As we drove into the refugee settlement, I saw scattered mud huts and makeshift latrines and attempts to establish some modicum of a normal life. But their lives are anything but normal. It’s very hot and this area has few trees to provide shade. We were welcomed by singing and ushered into a small hut with a tarp from the UN for a roof. There were 10 representatives from the two Anglican communities within the Pagirinya Refugee Settlement, located about 20km from the border with South Sudan. This particular settlement is quite large and has 41,000 people. However, all together, there are about 250,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 different settlements in Northern Uganda near Adjumani.
Each person introduced themselves and one man started by saying, “We praise God every morning”…meaning that although life is very difficult for them, they are thankful for the safety and provision they have found in Northern Uganda. Everything comes from the Lord and we can only give back to Him what has already come from His hand…except for a sacrifice of praise, which is ours alone to give. I imagine praising God every morning in the midst of such suffering is indeed a great sacrifice, one that these Sudanese Christians make with no hesitation.
Dr. Katie Rhoads, an American missionary with whom I share a compound in Gulu, has been ministering to the South Sudanese refugees for several years. She makes the two-hour drive to Adjumani quite regularly so I asked if I could tag along. I’ve had refugees on my heart for a couple of months. Well, little did I know…I was an answer to prayer.
You see, when you have nothing…and no hope of getting much help…and you are a believer…you start praying for God to send someone. First the Lord sent Dr. Katie to this newest refugee settlement and she has been building relationships with them. But the needs are great and Katie’s resources are limited. So she told the members of this Anglican community of refugees that she would pray with them and they would wait to see how God would respond…that’s about the time I asked Katie if I could to tag along on her next trip. As one woman told me, “We prayed and asked God to send someone and He sent you.”
Although food is scarce, these refugees are not starving, like many thousands of others who have been unable to flee South Sudan as the war there continues. The UN and other NGO’s are doing their best to provide food, health care and very basic needs. The Ugandan Govt. has given each family a small plot of land…about the size of an average yard in the US, to live and maybe grow a few vegetables. They are given some building materials and it is up to them to construct their own mud huts. Some schools are also being built for the children.
To my surprise, they did not ask for food or clothing and other items they obviously needed…But what this group of Anglican believers have been praying for is the resources to build some kind of shelter where they can gather to worship and hear God’s word and be encouraged. They are struggling daily to carve out a life for themselves in the settlement and yet what is utmost in their minds is that THEY WANT TO GATHER TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD AND READ HIS WORD AND BE ENCOURAGED! They have started to build two different simple church structures. You can see in the photos that they have marked off the footprint of the shelters with poles…but that is as far as they have been able to go. The UN does not give materials to build churches. They need more poles, bamboo, nails and grass to make a grass thatched roof…all of which costs money. So…they prayed that the Lord would send someone. He sent me…and now I am appealing to you, my fellow Christians.
Would you prayerfully consider making a contribution to help these brothers and sisters in Christ to have a place to worship the Lord and find encouragement by being together? To those in the Diocese of South Carolina, perhaps your parish has been praying and asking the Lord to shine a light on a need that you can meet. Here is an opportunity for you to participate in building up and encouraging fellow Anglican believers who are struggling and suffering and fighting for survival after being forced to flee the bloodshed and starvation in their home country. God willing, my prayer is to raise at least $ 1,000 which will cover building materials plus some Bibles as well. If the Lord provides more, it will all go to providing resources for worship in the camp…things like communion elements, altar and linens, etc. There are about 3,000 Anglicans in this particular settlement alone. They want to be fed spiritually…the Lord is asking you to participate. Will you help?
The Rev. Arthur Jenkins, at Saint James Church, my home parish, will accept your contributions and forward the money here to Uganda. Please DO NOT make your contribution through the Paypal button…instead send a check made payable to Saint James and put “Sudanese Refugees” in the memo line. Mail to:
Saint James Church
Attn: Sudanese Refugees
1872 Camp Road
Charleston, SC 29412
As we were sitting in the hut talking, I asked if they were all from the same village in South Sudan…if they had known each other before and had come to the refugee camp together. “No” they said…”we have only met since arriving at the camp. We come from different places and even different tribes. We found each other after arriving.” Then Rev. Rachel spoke up and said that they are all one in Christ and she quoted Psalm 133 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.” They have found each other and are stronger together. Praise God for the unity we have through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Please pass it along to anyone you feel may want to help these dear brothers and sisters in Christ. May God bless you immensely!
In His Love,