The container bearing the clinic building, building tools and many other resources is still slowly navigating its way through both African countryside and reams of red tape. We are hopeful that it will arrive tomorrow, Monday February 1, though it is possible it may be further delayed. Negotiating the challenges of transporting goods half way around the world, through several countries and across jurisdictions which are still developing patterns which will encourage trade and efficiency has proven to be a challenge. But all of the tensions and frustrations will be worthwhile when the clinic is operating and bringing benefit to the people of the Bor region.
The team have arranged for laying of substantial slab footings for the clinic buildings, slabs which will be able to be used for other substantial buildings in the future should that be how the site develops. The container footings are also being prepared so that it will be secure and remain useful for ongoing storage. While waiting to get into the work for which we came the builders in the team have been helping in the trenches digging and carrying blocks and other material being used on the site. Almost all of the work is being undertaken by hand and the hard packed soil is not easy to dig into!
The contract has been signed for a fence which will surround the compound. The cost of this is being met mostly from the Diocese of Adelaide though there is a financial contribution also from the Diocese of Bor, an important expression of the partnership of this whole project. Bor Diocese is large with few resources and enormous needs. St Andrew's Nursery and Primary School, which stands alongside St Andrew's Cathedral, is in the process of being expanded to include a Secondary School. This expansion comes at the request of parents who want their children to be able to continue to be educated in a school with good discipline and solid teaching which St Andrew's is providing. I visited with gifts including soccer balls which were much appreciated. Gifts in the future of volleyballs, a volleyball net and net balls will be gratefully received.
Australia Day was celebrated here with Australian entrepreneurial style. We have bought a charcoal cooker, wok and other supplies from the market. Some of the locals think we are 'crazy kawaja' (Arabic for 'white person') but it is always said with a smile. We made spaghetti puttanesca (which in this case meant tomatoes, capsicum, onion, garlic, tuna, a handful of white bait) washed down with a bottle of Spanish red wine while sitting alongside an Australian flag attached to the wall topped with razor wire which protects the hotel where we are staying. The flag is still flying and has attracted attention and the opportunity to explain the meaning of the various parts. In return the meaning of the South Sudanese flag has been shared and many people have shared the stories of family and friends who are now in Australia.
'Hors de oeuvres' for our Australia Day meal was Vegemite spread on biscuits. The Ugandan contractor for the fence happened to be around at the time and enjoyed the Vegemite so much that he asked if we had more tubes! Producing a pavlova here was beyond our capacity. Perhaps another time.
Bishop Reuben Akurdid has been bishop here in Bor for the last few years, replacing Bishop Nathaniel Garang who led Bor Diocese from the 1980s. Working and moving across this extremely large area of the Diocese of Bor is a challenge but the church here continues to grow and develop. Last Sunday Bishop Reuben went to a church just outside Bor where over 200 people were confirmed and in the coming weeks a larger number will be presented for confirmation at St Andrew's Cathedral.
Making meagre resources stretch to assist in training of pastors evangelists and other leaders, outreach, education and health care will long be a challenge here. But what is possible is being done, with hope and partnerships which includes ours between the Dioceses of Adelaide and Bor.
A part of Bishop Reuben's witness is how an area which appeared to be barren has been able to be developed using simple available resources. The compound where he lives has become a sign of life and an example to others. Using local and imported resources, growing food, planting trees which will provide both shade and fruit in the future Bishop Reuben is showing what is possible with what is available here. His compound is alongside the clinic and also the training centre for the Diocese. Together these sites will become an important focus as Bor continues to grow and develop.
The team are all well and keeping up good spirits despite the frustration of the container being delayed. The time here is certainly not wasted though. We have been establishing connections with contractors who we hope may be solid relationships for future development as well as continuing to expand the fellowship we have with the church community in the Diocese of Bor.
Blessings from Bor, South Sudan