Companion Dioceses: Twic East & Dominican Republic
DR YOUTH MISSION TEAM RETURNS FOREVER CHANGED
“At the beginning of the week it was just about doing the work, but by the end of the week, it was all about the people. The connections I made with our team, as well as with the people of the barrio, are something I’ll never forget. The realization that joy and love could be communicated across a language barrier without words is a lesson I will carry for life.” Youth Missioner Summer M.
The 2014 Youth Mission Team traveled to the Dominican Republic to build lasting relationships with the people of the DR, to build a home for an extended family of nine in the community of El Pedregal, and to build a playground at the Mount of the Transfiguration School.
The Team also brought gifts of requested supplies to assist Padre Alvaro with his work in the community. These gifts included clothing, bed sheets, pillow cases, school supplies, back packs, sports equipment, vestments and altar cloths, guitar and stand, window screening, kitchen items, cameras, medical supplies, and hand tools. Several suitcases were also left behind to be used as closets in the community.
Our Mission Trip
We arrived in Santo Domingo in the afternoon of June 23, 2014, and eagerly boarded our bus ready for the three hour ride north to the Diocesan Camp where our work would take place.
We were “welcomed home” upon our arrival at camp with music by Padre Tony Garcia, Joel De La Cruz, and Charlie and Glennys Polanco. All came from Santiago to joyfully welcome us. Padre Alvaro Yepes and his wife Angela helped us get settled into our dormitory rooms before dinner. After dinner, we enjoyed more music and dancing with our friends. Our first evening closed with compline to end a very long and exciting day.
Our first full day at the camp was quite busy as we familiarized ourselves with the construction status of the home and playground. We visited several homes in the community and sites of prior mission work. Our work schedule would be very aggressive, so, with the help of the community, we got right to work. Our team divided into two groups with one working at the home and the other at the playground. This focused our work and permitted us to get the most done. Before dinner we ministered in two community homes, and enjoyed the fellowship of music and prayer. After dinner, we retired to the second floor balcony of the Stevens Dormitory for reflection and compline. Our long day ended with a moment of silence where we sat in the darkness and listened to the sounds of the adjacent community. This was a powerful experience that our youth repeated each evening.
“We saw El Pedregal differently as we sat in silence to listen to the night sounds of the barrio. There was joy in the laughter we heard. There was celebration in the music. There was hope and encouragement in the conversations. In this moment, our hearts opened…not as a reaction to what we could see, but in response to what we could feel.” Missioner Don P.
Our second day of work brought great progress to all our projects. We started our day by presenting Padre Alvaro the gifts we brought. The decking and most of the pickets were attached to the playground. Most of the playground structure was primed, and some color began to appear. The roof rafters of Jacqueline’s home were coated in creosote and one side of the sheets of zinc were painted white to become the ceiling of her home. We worked in the morning and afternoon in order to keep both our projects on a schedule for completion. After dinner, we projected the Disney movie Frozen in Spanish at the church to about 40 in the community. This film was received with much excitement and appreciation. Refreshments were also shared with the community following the movie, and wonderful friendships were made. The day once again ended with a beautiful time of reflection and compline. Padre Alvaro and Angela also sang to us as we sat in the darkness and stillness of the evening.
“The gift you have given this community is precious. They have heard of the movie Frozen, but never would have the opportunity to see this or any other film. But the film you shared is not your most precious gift. You watched the film with the community. You laughed with the community. You sighed with the community. You shared yourselves. This is what is most appreciated. You will be remembered a long, long time for this kindness.” Padre Alvaro Y.
On our third day of work, the concrete floor of Jacqueline’s home was mixed, poured and finished…one bucket at time. At the playground worksite, rocks and undergrowth were cleared from the playground, and construction and painting continued. This was back breaking work, but no complaints were heard. The sting of hard labor was lessened by the community’s continued work by our side. After dinner we returned to the church to project “The Little Mermaid” in Spanish to about 70 community members. It was amazing to watch the children scoot closer and closer to the screen. We again served refreshments, and were all touched by the joy and pleasure a movie has on a community. Our evening again ended with the most remarkable refection time and compline.
