Tag Archives: Samaritan’s Purse

A prayer for South Sudan. A prayer for all of us.

By Dorothy de Vuyst

As my flight began its decent into Juba, South Sudan, and I once again saw the vast, dry, desolate land below me, my heart ached.  “God, help this land,” I prayed.  “Intervene in a way only You can. Bring peace and healing to this country that so needs You.”

I was travelling to South Sudan to visit a couple of humanitarian aid programs Samaritan’s Purse was implementing in the country.  This was not my first trip to what still remains the world’s newest country, which only a year and half into its independence from Sudan, erupted into a bloody, tribal conflict in December 2013.

South Sudanese women who are refugees in Uganda sort out their food allotment. You can read a story about the remarkable, difficult work happening in Uganda in the Sep/Oct Faith Today.

Now, four years later, the country which at one time had so much hope, was on the brink of imploding.  Four million South Sudanese people are displaced, with over two million of those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, most of those in Uganda.  Millions more lack sufficient food with the recent harvest doing little to ease the hunger so many faced.  Tropical disease and cholera outbreaks continue to claim lives.

As disturbing as those statistics are, perhaps the most heartbreaking are the stories of violence.  Women and young girls raped and beaten.  Young children forced to carry weapons and kill.  Villages pillaged and burnt because they belong to a different tribe.  Infants being drowned as their mothers hold them under water for fear of being seen by the enemy seeking to kill them.  Such anguish, injustice, and brokenness that at times is so overwhelming.

Earlier in the year I had visited the refugee settlements in Uganda, a country that had opened their doors to over a million South Sudanese refugees.  As I sat with women who shared their stories of trauma and loss, I desperately wanted justice and even revenge. I thought of the political leaders in South Sudan whose self-serving agendas have made life so difficult and painful for so many people. The hatred and anger of militant groups that rape and pillage innocent women and turn children into killers.

But as I reflected further I realized that being close to suffering and death and injustice doesn’t just reveal the brokenness of others, it also exposes my own brokenness.  My own need for mercy because of choices I have made, the people I have hurt.

This is the world that Jesus came into.  This is the world for which Jesus had so much compassion.  This is the brokenness that broke the heart of God. And not only the brokenness I see in countries like South Sudan and Uganda. Jesus has compassion on my brokenness as well. And knowing that in turn allows me to extend grace and compassion.

So I continue to pray.  I pray for a stop to the conflict.  I pray for courage and resiliency for those suffering.  I pray for tenacity in the midst of this fragile and complicated country.

But most of all I pray for God’s healing touch in the hearts and minds of this beautiful nation; that they will experience His mercy and forgiveness.  Because only when that happens will this country begin to see genuine and lasting change.

Dorothy de Vuyst is the Regional Director, Africa, for Samaritan’s Purse Canada. The Sep/Oct Faith Today has a story about this refugee crisis. 

Faith Today is going to Uganda

This week, one of Faith Today‘s senior editors, Karen Stiller, is flying to Uganda to visit refugee camps that are welcoming the seemingly never-ending flow of ordinary women, men and children fleeing the seemingly never-ending conflict in South Sudan.

“This is one of my favourite shots from the South Sudan trip five years ago,” says Stiller. “It reminds me that kids are kids no matter what, and joy happens, even when your life has been turned inside out.”

Samaritan’s Purse, an EFC affiliate, is there in the camp providing clean water, health care, improved sanitation and other programs, including a trauma healing program for the people who have lived through more than we can imagine.

It was roughly five years ago that we visited camps in South Sudan for the story “A Visit to the World’s Newest Country.” That situation was bad enough; internally displaced South Sudanese making their way to, and their homes in, the rough, temporary camps within their own country.  Back then, the world was still optimistic about South Sudan’s opportunity to build something new. But the conflict in recent months has just grown worse, and so has the possibility of a severe famine. Families are fleeing and they often end up in northern Uganda– a country that borders their young, struggling nation and receives the largest number of South Sudanese refugees in the world.

The team travelling to Uganda, which includes two or three other journalists, will visit two refugee settlements, as well as maternal/newborn health projects and a rehabilitation program that helps women and their children out of a life of prostitution.

