Those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy

South Sudan is a young nation, sadly torn by conflict at present.  With many thousands displaced and much daily uncertainty, its people struggle to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their families. Still, there are glimmers of hope amid the turmoil. Sister Irene Balzan, from Malta, is on mission in Wau. She described how several people had their dignity restored through the compassion of others.

‘In Wau we are running a community-based health care (CBHC) programme. With other NGOs and stakeholders we participate in monthly cluster meetings, which provide a platform to discuss service delivery in fragile situations. Chief among these are issues such as water and sanitation and emerging health concerns. Through the health and nutrition meeting we learned about the availability of free cleft lip surgery in Juba, the capital.

‘We did not waste time in letting people know about this golden opportunity via our CBHC mobilisers and the local Church. Samaritan’s Purse, a US humanitarian organisation, comes to Wau as a flying medical team. We networked with them through the Ministry of Health to organise the first group of clients to travel to Juba for surgery. Juba is just over an hour’s journey by air from Wau.’

No strangers to multi-tasking
‘Machol, Alexander, Lina, Boutros and Nazaire had been waiting from birth for their cleft lip operations. Hope was fading, especially for Alexander, who was seventy years old. We prepared them for the procedure and saw them off at Wau Airport. The plane was small so each client was accompanied by only one family member.

‘Little did we know that two days later we would also be needed to fill in as the local air control tower! We were asked to provide details of runway and weather conditions because Samaritan's Purse had no contact with the tower in Wau prior to take-off from Juba.

‘All five returned safely after successful surgery. When we went to meet them they were waiting just outside the airport compound under the only tree visible. The excitement was palpable as four-year-old Lina left her mother’s side and came running towards us, delighted to show us her new look. They all received a new lease of life and their dignity was restored. Like the Samaritan woman they went back telling people what the Lord had done for them.  Others are now knocking on our door that they, too, “may have life to the full.” 

A postscript

‘We have now begun to equip our healing centre in Wau through the generosity of Maltese donors. It has been a most challenging and unpredictable situation with fighting breaking out in Wau on 24 June, when over a hundred people were killed and 120,000 displaced.’