“It was very rewarding to watch our youth interact with the children of the community. We are all children at heart, and watching them play and laugh and simply embrace each other in love is something I will remember always.” Missioner Lauren W.
On our fourth day of work, the construction and painting of the playground progressed nicely. The floor of Jacqueline’s home was completed. The team worked until mid-afternoon, and then hiked to the river with many friends from the community. This rewarding day culminated with our Fiesta during which we shared a delicious meal, music and dancing with the community. This was a great time of thanksgiving and celebration. Our reflection time confirmed the love that was growing between the members of our team and the community. Compline again ended this wonderful day.
“Where did you make the most difference today?” Youth Missioner Kelly D. Kelly led our reflection time this night, and responses were unanimous. We made the greatest difference, not by our work, but in the relationships we have made.
Our fifth day of work was our last full day in camp. The doors and windows were installed in Jacqueline’s home, and paint touch-ups were applied to the playground. Pea gravel was delivered and spread under the playground. Shortly after noon, our work was done. We celebrated with our Dominican friends at the waterfalls. Our time at the falls was a blessed celebration of friendship, hard work, and satisfaction in all that was accomplished. Reflection time on this night was a blessed sharing of emotion. Joyful tears were shed as team members shared what the week had meant to them. A part of us will remain in the DR, and a part of the DR will forever be in our hearts.
“I am not often comfortable with people or places I find myself. I really can’t explain it, but here I feel comfortable. This past week has been great. I feel that I have made a difference in the lives of others, and my life has been changed, too. I have friends here now that I really don’t want to leave. There is so much more to do. Do we have to go? I want to stay. A NE Youth Missioner.
On our last full day in the DR, we worshipped with our Dominican family. Fr. Tom J. helped celebrate, and even did so in Spanish!!! Melissa P. translated Padre Alvaro’s sermon so the rest of our team could hear his message of thanksgiving. The gift of the guitar and stand was presented to the church, and a young lady played it briefly for us. This gift will provide much needed music to future worship services. Jacqueline addressed the community regarding the meaning of the new home to her family. There was not a dry eye in the church. Back packs were given to the children present at church, and clothing was distributed to adults attending church. After service, we toured Jacqueline’s home and had our group photograph taken at the home and playground we helped build. Our time at the camp ended with heartfelt promises that we would see each other again.
Our 3 hours bus ride back to Santo Domingo was a mixed blessing of joy and sadness. We already missed our friends. Stories were shared, and plans for future mission were discussed. Following our arrival in Santo Domingo, we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon exploring the historic Colonial Zone. Each missioner found a perfect memento of their wonderful time together in the DR. The evening ended with dinner on the rooftop of Café Angelo with Bishop Julio Holguin, his wife Milagros, and missionaries Karen Carroll and Charlie Nakash.
Our final morning in Santo Domingo brought one final, great surprise. We met Ellen Snow at the Hotel Mercure during breakfast. She was taking part of medical mission that based its operation at the hotel. It was the perfect end to an amazing mission experience for us all.
Padre Álvaro and Ángela were excellent hosts, generous with their spirit, and sincere with their love and caring for us and the community. It is difficult to find the words which explain the impact this experience has had on each of our hearts. We have built a true giving and receiving relationship with the folks of El Pedregal. The fun, fellowship and generosity of our sponsors will never be forgotten.
“Our amazing week together brought us an understanding of how much it means to the folks in the DR that others care about them. We heard many times that it is not what we bring with us, but the fact we came which is most important to them. It is the relationships that will grow and continue to form that is the greatest gift of all.” Missioner Melissa P.
The NE Youth DR Mission Team returns home able to give the assurance that the Diocese of Nebraska is well known and loved in El Pedregal. We may also give the assurance that we all have found a second ‘home’ in the DR with family anxiously awaiting our return. We learned that our youth can accomplish many, many important things. We look forward to all the wonderful places God shall lead us from here!!
