us now, we weren’t able to begin our annual maintenance programme for schools; materials were not accessible. Lorries are not able to move from Rumbek etc.
So a few weeks ago after the Mvolo road re-opened I went to Juba to purchase materials needed for maintenance works. A very expensive exercise due to road transport out of Juba to Mapuordit. However work is now proceeding. Two capable Kenyan builders are making good progress.
This is an unknown since the “the rebels” have declared they will settle the national leadership crisis between Riek Machar and Salva Kiir by war… On the other hand the threat of US sanctions against both sides for lack of progress with peace talks in Addis have brought some sobriety to both sides. It is rumoured that those engaged in such talks don’t want to relinquish the comforts of hotel life in Addis.
With the approach of Christmas and New Year the whole Christian population is earnestly praying for peace, peace that this world and our leaders seem unable to give.
The Bishops’ conference with countless others are working desperately to bring about a lasting peace as well as to empty the camps where literally thousands continue to survive from UN rations.
Our OLSH Community??????????
Thank God we are all fine...Sr. Philo continues her work in the hospital; Wendy courageously struggles to cope with the heat which these days reaches 44 C and even our December nights, normally quite chilly, are very hot. Sr. Virginia joined the 45 Youth from the Parish for the Youth Congress currently being celebrated in Rumbek. I was in Rumbek for the closing Mass of the Congress. It was wonderful to see a Youth Group dance a prayer for the Sisters presence in parishes where there are yet no sisters. Sr. Virginia inspired many youth and each parish wants a “Virginia” presence. Well done Virginia! Sr. Valentine is counting her days remaining before she returns to her home country, Indonesia. We will indeed miss her greatly.
Tomorrow I will accompany her to Rumbek and thence to Nairobi. I will have a few week’s break there and return to allow Wendy to take her break later in January. Wendy will be in Nairobi to meet Terry Quinn, the nephew of Sr. Mary Batchelor, coming as a Volunteer for 12 months.
Again, Season’s greetings to all with much love and gratitude for all you are to us and for all you continue to make possible for a very needy people.
Maintenance works underway now are in the Primary school, Volunteer compound, houses for the poor and for lepers. Housing for the poor and for the lepers is a real essential as every night hyenas prowl the villages, right to doors, mainly looking for goats, at least that is what we’re told, but they are not likely to stop at anything else they would deem a tasty meal.
We continue to rely on your prayerful support as we continue our efforts for peace.
Lovingly and gratefully in union with the women, the poor, the blind, isolated school children and those lacking fresh, clean water
Sr. Rita Grunke (olsh)
Peace to all of good will