Tag Archives: Salva Kiir Mayardit

Cut The Baby In Half

I haven’t written for a while. I’ve been waiting to hear some definitive news that anything has changed in South Sudan. I wish I had good news to report, other than the fact that there have been some miraculous stories of escape and rescue, including a boat that appeared out of nowhere to rescue a family that was about to be overrun by Nuer rebels.

There is talk of resolution at the peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Salva Kiir’s government has been negotiating a peace deal with Riek Machar’s rebels. The thing I have to ask is; “for what?” The damage is done. Thousands are dead. The “good” news came yesterday that the town of Bor, where our friends are, has been retaken again by SPLA (South Sudanese government) forces. At this point I’m not sure how many times Bor has changed hands.

I put the word “good” news in parenthesis, because at this point, what is there to go back to?  South Sudan’s leaders need to take a hard look in the mirror.

A friend of a friend in South Sudan brought up a very poignant allegory. It’s the story of the two women that came before Solomon with a baby, each claiming to be the mother.  1 Kings 3:16-27“16 Now two women who were harlots came to the king, and stood before him. 17 And one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house; and I gave birth while shewas in the house. 18 Then it happened, the third day after I had given birth, that this woman also gave birth. And we were together; no one was with us in the house, except the two of us in the house. 19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. 21 And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne.”

22 Then the other woman said, “No! But the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.”

And the first woman said, “No! But the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.”

Thus they spoke before the king.

23 And the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’s; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.”

26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”

But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.

27 So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.”

28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.”

What the leaders of South Sudan have essentially done is decide to cut the baby in half.  Rather than let your enemy win for the good of the country, they’ve decided that no one should win. When self comes before brother or family or nation, that nation cannot stand. I understand that it’s a hard thing to do, but old hostilities need to be left behind, no matter how deep they run. It’s only by the grace of God that South Sudan will stand, because it’s going to take a level of forgiveness that only God can give to heal the wounds that exist. And shame on those that have exploited old tensions for their own gain. In the end they will lose too, because they will not have a nation to rule. And when that happens, South Sudan will again fall under the rule of someone who is not only not Dinka, and not Nuer, but also not even South Sudanese.

The following is a before and after picture of the market in Bor. The first picture was taken in November, last time I was there. The second picture was taken in the last few days.

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A Further Update To The Fighting In South Sudan

It’s been over a week since I last updated this blog, not because there was not something to write, but because it was just too difficult to write it. I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but the situation has further deteriorated since then.  Only now when there is a glimmer of hope can I write about it. We have heard stories of incredible escape, but also tragic, personal, heartbreaking stories. The latter I may tell when there is some emotional distance, but perhaps never.

Last time I wrote, our friends were hiding in the bush as the town of Bor was overrun by Nuer rebels known as the White Army, named because of the ashes they cover their skin with to protect from insects. They are not much more than armed children and youths, but deadly nonetheless.  Our friends were able to return to Bor after about a week, after SPLA forces forced the rebels out. One of our friends escaped harm in the bush, only to return to Bor and get shot in the arm by a random bullet. Fortunately he will be alright. Another was caught by rebels and told to sit down. Had he complied they certainly would have shot him. As he put it, “I decided to make my own decisions. I ran. They shot at me, but God said no to the bullets.”

Since then, the SPLA pulled out of Bor, for two reasons as far as I can tell from what I’ve been told. The first is because the town of Bor was full of unburied bodies, and the risk of disease was a concern. The second and I’m sure the larger reason was that 25,000 Nuer rebels gathered to the east to try to retake the town of Bor, which they subsequently did.

So for our friends the situation became even more difficult. Their trip back to Bor was largely fruitless, since the entire market and the hotels were looted, and much of the town was burned. As the threat of a further assault built, thousands gathered at the Nile to cross  to safety in a place you can’t even google. A number of children drowned in the crossing, and many more died from dysentery from drinking the Nile water, which was the only water available. Thank God, though, it sounds like most of the people made it across.

From there the people of Bor were able to flee to Juba, where the fighting was not as fierce, though it’s still going on.  As a footnote, I’ve been to Juba probably ten times, and there’s never been a moment there when I didn’t feel like I’ve had to constantly look over my shoulder. So to flee to Juba, you know it’s bad.

