Yesterday I got one of those phone calls that catch you off guard and leave whatever you were in the middle of seem suddenly really insignificant. A friend called to make sure I wasn’t headed to the older boys center and to warn me not to go. The center is on a compound with a church and small Bible school. There were riots there, protests, and the Bible school and church were being burned down yesterday.
My first reaction after “What?! Are you serious?!” was, “What about the center? Are the boys ok?! Where are they?”
She didn’t know but her husband was headed over there to see what was going on and to check. After awhile my roommate got home, had talked to the director of the center who is also a pastor, and said that they had gotten the boys out before things had gotten bad and for now the center was untouched. The boys were sent to homes in the area to stay and they will me moving to the center with the younger boys.
A bit of background: The land where the center is has been disputed for awhile. A few months ago they were taken to court and the land was ruled to rightfully belong to the church. But the people in the community believe that since the Southerners are gone, there are no Christians left so the land should be theirs. People have come before, and even a few weeks ago came to tear down the school. The police have been involved before and have aided the church members. So this wasn’t completely out of the blue. Also, if you are following the news about Sudan and South Sudan you’re well aware that the South had taken a key oil town near the border belonging to the North. The North took back this town on Thursday. So on Thursday there were big celebrations, lots of Northern pride, and Islamic declarations. Perhaps this aided in the fuel for the riot.
I haven’t been able to go and see the damage. There are lots of police there, apparently, and not only would a white lady face bring perhaps some suspicion, but also would only be detrimental right now.
Thankfully no one was hurt. But the school has been destroyed, all the students and their families were there when it happened and they lost all of their belongings. The school lost its library, computers, everything. The church is destroyed. I don’t know if our boys were able to pack up their belongings or anything before they left. I’m going to go to the younger boys center tomorrow and see how they are.
What is so incredibly frustrating is that I am so close (geographically), and also emotionally invested in some of the people this has affected and I can’t do anything to help. I hate that the rest of my day yesterday went along untouched at home. I went along with the stuff I was working on (thinking and praying, though, of course), because there was nothing I could do. Today I called around to see if anyone knew about any sort of organized clean-up going on but that hasn’t been organized yet. And I was told by a man who’s advice I heed and respect, that I really shouldn’t go there. Only if I know of a big organized clean up, and then only if I go with others.
I’m thankful that everyone is ok. And I’m thankful, I suppose, that I’m not physically touched by what happened. But I can’t share in their suffering! I hope in the coming days and weeks I’ll be able to do something to help. When we had our house fire the boys came and worked tirelessly to help us. But because I’m white, but most especially because I’m a woman I can’t go there and do anything! I am a (small) part of their community and I want to hurt with them and help them. It’s so messed up!
I don’t know what this means for the future of the center. I don’t think anyone knows that yet. But pray. Things are heating up here. There is tension. Economically, too. The country is out of sugar. Prices are going up. People in the know have warned to stock up on things, just in case.
When my friend talked to the director of the centre yesterday when things were still going on she asked what we could do and he just said “Tell everyone! In the country and out of the country! Tell everyone!” So I’m telling you. Please pray for the desert. Peace, security, love instead of hate–on all sides. Pray.