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  • Jenny Smyth

Progress and planning in Yei

Jenny Smyth's second update from her visit, with Billy Smyth, to South Sudan.


Monday 24th January

‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, be constant in prayer’ Rom 12:12

"Saturday – who knows what will unfold…"

Just as I wrote that (on Saturday), the three delegates duly arrived from Juba- a representative from ACROSS, a co-funder, a member of parliament representing Yei and Retired Bishop Enoch who is a skilled facilitator.

Billy worked long and hard most of the day, Baraka volunteered to work with him. They managed to get the hand held circular saw that we brought out mounted into a redundant metal table as all agreed that it would last longer this way and be safer. We had also travelled out with a small welding machine that proved very useful for this job. They also made good progress in connecting the new motor (travelled in a suitcase all of its own) to the stone crusher. It is now just awaiting a piece of heavy cable which is obtainable in town. Final preparations were made for the Strategic Planning workshop scheduled for Monday.

David Luate the diocesan secretary kindly took me to town to visit the market and purchase a few things. Yei town is reasonably well stocked but far less busy than I remember it. A major change, apart form the security situation, is that it is no longer on the main trading route to Juba. Juba is heavily dependent on goods from Uganda and there is now a more direct road. We went on the hunt for a place with wifi, but to no avail, but did manage to get a dongle set up.

The guest house was busy all day with hosting a wedding reception for a cathedral youth leader. Plenty of people milling around, and a lot of celebrations. The women cooking asked me to sit and have some food with them, but we had to huddle under the mango trees as there were a lot of kites around swooping down to see what they could grab! Billy and I bumped into several old friends and past students. We greeted Bishop Hilary who invited us round for Sunday tea.

Sunday was an early start as the main English service is at 6.30am. The cathedral was packed, but we managed to find a corner by 2 open windows to keep our distance and a good breeze. Billy and I were duly welcomed and asked to say a few words to the congregation. The partnership with the Church of Ireland through CMSI is deeply valued. Outside the cathedral is a memorial that was set up at the centenary in 2017 to commemorate a massacre in 1972 when 34 people were martyred inside a church. In the afternoon we went up to visit Bishop Hilary and Mama Joyce, still living in the DOY Bishops house as their own is not yet complete. It was lovely to see them both again. Mama Joyce’s back is still troubling her. We were joined by Bishop Enoch. I gradually began to feel really unwell and had to ask to be excused before supper. Bishop Hilary kindly offered to drive us back to the guest house. Later that evening he came down with the food all packed up for us! Such kindness and care. I felt much better by morning.

Monday – the great Strategic Planning day. Bishop Hilary opened with prayer and reflected that after so many times of crisis, this is now the time to re energise the YVTC, to do this all in the context of our faith and he thanked CMSI and the supporting parishes in Ireland for their commitment. Bishop Levi likened this to putting fuel in the tank, and said we do this by putting our heads together to make good plans to move us forward.

The day went very well ably facilitated by Bishop Enoch. 16 delegates all duly arrived and worked hard all day, including a tour of the compound. They were impressed by all the activity and well-equipped practical classes. The tea breaks were provided by the catering students very lavishly! We did not complete all 12 stages of the planning process but made a good start and everyone has a clear understanding of the next steps needed. It was touching to hear Billy referred to as ‘Our father in the Lord’. Billy was keen to acknowledge that our time living in Yei and Bishop Hilary had taught us so much about living by faith.

We ended with prayer and a blessing.



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