“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
“One prays for miracles but works for results,” said Augustine.
Download the September issue of Diocesan Life as a .pdf
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Registration opens today and closes March 23rd. Cost is $17.50 and includes lunch.
A day set aside for learning about opportunities and resources for ministry in congregations, and celebrating ministries we share. There will be 13 different workshops spanning all aspects of ministry to select from this year. Please plan to join us for a wonderful day of learning.
All Day Workshops (one workshop in both sessions)
#1 Ministry of the Lay Eucharistic Visitor (all day workshop) - The Rev. Edward Erb -- Two-part course leads to licensing. Morning session - Biblical, theological, and historical background. Afternoon session - resources and practical considerations (ex. HIPAA rules, safety, and health concerns)
#2 Understanding and Working with ChurchPost (all day workshop) - Mr. John Goodell, Owner of ChurchPost -- A hands-on guide to using ChurchPost, our electronic newsletter platform, to communicate effectively and immediately with your members and visitors.
Session I - 9:45am to 11:15am
#3 Wardens/Vestry 101 - The Rt. Rev. Paul Marshall and The Ven. Howard Stringfellow - Introduction for new wardens and vestry members or a refresher for experienced vestry members to the roles, responsibilities, and realities of parish leadership.
#4 Bringing Financial Sanity to the Family - Mr. Dan Charney - The program, Financial Sanity, designed by Nathan Dungan, founder and president of Share Save Spend, consists of four one-hour sessions. This training helps you to become familiar with the program, and will cover session one of the program to give participants a feel for what it is all about.
#5 Transitional Formation in Parishes - Ms. Kim Rowles - In periods of individual transition it is especially important to support and lead members in our communities to an intentional life with Christ, this session will help outline a plan for individual parishes dealing with middle to high school transition, high school to college transition, and couples to family transition.
#6 - Come Let Us Worship - A Workshop for the Laity and Clergy - The Rev. Laura Howell & The Rev. John Francis - This session will explore some of the tools the Book of Common Prayer gives us for daily worship. It will provide some practical suggestions for parish prayer that may be led by the laity as well as the clergy.
#7 - Evangelism as Prayer and Faith Sharing - The Rev. Jane Bender, The Rev. Doug Moyer, and Mrs. Carol Keane - The Unbinding the Gospel series doesn't give answers as to how, when and where. Come learn how many ways this lively resource can be tailored for your use.
Session II -- 1:15pm to 2:45pm
#8 Enabling Ministries: Forward Life Planning - Mr. Charlie Barebo - Develop your parish's capabilities to deliver ministries by strengthening its approach to Forward Life Planning.
#9 Treasurers’ Workshop - Mr. Bruce Reiner -- This workshop will focus on cash receipts, cash disbursements, internal controls, and audits.
#10 - The Confirmation Conundrum - The Rev. Canon Anne Kitch - Explores the rite of Confirmation and the many questions it raises. Includes an overview of the history of Confirmation in the Episcopal Church and the theology of Confirmation as it is express in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
#11 - Health Ministries - Mrs. Diana Marshall - Health ministry plays a unique and critical role in facilitating the health of clergy, staff and congregations. Health ministry looks different from congregation to congregation, reflecting the unique needs, interests, and resources of the faith community.
#12 - Incorporating New members into the Episcopal Church - The Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns- The course will introduce a simple, easy-to-understand, process of incorporating new members into a congregation. It will also describe various kinds of visitors and newcomers and show how to integrate the worship and theology of the Episcopal Church into our evangelism.
#13 - Training for Regional Discernment Teams - Members of the Commission on Ministry - This training session is designed to help both clergy and laity understand the purpose and structure of regional discernment as practiced in the Diocese of Bethlehem.
You can click here to register. Download the Diocesan Training Day brochure on our web site here.
Hello everyone! Here is the latest edition of Diocesan Life. We are now wrapping around a new, independent paper called the Episcopal Journal. Of course, our online version doesn't include that news, but you should receive it in your mailboxes this week. As always, if you have stories, photos, news, please pass them along to Kat Lehman. The file is in .pdf formate and is 2.3 MB in size.
By Charlie Barebo
Our November mission trip evidenced a greatly changed Kajo Keji that awaits the January 9 referendum with eager anticipation. On approach, as the MAF flight passes over the dirt airstrip to insure it is clear of the ubiquitous goats and sheep, we see the addition of several new western-style buildings and two new cell towers.