“Today I’m packing my small bag for a week of what is usually pretty rough travel, but an incredible privilege to travel to spots like these and try to understand what people who are just like you and me are going through,” says Stiller. “When I visited South Sudan in 2012, I was also struck by the presence of Canadian workers in the camps and the incredible work they were doing. I’ll look for more of those stories as well, even as we focus on the most important story: the lives of the South Sudanese and how they are struggling to survive and flourish under such unimaginable pressure.”

We hope that Karen will be able to post blogs or photos from the field, but we know internet capability is not predictable in these circumstances. Watch for updates!

Faith Today is happy to be recognized as an excellent source of Christian journalism in Canada. By subscribing to Faith Today, you help keep journalism like ours healthy and ready to tell important stories like the ones you will read in recent months about the people being helped and the work being done in one of the world’s most troubled areas by a Canadian Christian organization. We tell the stories other people don’t tell, and ask the questions other people aren’t asking. Join us

“This is where the light went on for me…” Videographer Shares Experience in Aftermath of Fort McMurray Fires

by Kurtis Kristianson

In June and July I was asked to travel to Fort McMurray for three days at a time to connect with survivors of the wildfires and document their stories for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada.  Imagine you and 40 other people on your street have returned from an evacuation order a month earlier, and your homes are a pile of ash that could fit into the bed of a pickup truck. That is the situation I entered into with my camera this summer.

One of the shots captured by our blog writer this summer in Fort McMurray. One big lesson he learned? How to listen.
One of the shots captured by our blog writer this summer in Fort McMurray. One big lesson he learned? It’s important to listen.

As excited as I was for such an amazing opportunity, I soon experienced the reality of the situation and the level of destruction the people of Fort Mac faced. Even with 20 years experience in disaster response, fire fighting and highway rescue, I was not prepared for what I saw. And that is a large part of why it can be difficult working in disaster response: every new disaster brings with it a new set of challenges, and you can bet that the next one will be different again. Being in the response zone in a new communications role, I had to be flexible, open to learning as I went, and most importantly, rely on God to lead me in my task.
Continue reading “This is where the light went on for me…” Videographer Shares Experience in Aftermath of Fort McMurray Fires

What Grows in the Dark. Fighting Human Trafficking in Cambodia

by Karen Stiller

My sister Miriam and I were walking down a dusty street in Poipot, a border town in Cambodia, with Thailand a stones-throw away, when the darkest moment in our trip took place.

A billboard outside of a bank machine in Poipet, Cambodia
A billboard outside of a bank machine in Poipet, Cambodia

I travelled with Samaritan’s Purse to Cambodia in the Spring (and wrote about it in the Sep/Oct Faith Today) on a Water for Kids project. The trip was primarily about the construction of water filters that bring clean water to areas where there is none. But it also included visiting Poipot to see the work Samaritan’s Purse does around human trafficking and illegal migration. This involves mushrooms, but more about that at the end.

From the moment we pulled into town in our little bus, Poipot had a different feel to it for me, at least the downtown core. And at least compared to the other lively and colourful spots we had seen.

24 hours does not an expert make, of that I am very aware.

But there was a heaviness to Poipot that I had not felt before during our trip. It felt thick and menacing, dark and dangerous.
Continue reading What Grows in the Dark. Fighting Human Trafficking in Cambodia

Four Months After a Short-Term Mission Trip

By Miriam Cleough

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Miriam Cleough participated in a short-term mission trip to Cambodia. Her eyes and her heart were opened wide.

Four months have passed since I was priviledged to go on a mission trip with Samaritan’s Purse to Cambodia. Our hodge podge team from across Canada met for the first time in the Vancouver Airport. I felt nervous, but I could overcome anything because I had my “baby sister” with me. She encouraged me to come along and promised she’d be there to support me, and that she did.

We experienced highs and lows, ups and downs. It was like being on an emotional roller coaster — but in an oven. On the highest broil setting.

Heat aside, I met some of the most welcoming, loving, humble and unassuming people in Cambodia. They had little, they expected nothing and they gave from the bottom of their hearts. Appreciation and gratitude flowed from their gestures and the smiles on their faces. Language no longer proved to be a barrier, we understood each other. We had connected and been brought together, because of a necessity of life…clean water.

So here I sit, four months later. I’m not cursing the Internet….much. I have the ability to plug my laptop into whichever outlet I want. The humidity is high, not nearly touching what it was in Cambodia, but I still decide to turn on the air conditioner.
Continue reading Four Months After a Short-Term Mission Trip

Five Years Later: Still Learning From Haiti

by Dana Smith

I expected and prepared myself for much of what I saw when our plane landed in Haiti.

