After a long time of preparation the clearing of the site began this morning! Garang Yiyieth and Paul Mitchell have been in South Sudan for the past week and in Bor since Saturday January 16 making preparations for the arrival of Andrew Marshall, Jason Brook, Neill Carlsen and Ben Versteegh. This second group arrived in Juba today and will come to Bor on Friday after arranging further supplies in Juba.
The local airlines decided that they were not charging enough for flights between Juba and Bor and overnight increased the fares by 50%. Passengers voted with their feet and took the cheaper, longer road journey instead. Without regular passengers the airlines are now grounded most of the time and so the group travelling from Juba to Bor tomorrow will enjoy the 4 hour 200km journey through villages bearing signs of the long war of independence and the recent crisis of the past two years. Tanks rusting alongside the road and villages rebuilding after destruction are part of the scenery, along with the peaceful White Nile waters.
There are many signs of life and stability though in the developing infrastructure for communications, the reasonably good quality of the road along which trucks are constantly moving outwards from Juba bringing food, building supplies and other essentials.
Bor is a town of between 20,000 and 30,000 people nestled alongside the Nile river. In the past ten years the city has expanded even though when conflict has erupted the people have time and time again moved out into the countryside. During the war for independence Bor was the scene of ongoing bitter fighting and many of those who fled their homes had no option but to keep moving further and further away. Ethiopia and Kenya became places of shelter for decades and the hopes of returning home were slim. For many thousands the difficult decision was made to seem refuge in other countries including USA, Canada and Australia where our South Sudanese brothers and sisters have become a vital part of our life together.
The church is at the heart of South Sudanese society and at the heart of Bor is All Saint's Cathedral. The worship here is vibrant and colourful, a true celebration of every aspect of life - as we found when worship there last Sunday. Between the enthusiastic songs of praise we gave thanks for the safe return of the Dean, Thomas Ague, after extended leave in Kenya. While returning from Kenya his car was attacked and all of their luggage was stolen but he and his companions were not hurt. Three newborn babies were presented for thanksgiving and blessing in this congregation of thousands of people of all ages. We were welcomed and I spoke about the strength which comes from working together in partnership as well as bringing greetings from brothers and sisters far away.
The preacher was a man who balances ordained ministry and service as a high official in the army. He spoke about the balance of church and government and also of the great blessing of working together. After the service Bishop Nathaniel Garang, the previous and long serving Bishop of Bor met with people who came asking for prayer. A large group also gathered under one of the trees in the Cathedral compound for ongoing teaching. This was a rich expression of grounded life in a community gathered in worship.
Please continue to pray for the team from Adelaide working here, for the local community and for God's blessing on us all.