The Church as a Humanitarian Agent

Our primary focus in South Sudan is in the context of Christ-centered, asset-based, community development. However, we work with ACROSS who does both development and humanitarian interventions. Recently ACROSS was asked by their partner, AFSC, to manage a very short project to address the most vulnerable populations impacted by coronavirus. We recommended that the project be run through our Transformational Leadership: Church and Community Engagement (TLCCE) department as an intervention in partnership with the local church.

Seven Steps to Crisis Intervention

Dan and Joseph worked together with Dr. Alex Bolek to bring a two-day training to ten church leaders (two from each of five churches). During the training, the church leaders learned about coronavirus and the prevention of its spread. They also learned about basic hygiene and the impact on other diseases as well. They received practical instruction on how to build a home handwashing station called a tippy tap. Finally, they learned how to assess the circumstances that may cause some people to be especially vulnerable to crises and they developed a planned intervention for vulnerable members of their church and community.

Each church was given a handwashing station for their congregation as well as posters with hygiene messages. Then they were given an assortment of food and hygiene items to distribute to vulnerable people according to their plan.

We learned a lot about using the church as a vehicle for a humanitarian intervention–both good things and challenges. While the church seems to be an excellent vehicle for sharing information and dispelling myths, most churches had a difficult time limiting their distribution to only seven families (as instructed). Many of them divided the food into small amounts to provide support to more people.

Here’s what church leaders said about the project:

Carlos Remijo from Lango Community Church:

I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is linking the Bible with issues of community transformation and disease prevention in a practical way. How to be a leader, love, how to solve problems, how to give trauma counseling, how people live for God. Pastor Angelo and I will go to our Lango community and train more people. The facilitators were also well versed in their Bible knowledge.

I learned about Coronavirus in a deep and vast way. Especially myths about coronavirus and how to address them. We still have people in our community who don’t believe in the existence of Coronavirus. I am really grateful to ACROSS for inviting us to this very important training. My community and ACROSS will continue to work in partnership

Peace Florence from Africa Inland Church (AIC):

One important thing I learned from the training is the Tippy Tap. I have seen on the Internet but in this training, I saw it physically and learned to use it. It is simple to make and not expensive. I will use and teach others about it when I go back. I will teach my Church members how to make and use it. It is very convenient.  Another thing I learned is how to address stigma related to COVID-19. Finally, I am thankful to ACROSS for organizing the training and to all the facilitators.

Pastor Yagub Akouch: Evangelical Presbyterian Church:

I benefited a lot from the training, especially about Coronavirus. There were things I did not know about how the virus is transmitted and how it can be prevented. I learned that the Church can do a lot and play a role in giving awareness to people on COVID-19. I will return to my Church and give the training and awareness to my Congregation.

Testimonies from those receiving food distribution:

Mama Acah Opio a widow:

I am mama Achan Opio from Presbyterian Church in Juba. I am a widow with no one to care for me. My elder son also died few years ago and I have been left alone in the world. I am grateful that God cares. I am thankful to ACROSS for this support and so happy for this help that has come timely in time of need. God bless ACROSS and all those working in ACROSS.

 

Ayen Tong, a young mother of two with a sick husband:

I am Ayen Tong, I have two kids and currently breastfeeding. I am a member of the Evangelical Church in Lologo. I don’t have a job and my husband works as boda boda (motorbike) rider and that is where he earns some money for our living. Recently, he got involved in a road traffic accident and he got admitted in hospital. Because of this accident, we went for weeks now with no food and proper feeding. I consider this food brought by ACROSS a miracle from God and it means a lot especially for my two kids. Many, many thanks to ACROSS. God bless you.

 

Mama Martha Akuol:

I am mama Martha Achol. I live in Logogo area. I am a widow living alone with no one providing for me depending most of the time on the support of relatives but I know God is there for me. The heavy rains that came recently, brought flooding to our area as we live near the river and my house collapse. With no one providing for me, I went for many days without food. Today I saw that God has provided. My thanks first to God and to ACROSS for this provision.

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