Women's Ministry

Blog Post 8: Day 4 in Werkok, January 17, 2013 - Dana Plair

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This morning we began with devotion led by David Bowman. He shared the story of generous giving in II Corinthians 8. He urged us to give ourselves in the work we are doing here and to put in all we had, working as if unto God and not men. He reminded us that everything we have belongs to God—our time, our talents, our temples and our treasures. With this in mind, we must be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us. Mary Garang closed in prayer and we continued our day, meditating on these practical Biblical truths. Mary shared great wisdom with me. She remembers old Sudan. She has seen a lot of suffering. Yet, she has joy, hope and expectancy. She has such a thankful spirit. Speaking as a woman of wisdom, equipped with the role of teaching the women the Dinka language, the Bible and helping them improve their lives. Humbly, she asks God to lead her and says, “If I am not the one to help these women, may God send another, but if I am the one to help them, may He enable me to do it.” I learn so much from her. Every time we speak, she teaches me something new. Including Dinka, she gave me a mini lesson so now I can introduce myself, ask someone's name and use greetings for the morning, afternoon and evening. Baby steps to becoming fluent:)

We had a visit from USAID, which proved very beneficial to expanding our network of contacts and funding sources. We are greatly in need of the following:

  • 2 Toyota 10-passenger trucks
  • Additional funding for the Growth Center we are planning to build
    • Furniture,
    • Desks
    • Chairs
    • Sewing machines
    • Solar Powered Panels
  • Digital X-Ray Machine
  • Anesthesiologist
  • More Staff
  • Airstrip
  • More housing on the compound

We are trusting God for these things.

 

Blog Post 6: Day 2 in Werkok January 15, 2013 9:54pm - Dana Plair

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What a day! I am excited about all that was accomplished today. The entire compound started with prayer at 8:15am. They had doughnuts and bananas for breakfast, followed by introductions (I missed this because I slept in, exhausted from the busy week and jet lag, but I heard it was great!). After breakfast, various teams set out to do their tasks for the day. Margit and Whitney went with Deng into Bor Town and surrounding areas to conduct a study for Community Health Evangelism (CHE). Paula went to do research for her Grad School Capstone Project. Christi went to work in the hospital. Stuart worked on fixing the water filter and cleaning out the 40 foot container of medical supplies. Some of the young boys from the village came to help. Dave met with some of the staff and oversaw various projects on the compound.

I met with Mary Garang regarding the women’s savings bank and sewing project. Mary said she would announce the two initiatives in church on Sunday and then we would meet on Monday. She is going to translate for me. After our meeting, Mary went to a village to visit a woman who had lost her son in a motor accident just before Christmas. She walked down the long main road with Bible in hand to bring some encouragement to the grieving family.

I went to the hospital to find the young woman I had promised my yellow dress. I saw her preparing to leave just after she was discharged. I greeted her warmly and she smiled big. I gave her the dress and she smiled even bigger. It melted my heart. The older women with her did not forget that I had promised to find her something too. I pulled out two spools of thread, one pink and one blue, then handed them to her, along with two sewing needles. She and the young woman laughed with cheer and thanked me. I replied back, “Shukran,” thank you in Arabic. They appreciated my gesture and nodded in acceptance. I really like this little town, so community driven and simply loving. At the core is hospitality and a servant’s heart.

With all of God’s beauty around us, how could we not be grateful. It is sad that it takes us going to the humblest state to be thankful for the humblest things. I spent the day learning from my hosts, taking video of the tomato gardens and hearing from an MCH staff person how the gardens started with a tiny seed that sprouted into a great harvest. Tomato salad has quickly become one of my favorite dishes here thus far. That and the homemade yeast rolls. The shredded cabbage is good too. I’m really looking forward to the beans and rice as well. The women are great cooks and so hardworking.

I found two ladies washing clothes at one of the back buildings. They scrubbed away in their round tubs so jubilantly. Singing harmonious songs, laughing and talking. Such sisterhood. They beckoned me to come take their picture. I happily obliged and took video footage of them hard at work. They let me sit between them and share what they’d created on film. For a moment, I was able to share in their language, breaking barriers of communication through media. I hope one day to learn Dinka, so I may hear their stories, unfiltered by an interpreter and unhindered by my limited speech. Until that day, I will show my love and friendship through hugs, smiles and the lens of my camera.

