by Gordon and Sharon Skopnik
UGANDA/SOUTH SUDAN – The people of South Sudan have witnessed incredible violence, fled their homes, and suffered immensely because of lack of food, clean water, and shelter. Many continue to suffer or are paralyzed with fear and poverty. Serving South Sudan will bring a church planting model that promotes, sustainable development to grassroots communities providing clean drinking water, economic empowerment, social integration, church empowerment, and education.
Empowerment is the key to self-sustainability, both for the South Sudanese refugees and the national Ugandans in Northern Uganda. Our leaders as serving some of the most vulnerable people in the world. For example, let me introduce you to Mr. Sam, whom one of our leaders has chosen to help (told with Mr. Sam’s permission).
As you can see Mr. Sam has only one leg. (Many people have experienced the effects of disease and war and are maimed without hands, arms and legs.) This makes him particularly vulnerable and it is difficult to support his family in this harsh environment. Yet Sam is resilient, like many who have to survive, and is a serious farmer, even faithful in giving tithe to the church community, though little. When we chose to support him, empowering him with farm tools and seeds, you cannot imagine the joy that he experienced. It also helped to further his dignity as a father and man of the household.
Serving South Sudan has five key leaders who live across Northern Uganda close to the South Sudan boarders, most of them living in the refugee camps. They are working with many volunteers that have been trained in Church Planting through Avant Ministries and are not only planting churches but empowering lives and communities. A key ministry during this COVID-19 crisis is serving the vulnerable. Refugees are in a community that are already locked in as they live in camps up to over 300,000 people. Now they are even more locked in, and cannot find food to survive.
Mr. Sam is not the only vulnerable person helped. Through Avant Ministries, Serving South Sudan is serving possibly thousands of those refugees. Through our leaders and volunteers we are providing hoes, seed, chickens, goats, pigs, good in kinds, and other resources to empower refugees who live in these camps. Then they are able to be contributors not only to the churches, but to the community. These people include young widows with children, more mature widows, orphans, and people with disabilities.
One of our leaders found a group of 300 orphans from South Sudan that were struggling to survive in a remote location in Northern Uganda. We were able to help them with food and clothes; but, most importantly, we helped them so they could prepare some land and farm. They could begin to provide themselves with needed food and did not have to continue to wait for some good Samaritan to come to save them. The fact is without our national leadership these 300 orphans may have been totally abandoned.
This is the power of God at work through Avant Ministries in project Serving South Sudan, and we thank him that we can join him in his work. And you, as the EMC under which we serve, are a part of it.
Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve with Avant Ministries.