Sr. Carolyn Buhs, who arrived in South Sudan at the end of October, describes her life and ministry with Solidarity for South Sudan.
In this third report Sister describes attending a special celebration.
Last Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, Fr. Joseph drove us to Yei along a murram [gravel], bone-wrenching 160 km road [approx. 100 miles], across many VERY narrow bridges in order to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of the Diocese of Yei, located on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. One way, the journey took four and a half hours. We left Juba at 5:20 a.m. and arrived in time for the 10 a.m. Mass. The impressively big Cathedral was devoid of benches, something like the churches in Europe. The seven Sudanese bishops and many priests were vesting in the Cathedral. Fortunately the Mass was celebrated outdoors behind the Cathedral. A platform had been erected for the altar and canopies were strategically placed to offer shade for the five-hour celebration. The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, joined us for the celebration and was invited to speak at the end of the Mass. He spoke, interspersing Arabic and English, for half an hour.
For the first half of the celebration I sat with the women and babies under the welcoming shade of a beautiful umbrella tree. The babies were delightful, but I could barely see and hear what was happening on the altar or before the altar as different groups sang and danced. I moved to the shade of the mango trees nearer the central performing space and was able to both see and hear. In both locations, a kind person offered me a welcome stool or chair upon which to sit. God bless the Sudanese for their gracious hospitality!!!
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Yei. As the sun rose we marveled at the glory of a red/orange African sunrise....so like the typical posters of an African sunrise! We drove by the mountains behind Juba and by the burning rubbish dumps. Surely, these fires produced the smoke I had seen rising at dawn when I was in Gumbo! Will these dumps become something like the dumps of Dandora in Kenya, or those outside of Cairo? Where does our rubbish go?
One of my student teachers had told me that long ago people in Gumbo did not know how to make charcoal. They used firewood. When the Congolese came to Sudan, they knew how to make charcoal and the Sudanese learned. Along the Juba-Yei road we saw the bags of charcoal waiting to be collected by lorries. We saw the mounds of smoke where the wood was being transformed into charcoal. Also waiting for collection were long poles of bamboo which people in Juba will use to make their home boundary fences. I was reminded of the bags of charcoal waiting along the Kitale-Lodwar road in Kenya and the desertification around Lodwar. How long until this Woodland-Savannah along the road to Yei will become only grassland, or desert?
Also along the road we saw the camp of the men who do the de-mining of the roads and fields. God bless those brave men! We drove along with no fear of driving over a landmine. We did see some buildings that had been devastated by war, but rising beside those buildings were newly built homes or churches. Praise God for the hope of peace and nation building which the Sudanese have! The United Nations had built several primary schools along that road. The conditions for the U.N. to build were that the community must dig a well and build latrines for girls. Hopefully the girls are now getting a chance for education!
We started our trip back to Juba at 3:30 p.m., tired and thirsty and hungry. The conversation was lively because of the presence of Fr. Santino, the Secretary for the Sudan Council of Bishops. The bright light of afternoon did not help for seeing the valleys and ditches in the road. The sunset was a glorious red/orange and then darkness fell. We seemed to have cracked the axle, but didn't know that until the next day. We were grateful to reach Juba by 8 p.m.
Praise God for an eventful day!!!