Journey into South Sudan

On the White Nile River in South Sudan, fires in the distance can be indicators of violence.

Buck Deines, who works with Food for the Hungry’s (FH) emergency response unit, traveled to South Sudan. He tells about his experiences with death, dangers and the other harsh conditions FH/South Sudan staff face every day. Here is his blog:

During my recent travels with Food for the Hungry – into the northeastern Republic of South Sudan—I decided my FH colleagues were either out of their minds or among the most selfless people on the planet.

In defense of my out of their minds notion, allow me to elaborate.

Traveling in South Sudan

To get to the villages that FH serves, we spent long days in 100-plus degree heat in a jeep banging along rough dirt tracks—leaving both heads and tails abused, battered and bruised. A non-functioning air conditioner and a window stuck shut did little to add to our comfort.

Subsequent days were spent in a small open boat, crammed with people, mattresses and other gear as we made our way to remote villages along the White Nile River as the sun fried our sunscreen-smothered skin.

The potential peace of sleeping in a village hospital compound under the stars was disrupted by extremely clever malaria-carrying mosquitoes that found openings in our mosquito nets and feasted upon us throughout the night.

Meals during our journeys ranged from fair to…well…I’ve never been very fond of boiled fish heads covered in flies. As for bathing, there was sponge bathing or bathing in the Nile along with the crocodiles.

Death and loneliness in the field

Buck Deines (left, front) sits with FH's amazing staff working in South Sudan.

Security concerns prevented our visit to one entire county. And sadly, a few days after our visit to Ulang county, we learned that 29 people were killed in a nearby community when cattle raiders crept into the village in the early morning and sprayed residents with gunfire. Such incidents are not uncommon in this area and pose a very real threat to our staff, as well as to the local population.

An occasional visitor to such places may find spending a week or two under such conditions to be an adventure. But not so, for the many FH staff in South Sudan, who serve under such conditions month after month. These staff are often away from loved ones for long periods of time.

Now I ask you, why would anyone in their right mind choose to live and work under such harsh conditions when they have other alternatives? Why make such a sacrifice?

Sharing Christ’s love

They serve because their hearts are torn by seeing the needs of the people. They feel compelled to share Christ’s love in response.

  • Where only 10 percent of South Sudanese children finish primary school, FH staff are building schools and strengthening the education system.
  • Where floods have destroyed homes, crops and livestock, FH is responding with seeds and tools to enable families to replant crops. And community leaders are learning to design and implement projects to protect their communities from future floods.

The work is difficult, the environment harsh and dangers are many, but they serve day after day with amazing sacrificial love—a love that compels them to get involved in the problems of the world, regardless of the personal cost.

In the end, I concluded that FH staff serving in South Sudan are indeed out of their minds, but in a wonderful sense of the phrase. In losing their minds, they have taken on the mind of Christ and are living testimonies to Christ’s sacrificial love among the people of South Sudan.

What an amazing privilege I have to serve with such people.  The world would be a better place if more of us were serving others with such passion.

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