The Board of Christian Mercy International (CMI) in South Sudan recently appointed a COVID-19 Response Team in affiliation with South Sudan African Mission (SSAM) and the Ministry of Health in the State of Aweil.
Paulino Malou Bol, Director of CMI, was endorsed as the COVID-19 Response Team Leader, across six districts and counties in Aweil. The aim of this response team is to provide World Health Organisation (WHO) information to 30 local Church of Christ congregations.
Community awareness programs are very important for people to access correct information and prevent the spread of the virus. Paulino says, “At first, there was a stereotype that COVID is a disease for white, not for black people; that it does not infect the Sudanese, since our climate is very hot, the virus can’t survive in South Sudan.” In total, there have been 2,322 cases of COVID and 46 deaths in South Sudan, with nine cases and two deaths in Aweil, where CMI is based.
Each week Paulino’s team visits churches across Aweil, travelling one to two hours between some of the remote churches by motorbike. While the main responsibility of the team is to provide updated WHO information to the congregations, encouraging them to practice social distancing and mask wearing, there is also opportunity to encourage congregations spiritually while visiting. Paulino says, “The response team encourages the church leaders and believers to be strong in their faith and need to trust in God by using scriptures. We also explain prevention measures given by the WHO.”
These face-to-face visits are important in a country where technology is very poor. Paulino says, “There is a challenge of preaching the gospel since we lack technology and can’t use electronic systems. Instead, we encourage individual Bible studies and home-to-home Bible sharing with people seated 1.5 meters apart from each other using masks to cover the nose and mouth”.
The response team will also visit other CMI ministries including the Emmanuel School leadership and school management committee, parent and teacher associations and the Ox Plough project in Akuakkou.
The children from Emmanuel School are currently in lockdown at home. Paulino says, “Children are self-reading at home, with help from the teachers, caregivers and education supervisors. Two challenges of not being present at school are printing assignments, and not knowing if the national exams will go ahead.” Another major challenge is with the World Food Organisation (WFO) who have stopped providing food to the schools during the lockdown, therefore teachers are visiting the children to monitor their health. The Emmanuel School head teacher bluntly stated on the phone to Paulino how difficult the situation is, “What can we do? If we are poor, then we remain poor.” Challenges for the children also include a stronger focus on housework, raising goats and cows, and collecting water, with little time to rest and study. School Chaplain, Pastor Butros, is also visiting the children to check on their well-being. He travels long distances using a bicycle.
The Ox Plough training was also affected by COVID restrictions. Paulino reports, “Instead (of a community gathering for training) we had to instruct the trainer to carry out training from household to household.” Colin Scott, COCOA Director, confirms that the government has officially noticed the project: “There will be an official day down the track to present people with certificates and government officials will be present.”
Paulino likens the experience of COVID to the Israelites in the desert. The hope that comes to those suffering in South Sudan is this, “God provided manna to the Israelites in the desert. The Lord wanted them to trust Him each day for their daily bread, likewise the CMI team in South Sudan will trust God through this time.” Paulino finally requests, “We ask for your prayers for safety for myself and the team.”
You can support CMI in South Sudan and the work of GMP during COVID via the GMP website.