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Refugees coming into Juba in the back of a flatbed truck.

At this moment, it look as if there is another assault imminent on the town of Bor from SPLA forces. The talk is that Riek Machar is trying to hold onto the town of Bor so he will have a bargaining chip during peace talks. It’s a tragedy that our friends are the bargaining chip he is using in his bid for power.  Please pray for our friends, and the people of Bor and the church there as this atrocity continues. Pray for a real peace, for the safety of our brothers and sisters, and that Northern Sudan doesn’t use this as an excuse to try to take back their former territory.

An Update To The Situation In Bor, South Sudan

I wrote a couple days ago about the situation currently going on in South Sudan, specifically about what looks to be civil war in a power grab between South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and the ousted vice president, Riek Machar. We have been trying to keep in contact with those we know in the church in Bor. Some people managed to flee to their home villages, some we are hearing from but are in dire straits, and others we have not heard from since the first days of the violence. I am incredibly worried for these people, as they have become good friends over the last couple years.

sudan-0744smI’m amazed that any news gets out at all, but thanks to Facebook, I am still getting some updates. How they’re getting power I have absolutely no idea, but I’m thankful that they do, as it allows us to pray more specifically for what they need.

Currently the situation (as far as I understand it at this point) is as follows. Nuer Rebels have taken over Bor and are executing people. The United States and other nations have tried to evacuate their personnel from Bor, but have had difficulty after some evacuation aircraft were shot down. This is also hampering any relief effort.  The government of South Sudan has agreed not to launch an all out assault on Bor until foreigners have been evacuated. This is also making things more difficult for those who have had to flee, because they are running out of food.

A large number of the residents of Bor have fled, either to the UN compound at the edge of the city, or out into the bush. The general opinion that I’ve read from those there is that they generally don’t consider the UN base to be a safe place. From those in the bush, they are currently still safe, but are sleeping out in the open without protection from the weather or the mosquitos. Two babies were born yesterday to women on the run in the group we’re in contact with. They’re also running out of food. They’ve been eating acacia nuts and fish to survive, but the fish are becoming scarce. They’re crying out for relief.

Please keep the people of Bor in your prayers. God is in control, but we need to stand in the gap for these people. As we live here in peace during this Christmas time, please take time from the traditions and busyness of the holiday to lift up those who are suffering tremendously during this time. Pray for the wellbeing and encouragement of those we haven’t heard from.

Here is a link to a recent BBC story on the events in Bor.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25487084

Civil War in South Sudan (again), and Facebook.

This is an incredibly hard post for me to write today. I was greeted with the wrenching news a few days ago that civil war has started again in South Sudan, and ground zero for it is where our friends are in Bor. The initial indications are that the vice president, (a Nuer), who was dismissed by the president (a Dinka) back in July, has begun to air his grievance against the president with an uprising. During this uprising, the town of Bor was taken by Nuer rebels. Bor is where most of our friends are in South Sudan. If any of my South Sudanese friends have more accurate information than this, please feel free to post.

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Now, with that short background, we are praying for them with a lot of nail-biting. This is the first time that war has affected me in such a personal way. People talk about the fact that only in the past thirty years or so have people been able to find out almost immediately via news what is going on in a foreign war. But previously it was still hard to see it as real , because the disseminator of news was always a news agency, and it was still a bit impersonal. You could always tell yourself that whoever it is that you knew might not have been wherever the bad news was happening.

Facebook changed all that. No we know within hours or even minutes what is going on with people who aren’t just acquaintances, they’re friends. And we can’t tell ourselves that they’re not involved or suffering, because these are personal statements being put on Facebook, coming right from their own experiences.

On one hand it tells me specifically how to pray for them, but on the other hand it breaks my heart to see what they’re going through.  We have a very hard time in the United States relating to what’s going on in a country many of us have never heard of, so I’m going to post some of their own statements (with no names on other personal info), to make this more real.

“All the displaced people of Bor Town are in the UN compound, but the open air will not be enough for the gunshot victims.”

