Tag Archives: South Sudan

South Sudan: Amid a Civil War, He Plants a Church

by Gordon Skopnik

He grew up in war, born into a family that practiced witchcraft and worshiped evil spirits. Even as a boy, he was not happy about this. One time he opposed his grandmother and destroyed her shrine. Suddenly his eyes were forced shut and started to bleed. Somehow he felt God was with him; he believed that God had a plan for him and God healed his eyes. So he committed himself to God and refused to worship at his grandmother’s shrines. Continue reading South Sudan: Amid a Civil War, He Plants a Church

South Sudan: Sunday, an Orphan and a Bishop

by Gordon Skopnik

South Sudan – Sunday is not just a day. This story is about Sunday the man.  Sunday grew up in refugee camps as a Sudanese orphan.  Camp life was very difficult and as an orphan, and especially a Sudanese orphan, he had to figure out how to support himself in another country.

The culture and language were different and people often never thought of others and were consumed with trying to survive. Sunday felt like he was the scum of the earth, and that is how he thought about himself.

When he was a bit older, maybe 13, he left camp life that was too difficult only to find that city life was sometimes even worse.  A pastor in Kampala City in Uganda found him destitute and offered him a helping hand and counsel.  It was not much, but Sunday was given some food, counsel and provided some education.  Sunday believed he would never become anybody significant because he believed he was nobody significant.

The pastor taught him that he could have a position in Christ. He could be a child of God and learn and have a new identity.  Sunday could not believe that could ever happen to him. But as he grew in relationship with his new community and the pastor reinforced that Sunday had potential, he went along for the ride.

It was time for him to move back to his own country, South Sudan, and the pastor bought Sunday a ticket to fly back with Mission Aviation Fellowship.  Sunday had only seen these planes in the sky, and so, when he went up into the sky himself, he was terrified that he would fall out of the sky.

This experienced changed his life, though, and God used it to move him forward in faith.  He realized that if he could fly in the sky, he could do anything—and be anybody that God wanted him to be.  He finally grasped his identity in Christ as a child of God and brother of Christ and all its benefits, and he shared them freely with others.

It was difficult in South Sudan for Sunday but he, as a humble servant of Christ, just helped people and orphans; and the community noticed that Sunday was a spiritual leader.  Sunday is now a bishop and serves thousands of people.

There are many more details to Sunday’s story that I did not share as they were too disturbing and too graphic.  In an interview with Sunday, the last time I met him, he was living in a refugee camp in Northern Uganda because his home in South Sudan is destroyed and he is not able to go back. He said, “I was born in war. I married in war. I have had children in war, and now I may die in war.”

This may sound devastatingly negative, but Sunday serves beside Avant Ministries. He serves South Sudan within the context of Short Cycle Church Planting in the refugee camps promoting health, peace, and spiritual vitality.

Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve with Avant Ministries. Sunday’s story is told with his permission.

MCC: Reasons to hope this Easter

 Compiled by Rachel Bergen

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5).

He is risen, indeed!

Resurrection is the ultimate sign of hope. Christ’s rebirth plants hope in people of faith, and we regularly see this hope blossom in the lives of the people that MCC supports around the world.

 MCC responds to famine in South Sudan

At a point in time where Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria are affected by what the United Nations calls the worst global food crisis since the Second World War, it may be difficult to see signs of hope.

The United Nations has declared a famine in Unity State, the northern region of South Sudan. It’s the first famine declared by the UN since 2011. Famine is a term the UN rarely uses, reserved for the most dire situations that meet specific criteria for rates of malnutrition, food shortages and death.

MCC is providing a two-month supply of food materials in Unity State. Two hundred and forty-five households will receive sorghum (grain), beans, cooking oil and salt. The distribution will be carried out by MCC’s partner, Sudanese Development Relief Agency.

In addition, we are supporting South Sudanese refugees living in refugee camps in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. A shipment of MCC canned meat recently left our warehouse in Canada, and will help supplement the diet of people in the camps – mostly children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

Conflict-affected families are receiving humanitarian assistance in Ukraine

For much of the world, the conflict in eastern Ukraine seems to be forgotten, but the Nesterchuk family continues to live through it. Though Ukraine might not be making headlines, MCC has partnered with local organizations there to help deliver humanitarian assistance for the internally displaced people and others who are vulnerable since the conflict began in early 2014.

MCC is sending relief kits, canned meat and comforters to those who need it most. MCC has also provided US $1.7 million, including $1 million from the Canadian government in emergency funds. This assistance helps subsidize the costs of heat and rent, and funds psychological support, trauma healing and locally purchased food and other items.

Latrines are reducing rates of cholera in Haiti

Last year, Hurricane Matthew hit the rural community of Wopisa-Gabriyèl hard. Beyond the damage to animals and crops, there was also an increased risk of cholera caused by the intense rains washing cholera-infected human waste into the streams and rivers that are used for bathing and drinking.

The community has long known of a relatively low-cost solution to protect its water source and its health: the installation of latrines. For subsistence farmers though, the materials to build latrines are too expensive.

MCC is partnering with the community in addressing their needs and will provide materials to construct 450 latrines that will meet the needs of 90 per cent of the residents. MCC will also be working with other remote communities at high risk for cholera by building a total of 630 latrines serving more than 5,000 people. 

Students are attending school in Cambodia thanks to a hot breakfast program

Attendance is up at Proom and Angkearhdei primary schools in Cambodia’s Prey Veng province after a new hot breakfast program was implemented.

