“One prays for miracles but works for results,” said Augustine.
During our January trip to Kajo Keji we saw both. The miracles of New Hope: that we would raise $4,000,000, build six schools, a college and that there would be a sustained period of peace in Kajo Keji. All are rich blessings on two peoples separated by over 8,000 miles.
The continuing transformation in Kajo Keji is a miracle in itself. Gone are the sharp edged ribs brought on by two generations of warfare and starvation. Food is no longer a primary concern. As the Missionary Air flight circles the dirt landing strip we see evidence of increasing prosperity - metal roofs, dozens of autos, light trucks and small dirt bikes on the road, four cell towers and three AM radio broadcast antennas. Clothing is well mended, clean and pressed, everyone wears shoes or flip-flops and we see many transistor radios and iPods - unthinkable progress since our first trip in January 2007.
In our first two and a half days, we inspected all six schools and the twelve buildings at the college. We are delighted at the progress made by the PTA’s and local communities. At four of the six schools they have started building tukels for the teachers, they have planted crops and orchards to feed teachers and students, selling excess crops to provide some ready money to pay volunteer teachers and buy supplies. In fact, as we arrived at the Dwani-Star of Bethlehem School the entire community was out making bricks for teacher housing, like a community barn raising in 18th and 19th century America. These four schools are moving from dependence to independence, a necessary step when a country in crisis moves from a relief to a developing economy. Their love for their communities and sense of pride in their accomplishments are evident.
We also noticed some common problems at each school. A culture that lives in homes of sun-baked brick and straw roofs has no concept of how to maintain these block and cement buildings. We see some broken windows, window latches and leaky metal roofs. Minor problems. Stephen is charged with developing quotes and we will effect the repairs, paying for them from the support trusts of the schools and college. The larger concern is how the 18 primary and secondary school buildings are faring in regards to cleanliness and the condition of the interior walls. The floors are dirty and the walls caked with grime from five years of little hands and finger prints.
It occurs to me it is cultural. When you are raised in a tukel these smooth, cool walls are something foreign but fun to touch. I remarked to Archdeacon Stringfellow that “quite unintended, we find ourselves in the property management business with the thirty first New Hope building under construction.”
This means that much of the income from the school and college ongoing support trusts will be allocated towards building maintenance. We started an immediate grass roots campaign with the teachers to teach the children to “Keep their hands off the walls!” It appears South Sudanese kids are no different from American kids.
The funds raised during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” campaign will be spent on 50 primary school scholarships, evenly divided between girls and boys, 11 secondary school scholarships with room and board for needy female students and $1100 to buy paper and printer cartridges for the New Hope School system printer. I ask that you remember Jack Welsch and Fr. Earl Trygar in your prayers. They spearheaded raising these funds.
The highlight of our trip was the second annual “Best Practices” meeting for the New Hope School system. This meeting is comprised of the PTA chair, head teacher, and pastor of each New Hope School, DOKK Education Coordinator, Diocesan Secretary, Bishop Anthony, Stephen Tomor, Archdeacon Stringfellow and me. The purpose of the meeting is for each PTA Chair, each pastor and each head teacher to share the three practices that had the most impact in their respective schools. By sharing our successes all may benefit from tried and true field experience. The early meetings were ask-a-thons, each school asking for worthy things but either outside the New Hope charter or budget.
We saw growth and maturity at this meeting. Pastors reports on converts to the faith, confirmations, how they taught the bible and conducted prayer. Head teachers reported on growth in attendance, sports trophies won, the high rate of students passing the grade eight finals to move into secondary school, their school’s establishment of parent-teachers meetings, and the need for Bibles. It was noted that of the county’s 54 primary schools, 3 New Hope Schools are in the top ten. PTA’s reported that they are building teacher housing, planting crops and orchards and willing to get out the word regarding building care.
Headmasters requested companion classes here in Bethlehem for pen pals. Certainly there is a connection between Dwani Star of Bethlehem and Trinity Bethlehem, Helen Wagner Liwolo School and St. Mark’s Moscow, Trinity Easton Sodogo School and Trinity Easton, Cathedral of the Nativity and Romogi Primary, Earl Secondary School and the Church of the Mediator. How can we work together to start email pen pal relationships?
One comment made at all the schools was how they appreciated the love and courage we exhibited by visiting them during the uprising in the north. While the US State Department and other American NGO’s had all left, the Diocese of Bethlehem had arrived. We all celebrated in thanksgiving when a cease fire was announced the day prior to our departure. Thank you for your prayers.
John Mono, college principal, has a background in painting buildings and does Stephen Tomor. Both offered to teach the PTA’s how to wash the school walls and how to paint them if need be. The college graduated 8 students ready for the ordination “process,” another 8 are ready for teaching certificates, and provided training for 54 lay leaders.
There is little furniture in the kitchen-dining hall at the college. Projects we can help them with in 2014 include fund raising for tables and chairs, electrification and scientific equipment at the Earl Secondary School.
We prayed and continue to pray for the miracle that has become New Hope. We have dedicated ourselves, as individuals and corporately as a diocese, to its success. The many sacrifices and the hours of hard work, on both sides of the Atlantic, are bearing fruit. Augustine had it right but maybe he inverted the word order. If one works hard, we have the right to pray for miracles. For after all “faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” Hebrews 11:1
In His Service,
New Hope Chair