Blog Post 5: First Day in South Sudan, January 14, 2013 10:02pm - Dana Plair

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Driving over South Sudan, you could see desolate land for miles, mostly dry, dead grass with a scattering of trees. It bore the face of war. Undeveloped and stripped bare. My heart resorted to prayer. This song spilled from my lips on behalf of South Sudan, proclaiming that this will be their song of praise up to God: "Your grace is enough More than I need At Your Word I will believe I wait for You Draw near again Let Your Spirit make me new 

And I will fall at Your feet I will fall at Your feet And I will worship You here I will worship You here

Your presence in  me Jesus light the way By the power of Your word I am restored I am redeemed By Your spirit I am free

And I will fall at Your feet I will fall at Your feet And I will worship You Here I will worship You here

Freely You gave it all for us Surrendered Your life upon that cross Great is Your love Poured out for all This is our God

Lifted on high from death to life Forever our God is glorified Servant and King Rescued the world This is our God"

Arriving in Juba International Airport was a test of patience. Our connecting private plane was nowhere to be found. I visited the airport gift shop run by an organization called The Roots South Sudan, empowering women to provide for themselves and their families using the arts.  I spoke with the woman running the store, many of the beadwork and jewelry was her own. This reaffirmed the vision I have for the women in Werkok. To start a savings bank and see them trained to use their skills to start their own business. Teaching them how to fish for a lifetime.

I used the rest of our layover time to  read up on the history of South Sudan, as told in the book, They Poured Fire On Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys of Sudan. The stories of first hand accounts from the evil atrocities done by the government supported janjaweed militia. It brought tears to my eyes. I had to push myself to read on. I would recommend you read it for yourself, my summary cannot do it justice.

Four hours after our arrival, the private plane arrived. Thirty minutes later, we drove out to the airstrip. We loaded the plane and the pilot prayed for our flight and work to come. Just before the plane fully taxied and turned onto the runway, it swerved to the right with a screeching stop. Steel grinding upon pavement. The U.N. workers pointed to the tire in an urgent sweep of their pointer fingers. The pilot got out to confirm that it was indeed completely flat. Thank God they caught it! Where would we be if not for His grace!

Landing in Werkok, we were greeted by a crowd of smiling children. A welcome party fit for kings and queens! What a joy it was to see them:) I immediately took to hugging each of them, taking pictures and showing them their beautiful faces on the screen. How they loved this!

They huddled around me to watch the plane take off to return to Juba, cheering as it flew away in the clear blue sky. I adored them already. We would have so many fun moments ahead of us.

Walking toward the village, I took video of two girls pumping water from the well like a seesaw. Once they discovered video, they all wanted a moment on film. Even the older women. The children flocked to me wherever I went, posing for pictures, laughing and listening closely to my words to repeat them back to me. "Smile," they'd say, as that was always my preface  before pictures.

They had such bright eyes, wide and curious. Children so talented and kind. We met up with two boys playing with homemade tonka trucks along the way. They'd used scraps of sheet metal, cardboard and blue tea-light candles. I was captivated by their ingenuity, little engineers in the making. One of them had a string attached and I challenged him to race it for me. I filmed him as he ran up the path before being stopped by one of the women. She rallied the children to return to pumping water and leaving me to go along my way. I greeted her, showing my respect and said farewell to the children.

I took so many photos before I finally arrived at the hospital compound. I greeted everyone with a handshake and a hug, when they initiated. The South Sudanese are so kind and inviting. They welcomed me right in.

By late afternoon, I had met most of the MCH staff, toured the grounds, greeted patients and was sitting with five women having girl talk, as one of the younger women played with my hair.  I promised to give her the yellow dress I was wearing. I told the older woman that I would find something for her. I brought sewing kits for the women and I told them I want a dress like theirs.

They taught me how to say "hello" and "goodbye" in Dinka. I waved and used my new goodbye greeting as I journeyed to the main yard. One of the young men took me to see downtown. Though undeveloped, it still offered three shops and a small chess club. I challenged them to a match later in the week. They accepted. I know they'll probably beat me, but I'll give it a fighting chance;)

I saw the tukel houses made of mud, sticks and reeds. There were two schools, primary and secondary. I saw the commissioners house, a community center and two churches, one is shaped like a cross. There was a blazing fire in the distance. This was to clear the tall grass, for security reasons. They keep the grass low in order to see any intruders afar off. Remnant defense strategies from years of raids, attacks and massacres.

I saw so much potential in this town. There was an empty shop built with simple tree-limb posts that the women could use to sell craft items. I found out they have great skills, like making lasas, mats and tukel art.

We walked back to the compound as the crescent moon rested nestled in the sky, ending the night eating dinner under the stars. With nature surrounding us, I smiled at the contrast of New York City and its sirens compared to Werkok and its crickets. I'd prefer a symphony of music over horns any day.

Introducing Mary Garang

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Partners in Compassionate Care is blessed to have Mary Garang as Director of Women’s Ministry. Mary and her people experienced the trauma and many hardships of the war years. She is highly respected because of her strong Christian faith and her kindness. Mary wrote many of the Dinka hymns that are sung in area churches each Sunday. These same hymns are also sung in Dinka churches currently meeting in the United States. One of the goals many Dinka women have is learning how to read. Mary is now teaching them how to read in their own language. Thanks to Mary for all she does!