Thank you to all who made our incredible dream a beautiful reality.
Don and Melissa P. Father Tom and Sharon J. Linda B.
Steve and Lauren W. Angela B. Michael G.
Rowan P. Summer M. Summer S.
Shiloh T. Crystal K. Kelly D.
“This was a mission to make a difference. Mission accomplished!!! There were no “good-byes” when we left because our hearts will always be with our Dominican family in our new mountain home of El Pedregal. NE Missioner Steve W.”
Kakuma Refugee Camp: Field post and reception
The field post here in Kakuma is a government office where displaced refugees first get registered before they can go to refugee reception. At the field post people were tired, sitting down in the sun waiting for their names to be called. It can take some days to register if there are many people coming in, as you can see below.
People who are finished with registration at the government office can go to UNHCR in order to get their refugee card. The reception is under UNHCR, so they provide water, food and camps for people to sleep in. According to the people that I talked to, it takes about two to three weeks to get the card that is use for food distribution. Those who have received cards can go to the new location within Kakuma refugee camp which you can see below–it is also hot, dry and has no trees.
The buildings shown to the left in the picture are built of mud underneath then covered on the top with plastics. The temperature inside these buildings is very hot day and night. People choose not to sleep outside because of lack of security. None of the refugees here in the camp have any money, but Turkana come to the camp at night and demanded money. If they don’t find money they take everything they can find. Many people have been killed within the camp when they try to protect their property from robberies.
– Jacob Manyang
Baar El Naam Girls’ and Jebel Mara Boys’ Primary School
The above mention schools are the one that I was given permission to take pictures and videos. (It took me about three days to get the permission letter.) The numbers of students in both primary schools have increase rapidly because of the war in South Sudan and other nearby countries. There are students from Somalia, Congo, Ethiopia, and mostly South Sudan. The school have not enough teachers, rooms, chairs, books, nor food. Many malnutrition problems are affecting all the students, especially little one that are in first to fourth grades. It’s difficult for them to study when there is no food, security and healthcare. Most of the students sit on the floor and others use stones as you can see below.
It’s very challenging for students here in Kakuma refugee camp to get medicine when they get sick. Some of the students I talk to have lost their parents in the war and they are now living with some of their relatives that are not able to provide medicine, school uniforms, books, and food. There’s no light for students to study at night so they have to make sure that they study during the day. Malnutrition is common here because of foods insecurity and diseases that are not treated.
The lack of mosquito nets here in the camp is also causing malaria to those who cannot afford to buy nets. There’s also shortage of clean water here in the camp. The water pump here is only open twice a day for about an hour, so some people do not get water when they need it for cooking and others proposes. The most common diseases here in the camp are typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, kidney stones and general malnutrition. Most of these diseases are caused by drinking unclean water. While people are sick, they skip a day or two without food, to make sure their food does not run out before the date they would receive sorghum or corn from the UNHCR. What is provided for one person cannot even last five days if they eat only once a day. So the people stay in groups to manage what they have by sharing their food and skipping some days without food. They have to wait for 15 days between receiving food supplies from UNHCR. If they finished their foods item before that time, it can be difficult for them to survive. Below are some of the food items distributed to refugees twice a month. These food items are for family of four for 15 days.
The permission letter for me to take pictures wasn’t accepted at the hospital, but I did learn from community members that many people die every day because there are is no medicine and not enough beds in the emergence rooms. As the results two or three people share the same bed (which is really scary). Some people said they do not even think about going to the hospital when they get sick.
Also people here live in fear. There are people that come to the camp at night with guns and demand money. It’s horrifying and I witnessed it during my first night here in Kakuma–I heard a person crying out for help and I asked what was going on. I was told that someone was trying to take his property if he didn’t have the money they demanded. There are so many problems facing people here. Especial the children can hardly understand the reason there is so much suffering. Hopefully the God who created all human kind will bring change soon.
