Another reflection on the mission trip from the Diocese of Bethlehem to the Diocese of Kajo-Keji. This time by Jo Trepagnier.
Diocese of Bethlehem Mission Trip to the Sudan
Thoughts from a Missioner
In the five full days that the Diocesan Mission team spent in Kajo Keji, Sudan we were treated with kindness and generosity from our African brothers and sisters and we felt your prayers for safety and mission. We visited six schools, an orphanage, a displacement camp, the site of the proposed center of the diocese (which will house the cathedral, the Bible College, the bishop’s house, an agricultural center and a primary and secondary school). We met with local officials and clergy, teachers, representations of the Mother’s Union and heard them talk about their priorities and dreams.
We are all still reviewing our notes, sorting our pictures and each of us is reconsidering what were the main leanings from this trip. For today, one short week after my return I want to share the following:
- I now know and respect the Kajo Keji Diocesan staff and arch deacons and more clearly understand their leadership, and their vision of the future of the Sudan and their incredible challenges.
- Now as we are begin our 3rd year of peace, the people of Sudan continue to return to Kajo Keji, mostly from exile in Uganda. They are retuning to their families land but the education system is still so weak (schools with holes, teachers with no pay or certificate) and day to day life so difficult that many of our church leaders keep their families in Uganda.
- The Bible College, which was exiled to Uganda, will return to the Sudan this spring or summer. The new building they will move into, totally sponsored by the Diocese of Bethlehem, has walls, windows and a floor. No roof, electricity or place for students and teachers to live.
- The roads have not been graded or paved in years and with the bombings and the rainy season, are almost impossible to move around. We had access to Bishop Dawidi’s car and a fearless driver, but during our week we saw no more than a dozen cars. Most people walk, a few have bicycles and a very few have motorcycles.
- No electricity or running water means that much of every day is spent getting water at the nearest well, (could be a mile away) and gathering your food for the day. No refrigerators mean no milk products, no leftovers. No money means no shopping. Our main diet was starch and eggs and our hosts offered our team valuable meat.
- There is no clear secular life. They talk about, sing about, dance about God and Jesus in all parts of their day.
- Almost every family we met talked about some type of mental illness in their family. Suicide, depression is common place. Sons that had been kidnapped. Girls that could not function. They are hopeful and hopeless at the same time.
- A new Bishop will be elected within the next month. The leadership is strong now and they have great hopes for leadership the new Bishop will offer. Bishop Manasseh Dawidi is living in Kajo Keji and is still active until a new bishop is ordained.
- The woman of Kajo Keji have official and unofficial roles that show great leadership. Projects like teaching women to sew, and cook and make soap are active. Some of the headmasters are women and the head of the orphanages is a woman and there is one woman on the Diocesan staff.
Most of you may know by now that our team dropped from 5 to 4 when Connie Fegley responded to a dire family emergency and was not able to travel with us. The team included: The Venerable Howard Stringfellow, Charlie Barebo (Capital Campaign Chair and member of St. Anne’s Church), Dr. Randal Fegley, education coordinator for the World Mission Committee and member of Christ Church, Reading, and Jo Trepagnier, office manager for Mediator and member of Nativity Cathedral.
January in Southern Sudan is hot and dry but every day, particularly in the middle of the day a strong breeze cools things off. As we sat under these majestic mango trees for our community meetings, that breeze reminded me of the power of the Holy Spirit and the mystery of our lives and the hope for the future for our brother and sisters.