Sr Rita Gruke OLSH writes from South Sudan
How to begin a realistic letter from this war-weary, brutally savaged and corrupt-ridden land. My reality is that I begin in a spirit of great hope for what can be and with a spirit of deep gratitude for all you are and for all you continue to make possible for Mapuordit and the community beyond. This letter will not dwell on the thousands of atrocities, reports, including that of George Clooney, all of which have already reached your homes. Sadly these reports are true for many countless thousands; now more than one million who have fled the country. In spite of this and because of this, churches with their personnel are still very much alive and in most areas still carry on their ministries, mainly health care and education and formation especially of youth. As Br. Bill, the Coordinator for Solidarity with South Sudan, notes he see many missionaries going about their work without being overly perturbed. Brother resides in Juba.
In Mapuordit we reap an advantages of living in isolation…we are spared the home invasions, raids etc. We all know each other and though there are different ethnic groups we still maintain peace. A few small incidences of cattle raids, a few ethnic skirmishes reach the court but for the main we are very peaceful. Disadvantages of travel, inconveniences of transporting goods and personnel are far out-weighed by the many positives.
Amongst church activities there are many positive highlights…I share notes on just a few of developmental projects meeting with good success.
Several hours drive South from the capital Juba, there is an agriculture project run by a Vietnamese Religious sister, Sr. Rosa. Sister Rosa is an expert in her field and all farming activities reflect this. All cultivation activity is purposely labour intensive thereby offering a means of living to those who have made land available. ALL crops are grown, orchards abound and produce prolifically. Food preservation is taught. At the farm there is a Primary school for workers’ children as well as a health clinic run by an Australian Religious Sister with expertise in midwifery and general nursing. This year, through Power Point email I learnt much from Sr. Rosa about drying fruits. All this I was able to share with the ladies.
Another highlight for South Sudan was the opening of The Good Shepherd Centre, in Juba. This centre was established for youth leadership training and provision for capacity building courses. The Comboni Missionaries led the development. More recently RSASS (Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan) brought to conclusion the construction of another Centre for purposes of training and formation of Religious personnel as well as that of Laity. Orientation of new Missionaries and laity arriving in South Sudan is now available as well as Renewal Courses oriented towards life in South Sudan. Many other forms of enrichment for catechists and pastoral workers have already commenced at the new site. Congratulations to those persons who were able to succeed in accomplishing so much in Juba, amidst fairly intensive civil and political unrest.
Loreto Boarding School for girls in Rumbek has resumed for Term 3; all boarders have returned and their building program continues with great hopes for the future. Recently I spent a couple of very restful weeks in Nairobi; the change of climate and food is always welcome. A delight also was to find two new books from my favourite authors…Jeffery Archer and Frederick Forthsyte.
Allow me now a small space for a little trumpet blowing for our Mapuordit efforts and accomplishments. Our two schools, both Primary and Secondary have reopened for Term 3, both maintaining their enrolments; the Primary beginning Term 3 with over 1,000 and the Secondary still just above 300. At the commencement of Term 3 we still await our Kenyan teachers but the National teachers have made a marvellous beginning to the term….combining classes and providing quality coaching for those attending. The hospital also is fully operational with malaria, especially among the children topping the list of ailments. Sadly HIV and AIDS is strongly alive among us with its consequential deaths. Yesterday we buried one such patient.
Today we buried a small boy 4 years old…malaria…living in very close proximity to the hospital…people become so used to malaria they forget its devastating consequences.
Our agriculture gardens have produced well…with the highest demand being for okra, maize, tomatoes. Thankfully these crops produced abundantly. With the super abundance of tomatoes and guavas jam making time has returned. Many ladies have now acquired the skills for preserves but the problem is that 500 grams of sugar is 100ssp which unless one has access to US$ is unaffordable. Besides, people are still emerging from hunger months so what is produced now goes immediately to the table. Sincere gratitude for your continued funding assistance which enables Mapuordit County to continue its peaceful and effective presence.
With the addition of the 28 new States declared by President Salva Kiir, a new County adjacent to Mapuordit was recently inaugurated with a flag raising ceremony at Ngop. The position of Commissioner was advertised and a good many teachers and others holding certificates applied for the position. Many military personnel also applied. On the day of ceremony, in his speech as the newly appointed Commissioner of the new County, he advised “you educated people, your turn is not yet but will come later”. So we still have a military presence leading all affairs. I don’t say things would be different if civilians were at the helm!!!!!!!!!!!! Time will tell.
The one project awaiting completion is the irrigation garden. We still await two simple items. 50 metres of ¾ inch plastic hose and 100 metres of fine strong rope to suspend the submersible pump. Neither of these items is available in Rumbek nor Yirol. For the time being the wet season is tapering off with sufficient rain to keep crops alive.
Blessings to all and again thank you for your great generosity which seems never to waver despite times becoming increasingly difficult for you.
Ever gratefully yours in faith,
Sr. Rita Grunke OLSH
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