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Surfing... it's all about timing

Billy’s Blog Yei, April 2019 (Compiled by Jenny Smyth)

Companion Placement Yei Vocational Training College, South Sudan

Surfing…it’s all a question of timing…too soon and you don’t catch the potential of that wave, too late and you miss the opportunity … but in that risk-it-all moment when you trust your instinct and fully commit you are lifted up, surged forward and you are off!

The situation in Yei has felt overwhelming. Billy visited Yei in February at the invitation of Bishop Hilary to work with the YVTC Management committee in planning for the reopening the College. So much needed to be done. The college had been used to house many displaced people during the terrible insecurity of the past 2 years. This inevitably meant that the buildings had suffered from lack of maintenance, the machinery and equipment was in a grave state of repair, many tools were missing, the electrics were in a shocking state (literally), and the secondary school was using the VTC classrooms. The coffers were almost empty. During Billy’s February visit the army carried out an offensive against a rebel group in the greater Yei area, 6,000 people were displaced or fled to DR Congo, roads were closed and there were reports of more vile atrocities. Fear was palpable.

However the local church folk were determined to move things forward despite the difficulties, determined to do anything they could to make peace a reality. Billy was able to assist with the planning, to accompany on visits to local offices of aid agencies to ask for funding and got his hands very dirty fixing and mending.

Towards the end of Lent, Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby invited the South Sudanese political and religious leaders to Rome for a Peace Retreat. Unprecedented and amazing, the retreat ended with Pope Francis kneeling to kiss the feet of the military men of war. Holy week is a time of deep reflection and Easter a time of renewed hope, of renewed belief that peace is possible. A new peace initiative is in process and a new government due to be formed on 12th May.

Billy arrived back in Yei on 27th April. There were some signs of progress at the YVTC, but still the coffers were empty and much remains to be done. The Management Committee had engaged tutors and registered 65 day students: 35 for the Vehicle Mechanics and Driving course, 10 for Electrics, 10 for Plumbing and 10 for Tailoring. They also planned the Opening Ceremony. Regarding the general situation in Yei, Billy reports ‘There is a big change in town (since my February visit), things are more relaxed, more people about, more shops open, it is really encouraging.’

The Opening Ceremony duly took place on 29th April in the YVTC compound. Bishop Hilary led the prayers of thanksgiving. This is a massive leap of faith, a risk-it-all moment, inspired by the wave of hope that peace is there to be grabbed, is there to be wrestled into being - despite the massive challenges. Reopening a college offering opportunities for training is offering hope in a better future. Billy messaged, ‘I’m convinced we made the right decision to go ahead and reopen the VTC as planned’

Please pray that God will bless the faith of the church in His protection and provision for the YVTC as they work to be peace makers.

(Bishop Hilary, the Management Committee and the staff and students of the Yei Vocational Training College 2019)

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat.

And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures."

William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar

Please consider financially supporting the YVTC by clicking here.


Message from Jenny Smyth, Mission Director, CMS Ireland

On the Reopening of the Yei Vocational Training College 29th April 2019

Dear friends,

Greetings from the CMS Ireland family, from our Trustees, the staff team and all the faithful members, to you, our precious partners gathered here today, in the Name of our Risen Saviour Jesus!

Our partnership with the Diocese of Yei goes back many years. It goes back to the time before our present Bishop Rt Rev Hilary Luate Adeba to the time of our dear departed Bishop Seme Solomona and his wonderful wife Mama Esther. Our partnership goes back to long before my time as CMS Ireland Mission Director to the time of Canon Cecil Wilson. During the long war years, before any real prospect of peace and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Bishop Seme met with Canon Cecil and challenged him to tell the churches in Ireland about the struggles of the Christians in Sudan and asked them to pray. Cecil was touched by this plea and on return to Ireland shared what he had heard. Many people were deeply moved and responded in prayer and generosity. Others asked if they could visit to encourage the brethren. Visits took place, the journeys were long and arduous for people unused to rough roads, heat, dust and insecurity. The visitors were overwhelmed by the people they met, by generosity, open hearted welcome and especially by their vibrant faith despite the most challenging circumstances. These visits, with the opportunity to worship and share together, forged the partnership between churches in Ireland and the Diocese of Yei which continues to grow and be a source of encouragement to us all. Since then the partnership has continued to develop with many visits back and forth. A special relationship with the Diocese of Connor was confirmed with a visit from Bishop Alan Abernethy and some of his clergy.

