Mary: Displaced Guardian of 5 Orphans
"With famine spreading, 66% of the population in South Sudan is living on less than about $2 a day." - CIA Factbook
Mary John clutched the arms of the forest green plastic chair she sat in.
In front of her were two more rows of chairs, occupied by twenty-nine others from her communities of Lemon Gabba and Joppa in Juba, South Sudan who'd been chosen to participate in a COVID-19 community outreach program.
The program was initiated by an evangelist named Lazarus Yezinai when the South Sudanese government closed churches to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its citizens, who are generally more vulnerable than most due to poverty and the lack of infrastructure in their country.
Lazarus knew he couldn't wait until the pandemic was over to share the hope he has in Jesus, so he had volunteered to lead government-approved hand washing clinics.
The clinics were enhanced by Lazarus' partners, In Touch Mission International supporters who contributed financially to provide participants with Hand Washing Kits.
The kits included a long bar of soap and a yellow jerry can fitted with a tap at the bottom, so that South Sudanese families could have the running water necessary to employ the WHO hand washing techniques they were learning.
Lazarus with jerry cans and bars of soap for the participants of the handwashing clinics, provided by his partners at ITMI.
Mary John's soft brown eyes didn't leave the speaker as he shared about standing firm in the Lord during hard times.
The speaker, Reverend Beneth, was young man in plain colored clothing, sharing with them from the green-edged copy of God's Word, which he held in his slender hands.
Reverend Gismala Beneth shares from 1 Corinthians 15:58
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." I Corinthians 15:58
Mary has been no stranger to hard times.
She is trying to raise 5 orphaned children in South Sudan, a country whose relatively short existence has been fraught with tribal violence and natural disasters.
An estimated 1.6 million South Sudanese have been displaced within the country and an additional 2.2 million have taken refuge in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mary was displaced from her home in a community named Mundari when her village was attacked and raided for the cattle they raise. Mundari is about a 23 hour walk north of Juba, where she lives now.
In South Sudan, keeping 5 children alive is no easy job. The CIA Factbook says, "With famine spreading, 66% of the population in South Sudan is living on less than about $2 a day."
This month, Lazarus wrote,
"...people are falling like leaves from a tree in dry season. The situation of South Sudan is bad in many ways, people are starving to point of death, sickness is too much, no medicine, unknown gunmen are killing people around, tribal war going on in some states, no salary to government employees and so on."
The CIA Factbook echos Lazarus' observations about the economy,
"Continued fighting within the new nation is disrupting what remains of the economy. The vast majority of the population is dependent on subsistence agriculture and humanitarian assistance. ...South Sudan has little infrastructure – about 10,000 kilometers of roads, but just 2% of them paved.
Electricity is produced mostly by costly diesel generators, and indoor plumbing and potable water are scarce, so less than 2% of the population has access to electricity."
Many South Sudanese homes, like the ones seen in this Juba neighborhood, consist of one or more small structures surrounded by some sort of hand constructed privacy wall.
A South Sudanese woman works over a wash bin, likely filled with water she hauled since few homes have running water.
It's difficult to keep children alive and healthy when you're trying to survive on less than $2 a day.
An estimated 1.6 million South Sudanese have been displaced from their homes within the country, and an additional 2.2 million have taken refuge in neighboring countries.
Looking around at the heartache, trauma and suffering of his people, Lazarus pleads,
"Please we need God's interference in the issue of South Sudan because it is beyond human control, so your prayers and help are really needed."
Mary's community and another nearby community were chosen because Lemon Gabba and Joppa are two of the most vulnerable areas, being home to a high number of displaced people. Lazarus had coordinated with local leaders to reach the most vulnerable households with a handwashing clinic.
Reverend Beneth's encouragement to stand firm in the Lord and his invitation to begin a relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior penetrated Mary's heart.
The Holy Spirit cut through the numbness of having experienced heartache after heartache, daily struggle and suffering in this place that is far beyond difficult to live. On March 13, sheltered from the sun under a tin roof at a Handwashing Clinic, Mary surrendered her life to Jesus Christ.
Mary John gave her life to Christ through Lazarus' Hand Washing Clinic outreaches.
She wasn't the only one. Many responded to the Gospel that day, surrendering their lives to Him as their Lord and Savior.
Many raised their hands, indicating they were ready to surrender their lives to Christ.
Another displaced mother from Lemon Gabba accepts Jesus Christ, who later told Lazarus the atmosphere in her family has changed since she accepted the Lord!
Lazarus expresses his happiness for those who gave their lives to Christ, led them in a prayer of repentance and helped them understand the assurance of salvation that they now have in Christ!
ITMI's Lazarus Yezinai with the grateful Hand Washing Clinic participants.
As for Mary, Lazarus says she has already become active in reaching her community with the hope she's found, being an instrument of peace and reconciliation.
Community Leader on the Impact of the Hand Washing Clinics and Discipleship in Lemon Gabba and Joppa
John Lino, community leader in Lemon Gabba.
John Lino is a community leader in the village of Lemon Gabba.
He told Lazarus that crime has been reduced in his community as a result of the constant teaching and preaching of the Gospel of Christ and discipleship of the people by Lazarus' team - regardless of their tribe or denomination.
He accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior at the Hand Washing Clinic, and told Lazarus he wants to be a God-fearing leader and servant to his vulnerable community.
He is eager to become involved in these kinds of activities for the benefit of his community alongside ITMI, Lazarus and his team to build a peaceful and resilient community through God's power and for His glory!
ITMI's Lazarus Yezinai
Lazarus is laser-focused on preaching the Gospel and making disciples.
If you couldn't tell by the sheer joy on his face in the photo with the Hand Washing Clinic participants, Lazarus is happiest when sharing the hope he has in Jesus with those who are hopeless and hurting.
Earlier this month, he wrote,
We are so much committed to transforming lives of our people, evangelizing and discipling the vulnerable communities.
Since true “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world,” (James 1:27) it has become our point of concern as Revival and Fire Prayer Ministry to glorify God by serving the widows and orphans in South Sudan.
So, the great support that ITMI has given has indeed come at a right time in which most of our vulnerable people were in need. They are locked-up in their homes due to the Coronavirus. We are so grateful for your help and donation.
May this partnership continue as we focus to evangelize and disciple the people for Christ.
Your partnership with Lazarus has made a lasting impact among the vulnerable and hurting in South Sudan. Long after the bar of soap is gone and the jerry cans no longer hold water, the ones who welcomed Jesus into their lives will be blessed by His presence in and with them.
They will be bearers of Good News and beacons of faith, hope and love among the others in their community. This is the lasting impact our partners work for. This is the lasting impact you are making as you partner with them!
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