October 12, 2012 by Diana Coombs
Diana and Stephen Reech

Hallow?… Hallow?

Hello, Stephen?

Ah, yes, Diana.

Hi Stephen!

How are you?

I’m doing well, how are you?

I am fine, thank you.

This is how every phone call I receive from Stephen Reech starts off. Stephen calls into our office and as soon as I hear the voice on the other end, I immediately know it is him. His accent is thick, very difficult to understand, especially over the phone. The delay is bad, often causing us to talk over each other. You see, he is calling from South Sudan and he is Sudanese, from the Dinka tribe. He is the director of ELI South Sudan. He travels miles in order to have access to a phone that will work, and sometimes that phone doesn’t work. This time, he said he was not sure if he would be able to call again because he needed to leave and it looked like it was going to rain, which would make the roads difficult to drive through because they get very muddy. He asks me, “Please, can you have Don call me back?”I try to tell him I will.

Our conversation doesn’t last very long. A phone call from South Sudan is precious and I know he can’t stay on the phone for long. Get the message across and hang up is culturally African because minutes are money. As I ended the call with Stephen, I couldn’t help but smile. As difficult as it is to try and understand what he is saying, I like hearing his voice.

I first met Stephen in 2009 when I traveled to Sudan with 4 pastors from the USA and 3 ELI staff members for my job.

Our Team: Samuel, Dale, me, AJ, Jim, Don, Julius and Kevin

I was to see our school, meet our children, gather information for donors and train our staff. It was an amazing trip that I will never forget. Since 2009, much has happened with Sudan. In July 2011, it was voted on by the people that Sudan would split into two different countries, Sudan and South Sudan. Since the split, there has been much violence and threat of war breaking out between the two countries, a complex battle over territory, oil and power. The threat of war looms over the country again. This breaks my heart. I began to think back on my visit to ELI in Sudan. Hope was springing up because we had built a school and a training center. 20 years of war had devastated families and villages, but, things seemed to be getting better. However, currently the situation doesn’t look good. Tensions are high and war can break out at any moment.

ELI is located in South Sudan in a little village called Kolmarek. We are a 2 hour drive away from the town of Bor where there is internet access. When we flew into Sudan, I just saw flat land with a few trees and a few round huts dispersed throughout the dry land.

We were in the middle of “nowhere”. Our small 8 seat plane landed on a dirt road and we were greeted by the local villagers and a few roaming cattle. When we packed our bags into the small truck to head 45 minutes to our school along the bumpy dirt roads, I looked back up into the sky and saw the plane leave, this plane was our way in and our way out, and now it was gone, flying high into the clouds. It would return in 10 days. I said to God, “If I get sick, I’m stuck here; the nearest clinic is a 6 hour drive away. Lord, I’m trusting You.”

Trust. How that word comes up every day for me. Trust. God asks me, “Do you trust Me?” I want to. I want to, God, but, help my unbelief.

God took care of us the entire time there. I never got sick (except when I took my malaria pill on an empty stomach, but, that was my fault). I was well fed, and I was cared for in every way.

Some women making mandazi, a flour based pastry fried in oil, kind of like a donut

The living conditions were tougher than I’ve experienced, but, not unbearable. When I looked around at the people, I was captivated by them. I was living with some of the most resilient people ever. They have been through decades of war and are living in the effects of it. Yet, they still smile. They still hope. The Lord has provided.

Me with Martha, one of the girls in our school. She brought a smile to my face whenever I saw her

Visiting some of the families in the village

I trust in the same God as my Sudanese brothers and sisters. I trust that our school is going to equip the children with the knowledge they need to succeed. I trust that our training center will teach the community how to grow their own food and become self sustainable. Above all, I trust that the love of God is being poured into hearts. I trust that God will take care of His people because He sees them, hears them and knows them. Please join me in prayer for Sudan and South Sudan and for peaceful negotiations. Pray that civilians would not be killed. Pray that the situation would not be ignored by the international community and that both Sudan and South Sudan would be held accountable for their actions and for their promises. Pray for our children, staff and families of our school and training center in Kolmarek, South Sudan. Pray for Stephen Reech and his family as they lead ELI South Sudan. Thank you!

David (Accountant) and Kalondji (Director)

Thinking of Stephen Reech also brings Kalondji Mukanya to mind. He’s our director for ELI Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I met him last year, almost a year ago to date. It was my first time traveling to DRC and I didn’t know what to expect. He was the first person to greet us as we landed in Rwanda and took the drive over the border to DRC. He is quiet, humble, kind, intelligent, God fearing, and respectable. I really like him. He has really worked hard to improve our primary and high school in DRC. I was very impressed when I arrived. The school was orderly, clean and the staff truly care about our students. It was no surprise that we are one of the top schools in the area and are known throughout the community as one of the best. There is even a waiting list of children to enter into our school.

Feeding the second grade class porridge

The children and families in DRC also live with the aftereffects of war. During the war, families fled to the bush to escape the crossfire, but waiting in the bush was a different kind of evil in the form of rebels who were raiding villages and stealing children. Since then, people have now returned to the slum to escape the violence of the bush and are trying to put their lives back together again.

Walking in the slum where our school is located and where the children in our school live

Hope is slowly being restored.

Again, I trust.

I trust God is taking care of his children.

I don’t want the children in South Sudan and DRC to be forgotten. As I remember them and the times that I had in South Sudan and DRC, I am reminded that God also has not forgotten us. Sometimes it’s easy to think that we have been forgotten. The voice of God seems to have disappeared. We ask and strain our ears to hear, yet, there is silence. Sometimes it’s in the silence that God is speaking, but, in a language that we are not used to, so, we don’t recognize it. However, I have come to realize sometimes God speaks in the silence. It’s like this non-verbal communication of him saying, “I’m here, trust me. I’m doing something that you may not physically see or experience right now, but, I’m working in your life. I’m moving puzzle pieces of your life together and you will see how it all fits together. Just trust me and trust my timing, even in the seemingly silent times.”

If my friends in South Sudan and DRC can trust God with their lives in more desperate situations, then I can too. God has not forgotten me, He has not forgotten you, He has not forgotten us.

Thank you for all your love and support! It is through your prayers, encouragement, and financial support that we are able to operate our schools in South Sudan and DRC. It is through your partnership with Empowering Lives International that we can make a difference in these precious children’s lives and find so much meaning in it. Thank you, Thank you!

We still have a need for sponsors for our schools.

CLICK HERE to sponsor children in DR Congo

CLICK HERE to sponsor children in South Sudan

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Categories: DR Congo Sudan Vulnerable Children