South Sudanese Episcopal Clergy Conference
July 26-27 2014
All Saints Episcopal Church, Omaha, Nebraska
A weekend conference was convened on Saturday July 26, 2014 for South Sudanese clergy from across the U.S.A. The priests arrived in Omaha from Pennsylvania, Texas, Mississippi, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri and South Dakota.
The conference was hosted by All Saints Episcopal Church, Omaha, Nebraska and coordinated locally by South Sudanese Leader Joseph Pager Alaak and the South Sudan Mission Team, as well by many members of the greater Omaha South Sudanese community.
Leading the conference was Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer for The Episcopal Church and Reverend Angela Ifill, Director of Black Ministries from The Episcopal Church. Also attending from Kansas City was Reverend Stan Runnels, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
The purpose of the conference was many fold. As the South Sudanese clergy population begins to grow in numbers in the U.S.A., a common thread among them is a need to collaborate, network and discuss the many issues facing their communities throughout the nation.
A current set of by-laws was distributed to the attendees for discussion and debate relative to the establishment of a formal organization. The organization will serve as a platform for common interrelating goals and challenges.
Attending the conference were about 40 clergy. At the closing Eucharist on Sunday July 27, approximately 100 clergy and lay attended. A traditional South Sudanese banquet was also served on Saturday evening for the participants and the greater community.
Below are photos from the event.
Click on the following like to view a PDF letter from The Most Rev. Canon Dr. Daniel Den Bul Yak, Archbishop, Primate and Metropoligan of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan and Bishop of Juba Diocese celebrating the full inauguration of the Internal Province in South Sudan into a full independent Province.
South Sudan Situation
The situation of people displace by war in south Sudan is horrify. While I am still here in Ethiopia for education broad, our students group meets with the director of UN in Dessie Ethiopia. The situation in south Sudan is out hand as the UN is not getting enough donations to help people that need clear water, foods, medicine, shelter, and security.
According to United Union, “Cholera has broken out, malaria is rampant and many children are malnourished. Millions of people need emergency healthcare, food, clean water, proper sanitation and shelter to make it through the year”. Food security is a big problem including here in Ethiopia where there is no present war going on. Thousands of children and adults line begging for money to buy food. You can see that most of the people have nutrition problem, and are just trying to stay alive. I had many people run after me here in Ethiopia just to buy them food. Some of them said they hadn’t eaten for two to three days and even if they manage to find something to eat, it’s always not enough.
However, the situation in South Sudan is even far worse as indicated by the United Nations; more than a million people are in danger of starvation. They are in urgent need for food and water not to mention the cholera outbreak. The rainy season has increased the numbers of problems that are facing refugees in Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia and within South Sudan. Thousands of people who depend on cultivation have missed the growing season because of war. The United Nations said it needs over a billion dollars for emergency relief in South Sudan because of the rain, cholera, and need for so much food, medicine and security for those who have escaped war.
I will be here in Ethiopia until July 14, which is the day I will be flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. From Nairobi, I will travel to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and then to a refugee camp in Uganda before I come back to USA. I will be flying back to USA from Nairobi on August 6/2014. In both refugee camps I will take pictures and get stories of the situation facing people there so that I can share with all of you when I come back.
Thanks you so much and may God bless you always for all you do for others.
Additional information from Jacob about events on his Trip:
Meeting with head of UN in Dessie Ethiopia
Our meeting with United Nations staff here in Ethiopia was to learn about problem facing millions of people around the world that are displace by war and drought here in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Congo, Syria and around the world. According to the Union Nations, millions of refugees are being helped through donations, but millions more are still in need of assistance.
Jacob and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Students in Addis Ababa.
Here in Addis Ababa Ethiopia our education abroad focusus on food security and nutrition. During our first week in Addis, we meet with Diane Degnan who’s the director of UN here in east Africa. We all learned from Diane that the situation facing refugees is getting worse everyday as the violence in South Sudan, Syria, Congo and drought in many others parts of the world demand emergency assistant to all refugees around the area.
