Monday, June 18, 2012

Put Feet to Their Faith and Help Children in South Sudan

I've been talking this month about involving the children and families in your church in a project with Samaritan's Purse to help children and families in Sudan and South Sudan; today I'd like to encourage you to consider planning a "Beans and Sorghum" dinner to raise awareness and money for this project. 

I just read a report on the situation in Sudan from aid worker, Nicholas Kristof. He wrote, "Perhaps hundreds of thousands of people here have no food and are reduced to eating leaves and insects, as Sudan’s government starves and bombs its own people in the Nuba Mountains. Children are beginning to die. Sudan has expelled aid workers, blocked food shipments and humanitarian aid, and dropped bombs haphazardly — and almost daily — on its own citizens. Sudan bars outsiders, but I sneaked in from South Sudan on a dirt track controlled by rebels. Since my last visit, in February, the situation in these areas has deteriorated sharply: a large share of families have run completely out of food, with no prospect of more until the next harvest in November. 

Ryan Boyette, an American aid worker who stayed behind when foreigners were ordered to evacuate, estimates that 800,000 Nuba have run out of food in South Kordofan, the state encompassing the Nuba Mountains. Katum, a woman who lost her daughter, was typical of the dozens of Nuba I spoke to. Like many here, the family has been living in caves for most of the last year to escape bombs, and it ran out of the local food staple, sorghum, a few months ago. She was blunt about the reason her daughter died: 'We had no food to give her.' Her husband and surviving children showed me how they use bows and arrows to try to shoot birds, and how they try to catch mice. 'We eat them whole,' Katum told me. 'Even the head and the tail.' Families are also eating beetles and wild roots, but their diet today is mostly the newest leaves of three kinds of wild tree. New leaves are stripped bare from trees near villages, and you see children climbing high on thin branches to try to find new leaves that remain. I also came across small children, sometimes just 2 or 3 years old, digging in the ground for edible roots or seeds that they popped in their mouths. 

Some 50,000 people have fled their homes and are trekking to Yida, a refugee camp just across the border in South Sudan. But many I spoke to, Katum included, say they just don’t have the strength to walk for days to get there. Antonov and MIG warplanes regularly fly over these rebel areas, dropping bombs without any apparent purpose other than sowing terror. Fear of them has kept people from farming and is a main reason for the food shortages. Some farmers are now planting their fields as the rainy season begins. They can harvest in November and will have to get by on leaves until then. Many other families, including Katum’s, ate their seed stockpile in hopes of keeping their children alive. So for them, the only hope is humanitarian aid. Considering how many people are subsisting on leaves, perhaps the surprise is that the death toll isn’t higher. In Katum’s village, Famma, elders told me that about 40 people had starved to death in the last month, out of a population of thousands. Among children arriving at the Yida refugee camp, about 10 percent are acutely malnourished, according to Samaritan’s Purse, an aid group assisting the refugees."

Reports like this break my heart. For the families who do make the trip to South Sudan, they are able to find help in the camps from Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan's Purse gives families food, consisting primarily of beans and sorghum. If you are like me, you may be unfamiliar with sorghum - I looked it up online and found out it is, "used primarily for animal feed in the United States, although cultivation of this grain is on the rise. The seeds, stalks, and leaves can all be fed to livestock or left in the field and used as a forage crop. In the United States, a wet milling method is used to make sorghum starch, used in a variety of industrial applications such as adhesives and paper making. In much of the rest of the world, however, it is consumed by humans as well as animals. Sorghum is often cooked as a porridge to be eaten alongside other foods. The grain is fairly neutral in flavor, and sometimes slightly sweet." 

So what could you do to help the children and families in your church get a better understanding of what is happening to the people in Sudan and South Sudan? How can you help them develop a heart for these people? Consider sponsoring a Beans and Sorghum dinner at your church. Ask families to join you for a special dinner of water, beans and sorghum (you could make a simple corn bread if you are not able to get sorghum). Talk with them about how so many children and families in South Sudan are thankful for these simple foods and give your families time to pray for the children and families in Sudan and South Sudan. Ask families to make a donation and send the money to Samaritan's Purse. (You could ask families to commit to donate the money they would spend on eating out for a month to Samaritan's Purse and to instead eat a simple meal of beans and corn bread at home those meals.) This is just one idea, but please do something to "Put Feet to Their Faith" and involve the children and families in your church in a project to help the children and families in Sudan and South Sudan through Samaritan's Purse.

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