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  • Billy Smyth

Signs of growth

Tuesday 18th February

After much repacking I managed to fit a large full tool box, extension cable and electrical fittings for a generator into my 30kg suitcase allowance and after four flights arrived all intact in Yei. Morris, the Yei VTC manager, met me at the airstrip and it was good to see him! I am happily settled into the diocesan guest house and Mary the cook is taking good care of me! It is hot and dusty but we have had one welcome heavy shower.

Walking around the VTC compound, I was encouraged to meet the tutors and see the developments since my last visit, despite the challenges and a recent break-in when some electrical cables had been stolen. I managed to call in with the generator supplier on my way through Kampala, so hopefully the power situation at the VTC will be improved when it eventually gets here. Thank you to all those who contributed! It is so much easier to offer appropriate support when I can visit and meet face-to-face to discuss issues and practical challenges.

On Sunday I attended the cathedral service. It was good to be worshiping together with this part of Christ’s family again. Bishop Hilary was very pleased to announce that a major step forward had been taken by President Salva Kiir in the peace process by agreeing to reduce the number of internal states from 32 to 10, the original number when South Sudan became a country. This readjusts the power balance between ethnic groups. This week will be one of critical discussions in Juba if the promised deadline of 22nd February for formation of the new government of national unity is to be achieved. Much prayer is still needed.

Today, Tuesday, I met with the VTC management committee and on the agenda were budget matters! It is hard to set a realistic budget when the economy is so unpredictable and sourcing funding support is a very hit and miss affair! Morris had done a good job of visiting aid agencies in Juba and many expressed an interest in vocational training as it is such a vital way of empowering young people to take an active part in rebuilding the nation and bringing hope to communities. However, the agencies are themselves at the mercy of their donors. It is very challenging to operate in an environment where insecurity, scarcity and lack of infrastructure militate against sustainable development initiatives. The management committee discussed the costs of training and the staff salaries as well as practical challenges of running the VTC. It was good to sense the commitment of the local church to offering young people opportunities to build for the future.

40 students studying basic mechanics, electrical installation, hairdressing, catering, and plumbing are about to graduate with 40 more about to commence. Morris tells me that several of the students who graduated last year have already found jobs or started their own businesses.

I was also encouraged to see a large stack of locally made bricks ready for burning, destined for further construction of the secondary school. The diocesan offices are also undergoing reroofing and renovation – these are signs of a Church with vision and energy despite all the years of destruction and difficulty. It is inspiring to witness!

‘Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up ancient foundations; you will be called Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets with dwellings’ Isaiah 58:12

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