Poverty, determination and vibrant generosity

by Michael Ford last modified 18 Nov, 2013 01:23 PM

Reflections on returning from a trip to South Sudan, by the Revd Jane Shaw.

Poverty, determination and vibrant generosity

Andrew Poppe and Jane Shaw wear their African Robes with pride

She says, "First, I think, of the overwhelming poverty of the country, and the absolute survival level at which many people still live: women were bringing five bunches of bananas or one bowl of cassava root to market, to earn one or two South Sudanese pounds (one pound = 15 pence).

"So much of the country is still infested with landmines – we saw at least three clearance teams – which prevents any cultivation, though the land is so fertile... Yet we found no bitterness, no anger; just a matter-of-fact acceptance of the past, and a determination to build for the future.

"This had a chastening effect on me – we have so much, the people we met had so little, and yet they were so kind and gracious.

"This must be linked to the very strong Christian faith that inspired and upheld everyone we talked to. Our students, our friends at the guest house and elsewhere expressed their absolute trust in God, and their joy and hope in Jesus. They really lived their faith. Worship on Sundays was amazing – incredibly vibrant (and noisy), with everyone singing at the top of their voice, and dancing where they stood, lifting arms, clapping – such joy and excitement. But at other times too, everything started with prayer...

"We were also overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality we encountered. On one occasion, led by Bishop Bismark and Paul the Principal, we arrived after dark at their friend’s house, alerting him only by a phone call half an hour before. We were offered tea, and a chance to wash hands and use latrine….and then a full scale supper was laid on for us. I suspect the women of the family went short that evening, but we were royally entertained. It seems to be instinctive to share whatever you have and to care for the guest first."

Click here to read Jane's newsletter

Previous stories:
In the Home Straight
The Jungle Book and the Good Book 
Potholes, Dancing and Optimism 
Newsletter from South Sudan No. 1 
Off to South Sudan 

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