It has been an arduous day on the twin engine Cessna; eight hours with seven take offs and landings, a regular milk run. Stephen Tomor and Bishop Anthony complete with his posse greet us at the airport. The ride to Romogi is fast and smooth, a pleasure after 22 hours in the air.
Evidence of the economic recovery brought on by five years of peace is all around us: five times the livestock we have seen on previous trips, no protruding ribs on people or animals, no rags passing for clothes, flip flops or shoes now the norm. We pass five automobiles on the first ride to Romogi, more than we saw on the entire trip in January 2007. On Monday as we drive to the school opening in Sodogo, we pass a car with a large sign on the roof: “Kajo Keji Driving School.” Who ever would have thought…
Secondary level needs are now being fulfilled and we see sunglasses, radios and iPods; soccer balls and bikes are more in evidence. This place is no longer bleak house; the feel is upbeat. There is a political overtone in the air. Here there is no unending bickering between out of step political parties but people talking about voting for their freedom and self determination, a first since the colonial period started, 150 years ago. Voter registration starts while we are here. We watch Bishop Anthony register. There are proud smiles on the faces of those registering. A legitimate census has been done and indicates that there are 193,000 inhabitants of the county. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement states that for the New Sudan to gain its independence, 60% of registered voters must vote and for independence to pass it must have only a simple majority, 51%.
We inspect the New Hope Schools at Romogi and Gaderu and officially open the Kitchen-Dining Hall at the college as well the New Hope Primary Schools in Liwolo and Sodogo. The Romogi School wins the Bishop Marshall Prize for the best kept gardens and grounds. We meet with the college management team and the students, more on this in a later issue.
I want to share the story of the opening of the Trinity Easton New Hope School in Sodogo. This school will always hold a special place in my heart as Trinity Easton stepped forward and tithed their own capital campaign to New Hope. Before our very eyes, two dioceses witnessed God’s people in Christ’s church doing precisely what Christ asked us to do in the Great Commandment. These school openings are always a joyous occasion, a day of fulfillment, both functionally and spiritually.
Sodogo is a long drive and you must take the small all-wheel drive vehicles through a small river. Boys are playing in the river; a mother is doing the family laundry. There are no crocodiles in this shallow section. We are met two miles outside of the village and led by a joyful throng, singing before us and holding high banners of the cross. Could this be what Christ and the Apostles felt like on Palm Sunday? I say a prayer of dedication and Archdeacon Stringfellow cuts the ribbon. Adrenalin pushes the jet lag out of my mind. We move over to the parade ground where we will sit for the two-hour program. Have you heard that the Kukus like to make long speeches? The PTA President announces he has a few brief comments. Archdeacon Stringfellow spies six pages of single-spaced typed notes.
The landlord who donated the land for the school to the Diocese of Kajo Keji stands up to make a speech. “I am Wilson Rembe,” he says. “I am 84 years old. My ancestors gave me this land. All these days, I have been waiting for this school like a bride waits for a groom. The fox used to run on this road. When I was a boy my father and I built a bridge over the stream. I think he knew there would be a school built here one day. People used to make fun of us and say, ‘Did you build this bridge for fox or for people?’ Now the little children are my foxes who will use this bridge to go to school. Who are these people from across the sea who give their money so our children can go to school? I tell you they are God’s people. Thank God for the people of Bethlehem. I am Wilson Rembe, landlord.”
Now there is feasting, singing, and dancing. A choir from the school sings a response song for us. There is so much going on it is hard to focus. The Holy Spirit cuts through me like a knife and I hear the words, “Thank You, Bethlehem people, God has chosen you to come.”
Late at night when I have doubts about why God would let his people suffer so much or when my daughter or children who attend New Hope presentations at various parishes ask how a loving God would let His children suffer so much, I find my answers in that chorus. God’s people in Kajo Keji and the southern Sudan have suffered. But God always knew he would choose us. He chose us to help heal his wounded children. God chose us to give sight to the blind, to lift the yoke of oppression, to raise up the foundations of many generations. We have been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We have been truly blessed.
Old and new Sodogo school
[Charlie Barebo is chair of the New Hope Campaign and Development Officer for the Diocese of Bethlehem. More about Charlie here.]