Shared Faith Crossing Continents

by Gerry Lynch last modified 10 Nov, 2014 10:23 AM

Rural Wiltshire parish raises five-figure sum for fellow Christians in South Sudan

Shared Faith Crossing Continents

Liz Smith (second from left) and husband Barry (far right) with former Archbishop of Caterbury, the Most Revd George Carey, and local Christian leaders.

All Saints’ in Burbage reached a milestone last month at a concert by the Pewsey Belles choir. With the proceeds from that event, the parish’s South Sudan Committee reached its fundraising target of £37,000, which means they can now pay in total for the health clinic they are building in South Sudan. 

One of the lynchpins of this sustained fundraising effort has been parishioner Liz Smith, who outlines some of the other projects Burbage has helped bring to fruition in recent years, mostly in the Kiro area of the Diocese of Kajo-Keji. “Over the past six years”, she explains, “we have also built a bridge, paid for tools and seeds, paid for HIV counselling, and for education on crop conservation. It has been challenging for a small rural parish but very rewarding.

“Building the bridge was an example of where having local contacts through the Church in the heart of isolated rural communities makes a big difference. In this area, the bridge was bombed during the War and left a fertile farming area cut off with people unable to get their crops to market. Its replacement has transformed lives.” 

The project also brought real benefits in England as well. Villagers supported fundraising events whether or not they were regular churchgoers or Christians. Parishioners feel it brought the church and community closer together. 

Visiting South Sudan was what inspired Liz to start raising money for the East African nation, “I first visited the country some years ago, to attend the Bishop’s Conference in the Diocese of Yei”, she says, “I was hit by the depth of material need, but also the sheer joy of people who had nothing. 

“Having seen things on the ground I have confidence that what we raise goes directly to where it is needed Quite small donations can make a huge difference if they are spent on the right things. While resources are scarce, if they are provided, South Sudanese get stuck in and, for example, erect the buildings they need themselves. 

Liz and Barry Haines South Sudan“That’s why I’m so passionate about making sure we provide what people actually need, rather than what outsiders assume they need. It is heartbreaking to see aid projects provided at great expense falling apart because nobody asked people on the ground whether they wanted them or had the resources to sustain them.

“We work with Tearfund and its South Sudanese partner organisation, Across, which has expertise in consulting local communities in that country”, Liz explains, “The cultural differences are deep, and it is vital to work with local partners who can bridge the misunderstandings that can arise between people from rural Africa and the contemporary West.” 

While cultural differences are significant, one thing that unites people Wiltshire with those in the state of Central Equatoria is a shared faith in Christ. “Hearing stories of South Sudanese people’s faith always inspires us”, concludes Liz, “It is humbling to hear such hopefulness in seemingly hopeless situations. The Christian element is always at the forefront of what we do – we want to empower the local Church.” 

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