Each morning, children like Meth Peaktra and Nyum Sophim, who attend Proom Primary School, start the day with a bowl of piping hot rice porridge which includes pork and vegetables. In this highly vulnerable Cambodian village, 90 per cent of residents practice small-scale, low-yield rice farming. Many families are poor and have trouble meeting all their nutritional needs. Now the children in the programs are healthier, have more incentive to go to school and can focus on their studies.

Farmers in Burkina Faso have better crop yields

Step into the fields of Etienne Tiendrébeogo in Yé, Burkina Faso, and you’ll see large half-moon shapes dug into the soil.

Tiendrébeogo learned about these half-moons and other new agricultural techniques through the work of MCC partner Office of Development of Evangelical Churches and they have changed his life.

Half-moons help capture rainwater during storms. These conservation agriculture techniques help control erosion, improve soil fertility, and increase water retention in the soil. Tiendrébeogo now saves food in case of emergency and grows enough to feed his whole family. 

Syrian refugees access trauma counselling in MCC-supported schools

In Beirut, Lebanon, refugee children from Syria often struggle at school. In addition to overcoming past trauma, they find it difficult to succeed academically and fit in socially. MCC’s partner House of Light and Hope provides informal educational support and other services for refugee girls and Lebanese peers growing up in vulnerable life situations. In partnership with House of Light and Hope, MCC funds after-school academic support, home visits, trauma healing camps, and more for girls ages 8-18.

MCC sees hope inspired by people and partners like these, who live the power of the resurrection in their daily lives.

Rachel Bergen is a staff writer for MCC Canada


Famine ‘a tragic reality’ in South Sudan, according to UN

Cornelius: CFGB ‘deeply troubled,’ responding; donations welcome

by  CFGB

SOUTH SUDAN—Famine has been declared in parts of South Sudan, where about 100,000 people are facing starvation, says a United Nations release dated Feb. 20. In addition, a further one million people are on the brink of famine.

The ongoing civil war in South Sudan, now in its third year, has devastated the country’s economy, disrupting normal food transportation chains, and preventing countless small-scale farming households from growing their crops and tending their herds.

This is the most serious hunger crisis there has been in South Sudan since the conflict began. The UN news release notes that 4.9 million people—or about 40 percent of South Sudan’s population, are in need of urgent food, agriculture, and nutrition assistance.

“We are deeply troubled by what we are seeing in South Sudan, and responding as we are able,” says Canadian Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius. “That the food crisis has led to famine conditions for so many is devastating.”

Since the beginning of the recent civil conflict in December 2013, the CFGB has committed over $6 million dollars to providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to over 114,000 people.

Currently, the CFGB is providing emergency food assistance to conflict-affected people in and around the capital city of Juba, where many people have sought safety.  That response is through CFGB member World Relief Canada.

In neighbouring Uganda, where roughly 700,000 South Sudanese have fled in search of safety, the CFGB is responding through its member ERDO to the needs of 2,500 pregnant and nursing mothers who have arrived in the country severely undernourished.

This type of support is exceptionally critical, as children who do not receive proper nutrition while in the womb or as infants can bear the effects for the rest of their lives, long after the initial crisis has long passed.

“The women, men and children in South Sudan are not forgotten, and they need urgent help,” says Cornelius, noting that further immediate assistance is needed to ensure the famine does not spread. “Please consider making a donation, and also praying for peace in South Sudan.”

 Donations to the Foodgrains Bank response through its members in South Sudan are welcome at http://foodgrainsbank.ca/campaigns/south-sudan-appeal-2/


Conflict affects all projects, but hope remains

by Gordon and Sharon Skopnik

SOUTH SUDAN–The overall situation in South Sudan has worsened through the years, with conflict heightening between the government and rebel groups over oil, resources, and power. This began in 2013 and then continued to escalate so that by 2016 there is war between tribes, leading to a failed state.

The conflict has also had a negative effect on the economy causing severe inflation. This has caused the South Sudanese people much difficulty in obtaining the necessary resources to meet basic needs. Food shortage has been an issue, in part due to the dry season (January to April), but also because of conflict.

When people are fleeing for their lives, they leave their crops behind unharvested. Militia attacks in Maridi, Mundri, and Yei have put a strain on the projects that Serving South Sudan has in those towns.

In Yei many children lost their academic materials through the attacks and have yet to return to school or even to their home villages. The economic and military instability has had a drastic effect on all of Serving South Sudan’s projects.

Miraculously, all of the projects continue to operate and all of the program and project leaders are surviving either locally or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. As we have watched our friends, co-workers and ministry partners flee to safer havens, mostly refugee camps in Northern Uganda, God has been leading these dear saints to safety. Up to this point none have lost their lives, a miracle in a time of civil war and unrest.

So now they are in refugee camps—now what? A team working in a Northern Uganda Refugee Camps in December 2016 reported some good news is that one of the communities through church leadership resolved and buried their tribal, denominational, and political differences and agreed to leave as one people of South Sudan.

Through the ministry of an Avant Team, as an associate to the EMC, we were able to see 110 people of different tribes give over their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We know there are many who are praying for this country, and we continue to ask for prayer so that the prince of peace might rule. So is there a better future for the children of South Sudan? Yes!

You have an exciting opportunity to help through prayer and partnership—with the Prince of Peace—into these refugee camps scattered across east Africa. The nation’s leaders recognize that the future of the country lies in the character of its young people and in the hands of the church.

And that’s why we continue to educate people in church planting so that when these people go back to South Sudan, they go back with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace, promoting the spirit of peace and reconciliation, and bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to which ever tribe they come from. Together we will see God answer prayer.

Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve in South Sudan with Avant.