In December 2013, violent conflict between the South Sudanese government and opposition forces broke out, causing people to flee to neighboring countries. Since that date, a steady stream of South Sudanese refugees has
continued to flow into northern Uganda, where today more than 1.4 million refugees reside. Of the many refugee camps scattered throughout northern Uganda, the Pagirinya refugee camp is home to approximately 60,000 refugees. In August (2018), we had
the opportunity to build a playground for the children in this camp and while there, we met Pastor Moses, known as “the man who helps people.”
A refugee himself (and having been one multiple times in his life), Pastor Moses is acutely aware of what these children are going through, and he makes it his aim to provide the best life possible for them, with very meager resources. He is a soft-spoken man, and even with heavy issues looming in the camp and his constant attention needed on a variety of urgent matters, he always seems to be wearing a kind and enthusiastic smile. In dark circumstances God is using Pastor Moses, and others like him, to love these kids and to bring hope in the midst of suffering.
When we arrived, the playground parts had already been delivered and were sitting in a formless pile, waiting to be assembled. There was a certain excitement and energy in the air. From the first day of construction, we were constantly surrounded by children – their wide eyes and shy smiles expressing their anticipation of what was to come. Eager to help with any part of the construction, they often wanted to help dig, carry parts, screw in nuts and bolts. Even when there wasn’t work for them to help with, we saw their creativity and imaginations at work – making their own playgrounds out of un-erected parts, and engineering the most amazing creations out of nuts and bolts awaiting their final destination. After a day of work, the smiles were no longer shy, but quickly turned into playful friendships, games of soccer, singing and “testing” sections of the playground as they went up. The build turned into a community effort which both the team and the kids seemed to really enjoy. We learned that not only would the playground be fun for the kids, but Pastor Moses was receiving training on how to use it as a tool to help them process trauma. One evening, as our team was sitting at our hotel processing the events of the day, our leader received a call from Pastor Moses. He shared, “It’s 9:30 at night and I still hear them out there playing. They won’t go home.” We had a good laugh, feeling happy to have brought so much joy to these children.
As the week progressed we learned more about Pastor Moses. He previously lived and served as a pastor in South Sudan. Much like the Moses of the Bible, he now finds himself in a foreign land, leading his people – mostly women and children. His heart, along with the other pastors in the area, is to see that these children have the chance to know Christ, their ultimate hope and provider, and also to do all they can to provide them with opportunities to grow and not fall behind. With very meager resources, they have set up make-shift schools so that the children can continue receiving an education. And, they are working diligently to share Christ with the kids through local “story clubs,” where the gospel and Bible stories are presented orally, a teaching style that is native to the Sudanese culture. We visited some of the story clubs and were blessed to hear the kids singing songs rich with biblical truth and encouragement. Currently there are 67 story clubs located in Pagirinya camp and nearby districts, with more popping up all the time. Pastor Moses spends much of his time teaching other pastors how to start these clubs and reach the children in their area.
Please join us in praying for Pastor Moses and all of the pastors in the area that are caring for these precious children. As many of them shared with us, one of the reasons that Sudan has been plagued with violence and war for so many years, is due to tribal conflicts and people’s loyalty to their tribe. The pastors see these children as the hope for their country’s future. They hope that by raising them to know Christ, when they do eventually return to their homeland, they will identify themselves primarily with Christ (before tribe), and usher in a new way of handling conflict and a new day for their country.