In 2000 Billy and I were living in Arua and working in the West Nile Ecumenical Vocational Training Centre, supported by CMS Ireland. The centre exists to train young Ugandans and Sudanese in technical skills. It was established in Arua because in the 1990’s the war here was intense. Billy and I had some wonderful neighbours in Arua - Bishop Seme and Mama Esther and Rev Hilary Luate and Mama Joyce. Each time we met Bishop Seme would whisper to me ‘You know you could go and live in Yei and offer Vocational Training there?’

So the vision that God had set in Bishop Seme’s heart eventually came into reality. Billy and I spent 3 wonderful years living and working here, under the leadership of your Bishop and the guidance of the YVTC Management Committee. The YVTC was built by the efforts of the instructors and the first intake of students with technical guidance from Billy. The Bishop’s Chaplain Rev Simon Gaga was a key member of staff, later joined by the present manager, Morris Logulomo. The first courses offered were Driving and Vehicle Mechanics, Building and Concrete Technology and Carpentry and Joinery. The college opened in 2003. Over the next few years several other courses came on stream. The YVTC housed a Micro Enterprise Scheme and a Women’s Craft Business under the Women’s Empowerment Programme for Transformation. Hundreds of people have passed through the gates of this compound to learn and study, to work, to do business and to benefit from all that has been on offer.

On the occasion of the graduation of the first cadre of students, the head student gave a speech. He thanked the staff and then said ‘I thought I was coming to this college to learn to drive and gain a qualification in vehicle mechanics, and I did. However, I also found that I was at a Bible college where I learnt to study the Bible and grow in my faith.’

This college is founded by the Diocese of Yei. It is a Christian college. It is a place where all are welcome, but a place where the Name of God is glorified and where His ways are followed. Communities which seek to honour God receive His blessing.

At the moment in Northern Ireland our political leaders have gone astray, refusing to work together, each side blaming the other, and so we have no parliament. Our country is in many ways at a stand still.

Your own political leaders are also struggling to work in harmony and this disunity results in all the chaos and suffering we observe. We are praying that with the new peace agreement in South Sudan, and following your religious and political leaders’ peace retreat in Rome, a new determination has been found to commit to peace making between people in all communities throughout this land. This is not an easy road to travel. It demands humility, patience, forgiveness and hard work. It also demands hope, faith and love. Hope that things can and will change, faith in God our Heavenly Father who strengthens us and helps us to forgive and show love to one another as we work together to make peace a reality.

I would like to commend your Bishop, Rt Rev Hilary Luate Adeba, who has set you an example of Godly leadership. He has worked tirelessly to build up the Christian community here, to preach the gospel of saving grace and teach people how to live as people forgiven by God, called into His family and live in harmony.

As CMS Ireland we are privileged to be in partnership with you here in the Diocese of Yei. We are so thankful that since the closing of this college in 2016, the opportunity for the reopening has come again. Although the future is still uncertain and many difficulties surround you, I am certain that our God is faithful, that He is trustworthy, that He is able to lead you forwards. You will need to hold on to your Hope in Him, be faithful in following His ways, and determine to be a community motivated by love.

The family of CMS Ireland will stand with you in prayer for this college, for Bishop Hilary and the diocese and for this beloved country of South Sudan.

From Psalm 20:

May the Lord answer you when you are in trouble! May the God of Jacob protect you! 4 May he give you what you desire and make all your plans succeed. 5 Then we will shout for joy over your victory and celebrate your triumph by praising our God.

Thank you

Jenny Smyth

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