Save South Sudanese Orphans and Widows Student Organization
During my last day in Omaha I packed thirty sets of children’s clothes that were donated to the project and took them with me. These clothes will be distributed to children that don’t have clothes in Kenyan and Ugandan refugee camps as I visit war-displace refugees.
The displaced orphans are in need of education to keep their education active. When I arrived in Kenya and Uganda, I will be assessing the education need for orphans in order to provide them with a base education as they struggle to find their way back from lives that have been torn apart by the conflict. Education is promising a future to children who have lost their parents and do not know where and when to start up their life again.
Global Mission Update
Companion Diocese Twic East South Sudan
The present situation in Twic East Diocese South Sudan continues to be tenuous at best. The civil conflict between the two primary tribes, Dinka & Nuer is ongoing and very troublesome. The region of South Sudan where Twic East Diocese is located has been “ground zero” for much of the fighting between the two tribes. Hundreds of lives have been lost in the conflict, both civilian and military. The black army government soldiers and the white army rebel soldiers have been at war since last December 15.
While peace talks have been ongoing the past two months in Addis Abba, Ethopia, skirmishes continue to break out in the tribal regions, mainly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity States. What began as a political conflict, quickly turned into disaccord and fighting between the two major tribes.
Travel and communication within South Sudan is presently difficult to nonexistent for the faith community, nongovernmental organizations and other humanitarian organizations. The clergy from Twic East have scattered to safe havens in other areas of South Sudan and into refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda. This movement of I.D.P.’s has placed a heavy burden on the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN to avoid extreme hunger in the camps.
Our position here at the Diocese of Nebraska at the present time is to continue to monitor the situation in South Sudan. We have recently sent funds to Bishop Ezekiel in Nairobi, Kenya for the purchase of Dinka prayer books and bibles. He will distribute about 600 books to the displaced clergy, who are in need. We also received an additional grant from VTS Missionary Society for prayer books.
We continue to focus here in Nebraska on the continuation of fund raising for the needs of the South Sudanese, both here locally and in Africa. Our attention is moving presently toward the local South Sudanese communities and how we can better assist them in their assimilation into various communities across our state.
The Sudanese worship service at All Saints is continuing and growing. We are looking into such assistance as sewing classes, English classes, transportation issues, Christian education and housing issues. We are also discussing ways to assist the South Sudanese in reuniting families who are separated due to the slow time consuming process of obtaining U.S. citizenship and visas for residence in the U.S.A. Many families are separated with one spouse here in the U.S. and the other spouse and family in Africa. This creates many problems and strains on the families.
The past few months have been a time of prayerful reflection for all of us as we observe and monitor the emergence and growing pains of a new nation in East Africa. Please keep the people of South Sudan in your thoughts and prayers as we discern the path of mission for the Diocese of Nebraska relative to our position and focus with our Companion Diocese of Twic East South Sudan.
– Jim Yeates
CALLING ALL PRAYER PARTNERS
NE YOUTH MISSION TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC JUNE 23-30, 2014
Thank you for sharing in and supporting this youth mission to the Dominican Republic. As a prayer partner with the youth mission team, you will be a vital part of our mission each day we are away. The team will be greatly blessed and strengthened by your prayers.
This mission team has accepted the challenge to complete construction of a home for a family of nine. The are also constructing a playground for the local Episcopal School which will be opened for supervised play to the children of the community. These were very expensive projects to complete. The NE Youth have partnered with a team from Georgia to assure these important projects will be completed. Because of the expense of these projects, St. Luke’s Kearney, Holy Apostles Mitchell, and St. Mark’s on the Campus, Lincoln have generously provided financial support. The team will be stationed at the DR Diocesan Camp near Jarabacoa, in the mountains of North-central DR. Youth from St. Augustine’s, Church of the Holy Spirit, Trinity Cathedral, and St. Andrews are participating.