“Gunshots have started now, at 4 AM.”

“Bor town is scare by gunshot at block 4 this evening.they were trying to be the part of what is happening in Juba. i don’t know how is gonna be tonight oh God !!!!!!! guard the live of these innocent civilians who are the suffer of this nonsense war.”

“Keep your battery charged.  I was told by a source that commandos together with tanks were on the way to try to retake the Town of Bor. Whatsup with Bor and the rescue mission? Do u hear sounds of artillery fire from ur hide out or it’s calm in town? The Army sent ystrday is really enough to push them out. God be with you.  XXXX refused to leave the house n she said if they wanna kill her, no problem! I am dead here man.”

“Hi! Freinds. I am fine with people in the bush on our third day sleeping in the cold. Thanks for your prayers.”

“Using computer power to charge phones in the bush, the only last chance for phones to stay on.”

“For those looking relatives, stay calm, all hiding are calm yesterday and today. I can still hear sound of heavy machine guns from Bor town. I don’t have an idea of what is happening there.”

Folks, it just got a lot more real. Please pray for these people caught in the crossfire.

My Formula for Being Overwhelmed.

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We’ll be here soon.

This weekend I shot a wedding on friday, another today, and tomorrow I leave for South Sudan. I’m currently backing up all memory cards to two locations so I can use the cards again on my trip, and re-charging batteries. I board the first plane in about 15 hours. I just stopped home where my wife was crying. This is my official formula for being overwhelmed.  But you know what?  God’s grace is sufficient. I know I’m being obedient to His will, and my wife does too. It doesn’t make it easier to leave, but it does give me certainty in my purpose. Tomorrow the adventure begins.

To finish on a lighter note, I’m going to quote from the movie Mystery Men.  “We’ve got a blind date with destiny, and it looks like she ordered the lobster!”

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The beautiful people of South Sudan

Introduction to my South Sudan Blog.

The purpose of this particular blog is threefold.  The first reason is out of pragmatism, (facebook is a lousy interface for uploading pictures from an ipad when you’re overseas, as it always seems to crash before a picture can be uploaded.) Secondly,  to keep me on track and keep my mind focused before, during, and after my next trip into South Sudan. Finally this blog is to keep people up to date on my trips and the events that have happened and are happening. I have tried in the past to post some of this information on my photography blog, but I’m afraid the subject matter was becoming too disparate and had too much of a life of it’s own to continue putting it on that blog.

I will try to be as honest as possible with these blogs, except when honesty might endanger someone. In this case I will simply say nothing online rather than tell something untruthful.  For those who don’t understand the previous statement, I would honestly and strongly recommend a trip sometime to the non-western world, where a lot of the assumptions we have about “the way things are” will almost certainly be severely challenged. Furthermore, unless you stick to western hotels and manage to somehow insulate yourself from the state of the people, you will almost certainly learn a lot about yourself.

For those who don’t know me. I am a professional photographer. I deal mainly with wedding photography as a profession, but I also do some journalism, and have had some success at it. I’ve had images in numerous newspapers and national publications, and have even had an image on the cover of the Washington Post. I also regularly have content in a few local publications; Beaufort Lifestyles Magazine, Hilton Head Monthly, and the Beaufort Gazette. Needless to say, I will be putting photography into this blog as much as possible, because that is where my passion lies.

I am not going to rattle on all night about this, and I’ll keep this first blog short and introductory. Tomorrow I’ll talk a little bit about the preparation to go to South Sudan, and also a little bit about what we hope to accomplish there.  For now though, I’ll finish with a few pictures from previous trips.

A boy looks in the window of a polling place.
A boy looks in the window of a polling place shortly before the referendum for independence from North Sudan in December 2010.
An old Dinka woman in the village of Liliir, South Sudan.
An old Dinka woman in the village of Liliir, South Sudan.
A woman carries water in the village of Panwel South Sudan.
A woman carries water in the village of Panwel South Sudan. The people in this village had complained about needing a clinic because they were sick, while the whole time there was foot traffic hauling drinking water from the Nile. A well has since been put in, and I hope to see a decrease in waterborne disease on my next trip.