Not only is your support an investment in the transformation of people who are served by TEAR’s local partners, it is an investment in those partners themselves.
Your gifts and your prayers facilitate partnerships in some of the world’s hardest places, where people living in poverty are further burdened by oppression, persecution, discrimination, displacement, violence and exploitation. TEAR’s partners in these hard places are made up of people who show a level of faithfulness and courage that is simply astounding. People who face insecurity and isolation, even enduring personal loss, in order to remain present with their communities and provide opportunities for transformation.
People like Joy.
For over twenty years, Joy has worked with TEAR’s long term partner, Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM). First as a volunteer, and then as a paid staff member, Joy has served people living with disabilities, helped to run farming groups for widows, and pioneered SEM’s adult literacy work.
“If you educate someone you have done a lot… that knowledge will not move away, it will stay forever,” Joy shares.
Her passion for education has motivated her to spend the last 19 years creating opportunities for adults – many of whom have had no formal schooling at all – to access literacy and education. During this time, and despite having her studies interrupted by conflict several times, Joy also completed her own secondary schooling via distance education, making her the only daughter in her family to complete secondary school.
In 2015, the civil war that had swept through the nation came much closer to home. Mundri, the town where Joy lives and SEM’s office is based, was completely deserted as the population scattered to escape the conflict. Joy, along with her sisters and their children, fled to the harsh bushland beyond the town.
For three months, they survived only on what they could find. There was no access to food, water or medicine, and no sense of when – or if – they would be able to return to their homes, community and livelihoods.
When Joy finally returned to Mundri, she found her small home still standing, but empty – it had been looted, as had the SEM offices. With no belongings and the area still insecure, she and her sisters took shelter in the UN base on the edge of town, where they lived for six months. The sense of loss began to impact Joy’s hope, too.
“I wondered why God had left us,” Joy remembers. “But my sisters told me to be patient and wait; that nothing was impossible with God.”
4 million people from South Sudan are estimated to be internally displaced, or have become refugees in neighbouring countries.
By early 2016, SEM had recommenced work, and Joy was able to get back to her adult literacy position – while still living in the UN base. Continued insecurity created new challenges for Joy’s work, but being able to serve her community helped to restore her purpose and happiness.
“Looking back, God gave me the strength I needed at that time to be able to help my family.”
Joy feels that SEM has given her so much over the years, including many opportunities to learn and train – in adult literacy, village banking, peace building – that she now says of herself, “I am not the same as when I came.” And the partnership with Joy continues: she has recently completed training in ‘farming as a business’, and is involved in a new agriculture project that TEAR is supporting. The legacy of her passion for education is rippling out further, too. After helping her two youngest siblings with schooling up to university level, Joy is now supporting their children. She doesn’t have children of her own, but for her, “the children of brothers and sisters are my children.”
The last three years in South Sudan have been marked by further conflict, but towns like Mundri are slowly recovering, and partners like SEM press forward with courage and hope. Even while Joy experiences her own journey of restoration, she faithfully serves others in her community who are working hard to regain what has been lost. This deep sense of calling and incredible commitment is characteristic of so many of TEAR’s partners operating in hard places.
For SEM as they support communities through the vulnerable process of recovering and rebuilding after conflict.
That other nations facing instability and conflict would experience peace, hope and restoration; and that our Christian partners would be able to offer a tangible expression of God’s refuge and provision.
Your gifts help TEAR Australia to support two partners in South Sudan, and another partner in Uganda working to support refugees from South Sudan. These partners focus on a broad range of issues including food security and livelihoods; community-level peace building; nutrition (particularly amongst malnourished children); primary education and adult literacy.
The local church is active alongside these partners, operating in faith and compassion to see peace and vitality restored for this young nation that has faced significant upheaval. Even when challenged by instability and a lack of resources, TEAR’s partners in South Sudan are steadfast in serving their communities and ushering in hope for the future.