“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day—on that day all the springs of the deep sea erupted, and the windows in the skies opened. It rained on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:11-12 CEB) The story of Noah has always intrigued me. How did Noah decide which animals got to ride in the ark and which ones were left behind? What must it have been like to ride in the ark for forty days and nights? God wiped away every living thing that was on the land as waters rose over the earth for one hundred and fifty days.
Many people are not aware that a flood of similar epic proportions inundated the country of South Sudan in July 2019 through a unique weather phenomenon called The Indian Ocean Dipole. Raining “forty days and forty nights,” the Nile River flooded, and tens of thousands of Mabaan people have literally been living in water since then because there
is no place to flee.
More than 420,000 people have been internally displaced, hundreds of livestock have been killed, and tens of thousands of acres of crops were destroyed. Even worse, all of the fresh water became contaminated. The lack of clean water, food, and sanitation has the potential to cause diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and respiratory infections. According to the United Nations, 85% of South Sudan’s population (7 million people) is also at risk for starvation, and $61 million is needed to respond adequately to flood victims.
The Republic of South Sudan is located in East-Central Africa and is the newest nation in the world, having officially gained independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011. South Sudan, whose capital is Juba, is a landlocked country, and the White Nile River flows through the center of the country from north to south.
This fledgling country is mostly Christian, but there is little infrastructure, and since the country is sitting on oil, there is lots of fighting, including sexual violence. Several weeks ago, 78 kidnapped women and 50 children were released by an armed group in South Sudan, following efforts by the United Nations to secure their release.
Iowa has a sizeable population of immigrants from South Sudan, especially in Des Moines, Storm Lake, and the Omaha, Nebraska area. A new Mabaan congregation was formed by Pastor Aaron Limmo in July 2015 and began a partnership with First UMC, Des Moines in September, 2018. Mabaan is a tribe, a language, a geographical area (Upper Nile State near Ethiopia), and also a community of United Methodists affiliated with the East Africa Central Conference of The United Methodist Church.
The problem is that much of South Sudan is still flooded. Floods washed out 96% of the roads and airports, and the infrastructure of the country is simply gone. In addition, no one in South Sudan is permitted to talk freely about the flooding, which is why this tragic situation has been underreported in the United States. Many relief organizations work with Mabaan refugees in the United States but have not been able to help the Mabaan population within South Sudan itself. Fortunately, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has recently been permitted to provide flood relief in the country.
God has called United Methodists in Iowa to help our Mabaan sisters and brothers during this time of great crisis. We have set a goal of $200,000 to be raised in 2020 for Mabaan flood relief. As Iowa United Methodists, we understand what it is like for our farms in Iowa to be flooded over the past several years because of intense rain and overflowing rivers. Likewise, some of our United Methodist churches know what it is like to have flooded basements. Flooding affects our state in many ways. Now we are called to reach out to the Mabaan with our assistance.
Pastor Limmo and Maya Dinka will be traveling to South Sudan in May to work with the HDC (Humanitarian and Development Consortium). UMCOR is not active in this area. The Mabaan, which is the least and smallest tribe in Sudan, are comfortable working with the HSC. Our intention is that a Memo of Understanding will be created to guide our relief effort.
In a time of great anxiety in The United Methodist Church around our future, rallying around a relief effort for our Mabaan brothers and sisters in South Sudan is a way of remembering who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. We can all make a difference in the lives of our Mabaan friends.
We have developed a plan for raising our goal of $200,000.00. $5,700 has already been given by our Mabaan friends here in Iowa. My husband Gary and I have already donated $1,000 to this effort, and we hope that you will also give generously. If you want to send a contribution directly, please write a check to “Iowa Annual Conference” and include this on the memo line: #53321-MF. You may send it to Iowa Annual Conference, 2301 Rittenhouse St., Des Moines, IA 50321. You may also donate online here. Our plan also includes:
- A presentation at Laity Day on April 4
- A sample insert and poster for use in district publications and church bulletins/newsletters available here
- A short presentation at our Iowa Annual Conference during opening worship on
- The campaign will conclude on June 30, at which time several people will travel to South Sudan to distribute the funds through HDC. They will be used for tents, medications, food, and mosquito nets.
At the end of the flood story in Genesis 9, God decided that never again would God destroy all living creatures. God also put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of that covenant. May we, as Iowa United Methodists, be similar signs of hope – rainbow people for the Mabaan. Thank you in advance for your generosity and always responding quickly to needs here in Iowa and around the world.