We've been in Ethiopia for nearly a month. There are hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese here, mainly in refugee camps, and we run into people daily from our town of Malakal. Because fighting has intensified across the border in Nasir, South Sudan, even more are streaming in for refuge, up to 1,000 per day. In May, up to 11,000 people reportedly crossed the border in 72 hours. Those coming are largely women and children.
These people are really crying out to God. We've teamed with a local church on our trips into the camps. There they are literally begging for prayer and for preachers to stand up and preach. They are battered and bruised and hungry. The stories are horrible. The loss, the grieving. The children whose parents are dead. The thousands and thousands of widows. The rain. We've heard many say they don't have food, that there's just not enough supply. One lady said she'd been here for two months and had not received one ration from the UN. She begs within the camp for food.
This is why we are here. This nation (South Sudan) has a destiny and this is not it. We believe the people, especially the children, are South Sudan's most valuable resource and we are here to invest in them. To help first with immediate relief needs, for food and help with emotional grief, but also to cast vision for what can be—to help break the cycle of poverty and orphanism. These refugees were in war for 50 years before they gained independence three years ago. Many had just repatriated back into their country. Except for a brief respite, war and poverty is all this generation has known.
We believe God has sent us to invest in their lives. To show them family. To help raise up children who view the world through a different lens: who see possibility and who help break the cycles of poverty and war.
Now that we've had a chance to assess the situation on the ground, following are our focuses for the remainder of the year:
Establish a base: We have found a larger location and will be moving this month. This will give us more room to potentially take in more children and/or offer more resources to the community.
High-quality education: We've started school again and the kids are hungry to learn. This is vitally important, as education is sorely lacking in South Sudan. Only 44% of children are enrolled in primary education and a staggering 1.6% are enrolled in secondary. More than 75% of adults are illiterate.
Reach out to refugees: We're working with a local church to establish a base within the refugee camps, to gather the widows and orphans who have no family, friends, or community. Our goal is to help provide for them where needed and establish a sense of community and family.
Develop strategic partnerships, with both governments, other faith-based organizations, and intercessors. God is seemingly connecting us with strong women intercessors, the mothers and grandmothers of this nation, who we believe carry an anointing to "pray the devil back to hell". (Have you seen that movie? It's a must.)
It's the rainy season here. In fact, it's just started. Unfortunately that often brings respiratory illnesses. The camps have seen malaria and cholera. Ten people in our group have come down with malaria since we arrived. Thankfully, everyone is responding to the medication, but we have had one girl rebound. Two have cerebral malaria, which can be nasty. We greatly appreciate your prayers in this area. We are contending for healing, not just for us, but so we have it to give away.
The need here is great. Thank you for praying with us that our efforts will be strategic and that we will develop the needed partnerships to maximize our reach.