Jerry Cans, Cassava and Football

Ibba_2016_logo Posted by Ibba 2016 on Mon, 18 Jan 2016 | 4 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

I am writing this blog in Ibba knowing that by the time you read it, we will have left this wonderful corner of God’s creation. Although we may have left this place, Ibba will forever be in our hearts. It has been a real privilege and a blessing to have come here to spend time with these wonderful, generous, joyful people.

Our last days have passed more and more quickly as the time for us to leave has approached.

On Friday, Diane and Joan concluded their work with the Days for Girls programme. This was a day of final instruction and farewells – a difficult day as they have worked with many of the same people across all of their time here. It was also a day of joy, as all sang, danced and prayed together. They leave this project, confident that those with whom they have spent time will build on what they have learnt and will be able to develop the work, so it continues to impact the lives of the girls here in Ibba.

Jenny, Linda, Joanne, Carol and I went to see the work of the local ‘PCC’ here in Ibba – this is the local medical centre. Although it is not a hospital, it provides much needed medical assistance to those who require treatment in Ibba. The PCC is government funded and is supported by many Non-Government Organisations, so the treatment is free to those who need it. There is no feeding or washing provided, so patients who are admitted are accompanied by a relative, who will cook and care for them throughout their stay. Something to think of before we grumble about our NHS services.

We met the person who runs the AIDS clinic. He does this work as a volunteer as there is no funding to pay for his time. He does this work because it needs to be done. AIDS continues to be a very significant problem in this part of the world. Medicine is provided free to patients but it often runs out. Over 200 people are receiving anti-retroviral drugs here in Ibba alone.

David and Nigel continued to work with the local farmers co-operative – they have walked many miles now and have seen many of the local farms. There are extensive expanses of teak trees growing in the bush. This is a major and largely untapped resource in South Sudan but like many things, the lack of capital resource and the need to focus efforts on those crops required to sustain survival, mean that such resources cannot be effectively harnessed by the local people.

The afternoon afforded us the opportunity to go to the local borehole. This is within the church compound and provides a source of clean water for the local people to drink. We (as the Irish visitors) are unable to drink safely from this water until it has been boiled, but the local people use this water daily.

Before the borehole was here, the people had to walk to the nearby river to draw water. Often it is children who fetch the water. Much to their hilarity, Joanne, Linda, Jenny and I pumped some water for the children into their jerry cans. This is real workout and we didn’t even have to carry them home! One of the local young women did lift a jerr cans onto my head – my goodness it was heavy! She didn’t trust me to be able to hold it, much less walk with it – quite wise I’d say!

The borehole is close to the new cathedral on which work has commenced. This will be a magnificent building for worship when it is complete. The bishop has indicated that it will seat 1000 people. Last Sunday we saw firsthand that it is very much needed, as there were as many people outside the existing cathedral as inside – and they stayed outside in the heat for the full service (you will recall that it lasted 4½ hours!).

On Saturday morning, we ladies visited the Ibba Girls Boarding School, which is a short distance outside Ibba. We returned the sewing machines which had been so generously loaned to us. The school is growing – with one new class each year. Last year there were two classes of 40 girls each. This year there will be 3 classes – 120 girls in total.

The school has facilities not seen elsewhere, including flush toilets! It’s worth having a look at their website. This school is hoping to develop young women into positions of leadership for the future of South Sudan.

When we returned, most of us visited the local market. It is mainly food that is sold here – cassava, hibiscus tea, sugar cane, beans and leaves. The availability of supplies to the market has been impacted greatly by the recent instability in the country – a reminder of the need for ongoing prayer for peace, so that life can return to normal for the people here. We were also able to meet with Pastor John (an evangelist that Joanne has spent some time with) and his wife Asunta (who has been working with Diane and Joan on the Days for Girls project). They have a small sewing business as a source of income for them and their family.

Joanne met again on Saturday with Pastor Richard after which they went to the home of a sick child to provide some more healing ministry. The power of God at work through healing ministry here is hard for many of us to comprehend. There are some here who have a strong gifting for this ministry. There is also an expectancy by those who pray and by those for whom prayers are offered that God will provide healing. We pray that God would help us to better understand why in the west this is a real challenge to our understanding.

David and Nigel spend a further day with local farmers – today they brought back cassava that they had themselves harvested. Cassava is a main staple in the diet here. David explained that it was similar to uprooting a small tree – not an easy task in this heat.

Saturday evening saw the final of the ‘peace, forgiveness and reconciliation football tournament’ organised though the bishop. Some years ago, the Logic Cafe in Moira held a football tournament, aimed at raising funds for a trophy for the bishop to take back to South Sudan. This has been the start of something very special here and we were invited to be guests of honour at the final of the tournament on Saturday afternoon.

After a very tense match the teams were drawn “2 all in favour of both of the teams.” The result was decided by penalties, which Madebe won 4-3. The joy of the winning team and the desolation of those who lost showed us clearly how much this tournament means to the people here. There were many thanks and prayers before the cup was awarded and the bishop reminded everyone of the real need for forgiveness and living together in peace. Joanne and the bishop awarded the trophy to the jubilation of the winning side. By the time we returned home everyone had a shower in the dark!

On Sunday we breakfasted on the cassava root that David and Nigel harvested yesterday. We then split up to go to services in a number of local churches: Atodigi, Iggi, Wow Wow and the cathedral here in Ibba. I hope to update you again briefly on these services when we get to Juba on Monday.

May God bless you all as He has blessed us here.


Olwen Laird is a member of the CMSI Mission Experience Team Abroad from St John’s, Moira visiting Ibba Diocese in South Sudan. You can read her other blogs here


Kathryn McMurray said Mon, 18 Jan 2016 03:49PM
Praying for safe journeys for you all over the next couple of days - and that you will have the time to reflect on all that you have experienced before you have to step back into life in Northern Ireland.
Alison Wells said Tue, 19 Jan 2016 07:44AM
Thank you Olwen for such wonderful updates I just feel I have been there with you all.Hope you enjoy the showers at the Landmark and take a little time to reflect together.Love and prayers for a safe journey home. Alison
Elaine Woods said Wed, 20 Jan 2016 05:43PM
Thanks for the great blog. What an amazing but humbling journey with wonderful, generous and joyful people. I feel I have been with you the whole time. Safe travels home. God bless. Elaine Woods

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