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How do you give an honest answer for a reason to see hope in a place like South Sudan?
Lynn and Sharon Fogleman moved to South Sudan in 2012, soon after the country gained independence. Both family physicians, Lynn and Sharon taught a Community Health and Disease Prevention program within the United Methodist Church of South Sudan. The young country has one of the poorest health care situations in the world.
They worked to improve the lives of South Sudanese through education regarding clean water, sanitation, providing nets to prevent malaria, and other common health issues in that region of Africa.
Although violence was a common part of life in the new country, the Foglemans resided in Yei, which remained relatively safe. That changed in 2016 when tension between government and rebel forces increased dramatically.
“Government soldiers were raping people, looting businesses, burning homes, and killing any one they found who sided with the rebels,” said Lynn. “The rebels were doing the same thing, so travel beyond our town became very unsafe.”
The Foglemans’ good friend and fellow missionary, Sister Veronica of St. Bahkita Hospital, was killed last summer. A Catholic nun and a physician, Sister Veronica was traveling home by ambulance after taking a patient to the hospital. Soldiers ambushed the ambulance and shot her.
Last July, the Foglemans made the difficult decision to leave Yei. Four hundred thousand South Sudanese have moved to refugee camps in Uganda since that time, and 1.6 million are residing in UN camps in South Sudan.
“Since leaving, we have asked ourselves many times where we see hope in South Sudan. For our friends who are still there, for those who are living in a refugee camp, for people who have lost everything, how do you find hope?” said Lynn.
“Four weeks after we left South Sudan, we went to the refugee camp in Uganda where many of our friends are living,” said Sharon. “The Christians had pulled together and were helping each other there. Their resilience was amazing. They had set up a compound of tents for the 36 orphans from the two children’s homes and were caring for them. The community radiated hope.”
The director of the children’s home, Justus, had to flee to a refugee camp when he was four years old. “My father told me we would just be there for a few weeks. I lived in that camp for 21 years,” said Justus. He now lives in the camp with his wife and young son.
“While we were talking to the children, one of the leaders asked the kids to stand up and say what they wanted to be when they grew up,” said Sharon. “They each stood up with a smile on their face and listed teacher, doctor, driver, mechanic, and other professions. The leaders were not going to let these kids stop dreaming of their future. There we saw hope.”
“Although South Sudan is in a very dark place right now, we still see hope. The Christians in South Sudan know that Jesus is their only hope, and that is what they cling to,” said Sharon. “Join us in praying for peace in South Sudan.”
Lynn and Sharon served in Kenya for 10 years and at the Red Bird Clinic in Kentucky for 14 years before moving to South Sudan. They are planning to relocate to East Africa where they can continue to share the hope of Jesus.
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