South Sudan (MNN) — Refugees in South Sudan begin each day with a simple question, “Will I live to see tomorrow?”
In a civil war that’s already been rife with atrocities, the level of viciousness shown in the April 15 massacre of civilians in South Sudan’s Bentiu was inexplicable. Members of the rebel army descended on the town, killing anyone they suspected of supporting the government, reportedly including those who fled to a mosque, churches, and aid-agency compounds.
The fighting has devolved into a mix of religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, and political retaliatory violence. Rebels and the government leaders have been in neighboring Ethiopia for months, supposedly negotiating for peace. After a half-hearted January ceasefire collapsed before it ever took hold, talks were suspended.
With each new barbarism, the hope of a quick end to the horror fades even more. No one appears to be winning. The calls for building a new country from scratch are dwindling to silence. Marvin Bozard, the direct of humanitarian strategies at Global Aid Network (GAiN USA), says, “Even now more than ever, there is a lot of anxiety in the country, anxiety in the people. From our perspective, there’s a huge need of aid. But we see the value of it as we see people’s lives transformed as they have a touch of Christ through compassionate aid.”
GAiN partners on the ground are from Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ). Bozard explains, “Our staff–there’s about 40 of them: almost all of them moved from the north when the country [South Sudan] was founded almost three years ago.” Expatriates had to leave some of the areas. However, “We do have strategies to go back in there, but we’re just waiting on our staff now to give us the green light on that opportunity.”
Working South Sudanese gives the remaining teams a distinct advantage when doing needs assessments, although Bozard is quick to add that everyone pretty much needs everything. Although patients were getting medical care, the conditions in the hospital were not very conducive to healing. “I’ve just been amazed at the need: everything from water to food to school supplies, clothing. We were able to send vegetable seeds into the Bor area; this was before the war.”
GAiN shared this story of an earlier delivery of supplies to a teaching hospital:
“One year ago this month, Global Aid Network (GAiN USA) and Cru (Campus Crusade) staff delivered much-needed medicine and supplies to the teaching hospital in Bor, South Sudan. Delegates from the ministry of health were on hand to see the supplies arrive in time to help people fleeing the tribal violence that continues to afflict South Sudan.
Sadly, however, the civil war reached Bor in January of 2014. Rebel troops captured the town and killed patients in their beds in the process. Many of the survivors fled to Juba, where they can receive aid and treat their wounded.
In February 2014, GAiN delivered another container of aid to Juba. Again, government officials welcomed the relief shipment with deep gratitude, as did the doctors, patients, and families. Naturally, Cru staff gave all the credit to the Lord who moved in the hearts of Christians to help relieve suffering in distant lands.
Thank you for your faithful support. Your kindness is a powerful witness to the love of Jesus Christ. He is undoubtedly pleased with your sacrifice.”
Like any national, there is a pride for their country and their people. As GAiN works toward building spiritual movements, Bozard is quick to add that, “It’s not just about evangelism. Our staff is very intentional about discipleship, so the spiritual movement is being built in the midst of the mess that’s going on there.” But how does humanitarian aid connect to the Gospel? “It is God’s heart itself that we reach out with compassion; it’s just straight out of the Book, to take care of the widows and the orphans and the needy.”
The Internally Displaced Peoples and the refugees will not simply stop existing. They will fight for life, for the hope that they can one day live in peace at home. The food donated by Global Aid Network opens a door. Life tomorrow can be a life that is filled with the good news of Jesus Christ, but it will take all of us working together, says Bozard. “We are blessed and gifted to go to South Sudan. Everybody cannot go there. I think the Lord wires us differently to reach different people. But just DO it. Just be obedient to do what He’s commanded us to do.”