This is the sixth mission experience for Don and Melissa Peeler, and they know first hand how powerful it is to feel our prayers as the are offer with their own. The team invites anyone desiring to participate to pray with them and for them, and for our brothers and sisters in Christ who call the Dominican Republic home.
Below is the itinerary so that you can follow the team’s activities in intercessions written by Don:
Monday, June 23rd: Pray for safe travel as team members from churches in Nebraska meet at 4:20 AM at Eppley Airport. Pray for unity in mind and mission for our team of 15 as we fly from Omaha to Santo Domingo, DR. Pray for travel mercies as we make a three-hour bus trip to The Episcopal Camp of The Mount of the Transfiguration in Jarabacoa. Pray that old friendships will be rekindled and new ones made.
Tuesday, June 24th: Awakened by the roosters, we begin our work projects today. Pray for the grace to be flexible—our construction team will be working out in the community building a house.
Wednesday, June 25th: Please continue prayers for our various projects. Pray especially that any language barrier might be bridged by The Holy Spirit and that God’s message of love is evident. Pray that we find and witness Christ in each other!
Thursday, June 26th: Pray for the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of the team and of our Dominican friends who are working alongside us.
Friday, June 27th: Pray for strength, wisdom, and joy in all we do today. As we continue our various projects and share fellowship in the homes of the youth in the community of El Pedregal. We give thanks for this wonderful community!
Saturday, June 28th: As we wrap up our various projects today; may we dedicate all our work to God and treasure the new friendships we have made. We look forward with joy to a celebration with our Dominican brothers and sisters tonight which will include food, dancing, and sharing of gifts.
Sunday June 29th: Pray that God will bind our hearts together during our bilingual Eucharist today. Pray once again for safe travels as we return by bus to Santo Domingo. Pray that our time in the historic Colonial Zone further strengthens the bonds our team has made with this beautiful country. Pray for our peace, reflection and understanding of the work God called us to do. Pray for a restful last night we are together in the DR.
Monday, June 30th: As we journey home by plane and by car and reflect on our mission experience, we ask for your continued prayers. We will be returning as changed people. Pray that we accept this change as a gift from God and that He will use it to His glory from this day forward.
Each day thereafter: ….Please continue to pray for the people of El Pedregal.
Your 2014 NE Youth Mission Team
Tom and Sharon Jones, Linda Blinston, Shiloh, Angela, Mike, Crystal, Don and Melissa Peeler, Steve and Lauren White, Kelly, Rowan, Summer M, and Summer S.
In mid February Bishop Barker traveled to the Diocese of the Dominican Republic for three days. Along with bishops from other partner dioceses, including Todd Ousley of Northern Michigan and Scott Mayer from Northwest Texas, he participated in workshops and meetings, toured the diocesan seminary and traveled to see regional ministries including a church building site. Bishop Barker was also the guest preacher at the opening Eucharist of the annual diocesan convention.
“I now have a much clearer sense of how the Diocese of Nebraska supports mission and ministry in the Dominican Republic,” said Barker, “and it was a special delight to be in the DR with Bob and Ellen Snow and to witness the deep connection they’ve built over the years with the people of the diocese. I look forwarding to returning again just as soon as possible.”
The Diocese of Nebraska is fielding two mission trips to the Dominican Republic later this spring.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called for a Day of Prayer for South Sudan for February 16.
Bishop Jefferts Schori is joined in this call by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly https://www.pcusa.org/, and the Reformed Church in America https://www.rca.org/
“The world is increasingly concerned over the rampant violence in South Sudan,” the Presiding Bishop said. “The recent increase in armed conflict, murder, and mayhem has been fomented in part by inaccurate reports of tribal partisanship. The new nation needs peace, in order that all its people might thrive. The Episcopal Church of Sudan is partnering with others on the ground in that work of peace-building. The Sudanese communities within our own Episcopal Church have been important and effective leaders in this work. I ask your prayers for peace, as well as your awareness and involvement in the lives of our brothers and sisters across the globe. The Prince of Peace serves the whole world. As his disciples, may we do no less!”