A fortunate turn of events landed us an unexpected opportunity to travel to Sudan. When we started filming for the African Children's Choir in Kampala, Uganda, they asked if we would be willing to join them the following week to film their work in Sudan. Money raised by the children's choir has been going to help the people of Southern Sudan since the late 90's while Sudan was still at war. Having desired to visit Sudan for a very long time, I was thrilled to accept the invitation to take a trip to Sudan.
The difference between Sudan and Uganda was immediately noticeable upon crossing the border. Sudan's roads are not passable for anything but a 4 wheel drive. We drove through streams and up and down though bumps that only the toughest of vehicles can handle. Our 45 kilometer trek took over two hours to drive.
In addition to the roads, one of the first things you notice in Southern Sudan is that it is very under-developed. This is not surprising considering that Southern Sudan has been at war with North for over 20 years. The recent peace agreement, reached a little over two years ago, has finally brought reprise to the region.
Upon arriving at Liwolo, located in Kajo Keji County, we were welcomed warmly. Prior to beginning our tour, rain suddenly begin to pour on the area. They told us that every time visitors come who are welcome on their land, it rains when they first get there. They have many examples of this happening and believe that it is a sign of God's blessing on the visit. Hearing this, we were relieved that it rained for us and glad to see how much they welcomed us. They even warned another party, before we arrived, that they better not travel because it was about to rain!
When the rain subsided, Charles began to show us around Liwolo. Charles is a learned and articulate man who has long worked in education. He is Sudanese and is the Field Director for HAAS (Humanitarian Assistance for Southern Sudan). This is the organization that Music for Life and the African Children's Choir has partnered with to help their development. As he passionately describes what has been done and the ongoing goals of his organization, it is evident that Charles is passionate about serving his people.
Since the late 90's HAAS, the African Children's Choir, and a few other donors have partnered to start 13 schools, a teacher's college (one of the few of its kind in all of Sudan), a medical clinic that is only within a large radius for the region, dormitories for the college and boarding school students, a library, homes, increased agricultural production and much more.
As I walked through all of this development and saw mud huts with thatch roofs, sticks tied together to form a fence around compounds, a complete lack of conveniences like electricity, water and plumbing, it reminded me of being on a frontier. Its an area that war has kept from development yet the people who have suffered so much are motivated to change all of this. I believe that it will be exciting to see how much this area changes over the next several years! We need to pray with our Sudanese brothers and sisters that God will preserve the peace of their land and protect them from further war and exploitation from the North.