Dana Smith in Haiti with other Samaritan's Purse staff and excited children receiving Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
Dana Smith in Haiti with other Samaritan’s Purse staff and excited children receiving Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I went to Haiti expecting to see faces made stern and joyless from generations of dysfunctional government, rampant violence, and natural disasters such as the quake that killed more than 230,000 Haitians a mere five years ago.

What I didn’t expect was what I saw in myself during a visit to Haiti to report on Samaritan’s Purse Gender Protection programs and Operation Christmas Child.

From the moment you land in Port Au Prince airport you face crushing heat and smothering hordes of people, either trying to sell you something or give you a cab ride. Cab drivers, waving their ID badges, warn you in frantic broken English not to take rides with anyone who might just be playing the part of a cab driver with no intention of taking you anywhere you’re looking to go.

Once on the streets of Port Au Prince, the chaos only worsens in the city which is home to more than one million people, and about three million people in its outskirts.
Continue reading Five Years Later: Still Learning From Haiti

How Sweet Christian Community is, Even Short-term

by Karen Stiller

There is so much to write about from my just-finished trip to Cambodia. I was gone for almost two weeks — and on planes for almost two days on the way back — with Samaritan’s Purse, accompanying a Water for Kids Trip.

Members of the team from across Canada and across generations pray with school staff in Cambodia
Members of the team from across Canada and across generations pray with school staff in Cambodia

I will be working on a story for Faith Today about the trip and the work we did building filters to provide clean water to school children in rural Cambodia. My task in the next few days is to sit down with my journal and a highlighter and discover the story that is there, already forming in my now worn-out red notebook. I will listen to the interviews I recorded on my iPhone on jiggly bus rides and under the most intense sun I have ever stood under. I’ll flip through my pictures yet again, marvelling at how beautiful the children were, and how ready and open to make friends.

But what I am thinking about today, two days home, is how sweet it is to be in Christian community. We experienced the warmth of fellowship on a few levels. We were a cross-Canadian/trans-denominational/intergenerational  group. We came from Nova Scotia to B.C., and spanned the years from 18 to early 60s. We made friends quickly, as we tentatively shared our stories in the departure lounge in B.C., waiting to board a flight to Shanghai. It seemed like a nice group then, and then things just got better.

We built, explored, worshipped, laughed, cried, sweated, shared, taught, learned, sang, prayed and ate a lot of rice together. And then sweated some more. And then ate some more rice. And sweated.

It was amazing to see the Church in Cambodia and join in worship and devotional times with Samaritan’s Purse local staff and with local churches.

It was wonderful to experience once again the magic of a short, intense trip in creating deep community. Yes, it is short-lived community, but short lives are good lives too.

Sometimes you do just need to add water and stir to make something rich and delicious.  I had this great big sense, once again, of being part of a great big Church. How sweet it is.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor with Faith Today. Watch for the story of the Cambodia trip in an upcoming issue. 

Leaving on a Jet Plane

By Karen Stiller

This Friday, Faith Today has a unique opportunity to visit the work in the field of one of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s affiliates, Samaritan’s Purse.

School children will have access to a dependable source of clean, safe water.
School children will have access to a dependable source of clean, safe water.

I am joining a team of other Canadian volunteers to travel to Cambodia on a Water for Kids project. We will be camping out — literally camping out (and that means tents) — at a school where we will install water filters paid for by the team itself. Each of these specially adapted filters can meet the U.N.-established daily water needs of about 250 children.

The ingenious BioSand filters are used by many organizations around the world, to provide low-tech solutions to bad water in communities. And it is a Canadian-made solution (invented by retired University of Calgary professor Dr. David Manz) adapted from ancient ways of cleaning water using sand and other natural materials.

In Cambodia, Samaritan’s Purse Canada has partnered with a number of local organizations to build and install more than 122,000 BioSand Water Filters since 1999.

Our team will also be working with school-children to have some fun and educational opportunities. Hint: I’m buying face paint later today to take along. We will also witness some of the work to fight human trafficking that Samaritan’s Purse does in Cambodia, a country tragically known for its high rates in trafficking.
Continue reading Leaving on a Jet Plane