28 Jul 2021
My wife Rhondda and I have been called primarily to reach out to people living in South Sudan or to South Sudanese refugees in Kenya and Uganda. We were both teachers in Australia and have spent the past 34 years (for Rhondda) and 37 years (for me) moving between the three countries mentioned, initially as single missionaries with Sudan United Mission (now Pioneers), and then with ACROSS, another Christian NGO. I was first the education coordinator of 16 Uganda refugee settlements along South Sudan’s southern border, supplying educational supplies and guiding the training of 1000 Uganda and South Sudanese teachers.
In Nairobi, Kenya, I started the Sudan Literature Centre (SLC), and was its technical trainer. Desktop publishing was fairly new in 1987, but I was guided by SIL, a software program able to adapt standard apps to work in any language. With the help of this program, SLC went on to publish school materials in English, and hymnals and other Christian books and booklets in 20 languages. In total around two million items with 400 titles were produced. Rhondda taught at a junior secondary school in her first term, then joined me at SLC, where she continues to help. We married in 2003 after serving with ACROSS for 17 years.
In 2001, I started the ACROSS Radio project in Uganda, moving to South Sudan in 2004. Due to 32 years of civil war, literacy in South Sudan was less than 20%, so radio reached many more people than books. Messages were sent to several radio stations on CDs. In 2009 the Radio project began to use small digital audio players (DAPs) — about the size of small mobile phones and able to hold around 300 messages each. The DAPs had built-in solar panels and could operate even in remote settings, such as among nomadic cattle keepers. The staff I trained have distributed around 10,000 DAPs, with messages addressing peace building (especially among cattle keepers), primary school teacher training, mother tongue literacy, water sanitation and hygiene, as well as a wide range of spiritual teaching, soundtracks of Bible-based films and the New Testament. DAPs, even more than radio, help largely unreached and illiterate rural people get the message clearly.
For the past five years our focus has been reaching some of nearly 800,000 South Sudanese refugees living in Northern Uganda. Behind the scenes, we support an expert children’s ministry & trauma healing instructor. He has equipped at least 300 church workers with; a youth sports for peace and life skills project, media activities including 6 backpack projector sets using Christian films, 300 DAPs supplied to listening groups and individual homes in rotation, and a small SLC publishing unit.
Some of the most influential content on the DAPs is a series called ‘New Hope’. This helps people journey from the ‘villages’ of Anger and Denial and Hopelessness to the ‘village’ of New Hope, using Bible stories such as the lives of Joseph and David in the Old Testament, and the sufferings and final victory of Jesus in the resurrection. Trainee groups learn and enact these stories, then share and discuss how their own stories may be the same. Listeners to DAPs can learn the stories and think through them by replaying messages. Hundreds of people are finding ‘New Hope’ and forgiveness of those who hurt them. Fractured families are being healed. People are renewing their faith.
R & R, Pioneers workers