Several weeks ago I, Jamie, had the opportunity to travel to South Sudan with a medical mission’s team from Hope 4 S. Sudan. I have lived in Kenya for 4 years now, and I have been to several other developing nations in Africa and around the world, but South Sudan is (by far) the least developed place I have visited. We flew from Nairobi to Lokichoggio, Kenya, and then made the 1 hour drive on rough and bumpy roads to the border. After obtaining visas we continued on for another 4-5 hours to the town of Kapoeta. Shortly after we left Lokichoggio we ran out of tarmac (paved road) and I didn’t see another paved road until we returned to Loki 5 days later. I am used to rough roads. Kenya has large areas that lack paved roads, places that have horribly rough dirt/mud roads, but the majority of these places have paved roads (even if these have more potholes than asphalt) within 1-2 hour drive…excluding certain places in the North. South Sudan, however, has only 2 paved roads in the entire country and both of these are in the capital, Juba (at least this is what I was told). The town of Kapoeta is in the East Equatorial District, which is home to the Taposa Tribe (click here for info about the Toposa). The majority of the Toposa live very traditional lives, relatively unchanged for many years. They typically live iin traditional villages, herd cattle, and struggle daily to find water in the arid landscape. They live very difficult lives with 1 out of 3 people dying before the age of 5, mostly due to preventable diseases. Over 90% of Toposa are illiterate and lack basic education. The Toposa that live in the town of Kapoeta experience slightly more development, but very little. The town is mainly made up of mabati (iron sheet) structures. A few permanent stone structures have been built in the year since independence, but very few older permanent structures are still standing. This area has been harshly affected by war….mainly by the Civil War in Sudan, but also by battles and raids with rival tribes…and the effects are evident everywhere. All over Kapoeta town you can see piles of rubble and the remains of bombed-out buildings. It is unwise to walk through the bush on unmarked paths because landmines are still prevalent, and areas are marked with painted white rocks or red rocks to signify if the area has been demined or not. It is very common to find bullet casings along paths and broken down tanks can even be seen outside of town. These harsh realities just add to the difficulties of the lives of most Toposa people. Very few have access to basic medical care, education, or clean water.
The primary focus of the Hope 4 S. Sudan team was to support the work of Gary and Alesa Ackerman, IPHC Missionaries, by conducting medical clinics at the Kapoeta compound as well as in neighboring communities. The Ackermans have been in Sudan for 2 ½ years and they are doing great work there. Outreach can be overwhelming in a place with such difficult circumstances but the Ackermans, through the IPHC and Hope 4 S. Sudan, are reaching the Toposa people by meeting their most important needs. The compound has a church for the community to learn of Christ’s saving grace, a school that educates over 250 students from the community, a medical clinic that is free for the community, and a freshwater well and feeding program. During the 5 days that we were in South Sudan the team conducted 3 medical clinics that reached nearly 500 people! I was not very helpful in the way of medical assistance, so I spent my time controlling crowds, counting/separating pills, and entertaining large crowds of children. It was a successful trip and a great experience for me to visit the newest nation in the world, but the needs for these people and the nation of South Sudan are incredible. Please keep this ministry, the Toposa, and the government of South Sudan in your prayers.